Candidates’ attitudes refreshing

Published 1:26 am Saturday, October 18, 2014

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…. a young man named John Merrill was elected student body president at the University of Alabama. For those who understand the importance, it should be noted he was elected as an independent.

Over at the student newspaper, we were wrapped up in the election, the fine details of which escape me now. But that the earnest young man who previously had been a Machine candidate got elected as an independent was big news.

Flash forward to 2014, and John Merrill is still earnest. Only now, he is a Republican seeking the office of Secretary of State. Earlier this week, he came calling at the newspaper office, a rather old-fashioned notion for statewide candidates.

Merrill claims he’s been interested in the office since 1978, when he met then-candidate Don Siegelman at a political rally. In Alabama, the job is somewhat similar to part of the work handled in probate court at the local level. The Secretary of State is responsible for elections and official paperwork related to elections; corporate filings; and international adoptions.

Merrill actually wants to do something to streamline the processes, and envisions giving the office more responsibility for not just keeping records of political campaigns, but actually seeing that candidates follow the rules.

On Friday, another earnest young politician appeared in our office. Erick Wright is on the other side of the proverbial political aisle. A Democrat, he is seeking election to the U.S. House of Representatives, challenging incumbent Martha Roby.

Unlike Merrill, Wright is a newbie. He’s never run for office before, ever. But he’s quick to point out, “That means I’m untainted by it.” And he very much wants to prove that one can win with the hard work of campaigning, rather than raising money for media-driven campaigns.

The former Troy University football player is a student of the issues, and admits he’s not sleeping much these days as he studies and plans his campaign strategy.

He’s running as a Democrat in a district that has voted Republican in every election except one since 1964. He left his job to take on those odds. Whether it was foolishness or bravery, we’ll know in a couple of weeks.

If you, like me, are sick to death of every political interview turning into a bashing of the opposite party, I hope you get a chance to speak with either of these candidates. They are on target with the issues, but seem genuinely prepared to work with members of the opposite party to reach consensus on issues that matter.

It reminds me of how politics were a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, when people were better at working together.