By Joel Hall
On the fifth day of a statewide bus tour to garner support prior to the Nov. 4 election, U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga) rallied his supporters at Butch's Restaurant in Jonesboro at 7:30 a.m., Friday.
"It's pretty humbling to have this kind of crowd to come out in this cold, messy weather," said Chambliss. "I am just very humbled ... to have the mayors of every single one of the communities in Clayton County, which is certainly not a Republican stronghold, says an awful lot about where we are in the campaign and the fact that we have had a good working relationship with our community leaders around the state," said Chambliss.
The restaurant was the first stop on a Southern Crescent tour, which included stops in Fayetteville, Peachtree City, and Newnan.
Around 150 citizens, elected officials, and local Republican candidates packed the small restaurant to its capacity. Mayors from six of the seven municipalities of Clayton County were present, as well as several notable Democrats, including Board of Commissioners Chairman Eldrin Bell and District Attorney-elect, Tracy Graham-Lawson.
Jonesboro Mayor Luther Maddox even prepared a special proclamation, declaring Oct. 24 as Saxby Chambliss Day in his city. Chambliss said he believes the support is a demonstration of the fact his campaign is making headway in Democratic-leaning pockets of the Southern Crescent.
During the rally, Chambliss told his backers Democratic challenger Jim Martin, is "behind in the polls and he is starting to get even more desperate than he has been before." However, a variety of election polls show Martin trailing Chambliss by only a few points, much less than what was predicted in the state.
Chambliss said he is not taking anything for granted and reaching out to Democrats and Independents.
"When I was 20 points up, I kept telling everybody this is not a 20-point race," Chambliss said. "If you just look back at all the recent Georgia senate races, they have all been close. This race is going to be no exception. That's why endorsements from so many Democrats like we've had here this morning, is so critically important."
It wasn't clear how many Democrats at the rally supported Chambliss, but it was clear that the audience was a mix of Democrats and Republicans, who came to listen to his views on God, country, and energy independence.
Chambliss expressed keen interest in helping with Forest Park's plans to redevelop Fort Gillem after the base closes in 2011. He said he wants to work with local leaders to "make Fort Gillem the model under BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure) for reclamation and community development"
In the national arena, Chambliss highlighted his commitment to helping reduce America's $700 billion dependency on foreign petroleum;creating new jobs; supporting a strong military, and helping the next Congress pass a long-term energy plan within the first 100 days. Chambliss said he wants that plan to include drilling for oil on domestic soil.
His message got mixed reviews.
"It is simply about a battle about our families and a battle about our businesses," said John Oxendine, Georgia insurance and safety fire commissioner, who is a Republican. "This election is very important, because I want this man to continue to represent my three children. I want to have a man that loves America, that has fought for America and believes in the same God and morals that I believe in."
Elaine Davies, a Morrow resident and a Democrat, wasn't convinced that Chambliss would follow through on poverty and energy initiatives.
"No one on the national campaign has mentioned poverty and they are the ones who have been hit hardest by this meltdown," said Davies. "I don't believe that drilling for oil is the solution. It doesn't last forever. We are still very short-minded to think that this is the answer.
"He mentioned [alternative fuel sources], but by his record and the record for the last eight years, we have underfunded the research."