What do you get when you combine political candidates with wrestlers? Fun, food and information.
The “Smack Down the Vote” event held Saturday at the Charter Conservatory for Liberal Arts & Technology offered a voter registration drive, a “meet and greet” opportunity to talk to local candidates, free chips and salsa and a wrestling show.
American Premier Wrestling partnered with CCAT and several other local businesses to offer the event, said Dr. Tom Caiazzo, political science professor at East Georgia State College and chairman of the CCAT Governing Board.
“This is the most unprecedented civic event in Statesboro, with 21 candidates, a voter registration drive” and the wrestling event, he said.
The school was filled with candidates, their supporters, and people who came for the show as well as to meet and learn about the candidates.
Jamie Davis, from Portal, and Clay Williams said they thought the event would have been more of a forum for candidates than anything else, but said they were there to enjoy the show, too. The evening kicked off with a tumble of wrestlers inside the ring for the first match, then candidates were each invited to speak, introduce themselves and talk briefly about issues important to them and why they would be the right person for the job.
Laverne Lee was there to watch the APW show, as her son is involved in the children’s version of the association, but said she felt the political forum and voter registration drive were unique ways to get the public involved.
“I think it’s a good thing. I didn’t know a lot about some of (the candidates) but seeing them here with their families and watching them interact and talk is a great thing,” she said.
The voter registration booth was at the front of the rom, and a box was quickly filling up with forms as visitors signed up for the right to cast their votes in upcoming elections.
“We already have a handful,” said Jabriel Butler, who volunteered to help with the drive. “Most people who have registered are our age (referring to himself and a fellow volunteer, in their early 20’s) but we have had a couple older people.”
Helen Lane proudly wore the campaign sticker of a local candidate who was also a relative. She and Goldie Toole, both from Sylvania, said they were excited to watch the wrestling show, as they had never attended one before.
“It’s quite interesting, quite an experience,” Toole said. Lane added that the event was a great way to draw attention to candidates and their platforms.
People of all ages wandered around the room, meeting wrestlers, enjoying refreshments and talking to the candidates.
“This was a great idea,” said Regan Hayes of Brooklet. “People have a chance to talk to the candidates and the wrestling is definitely a drawing card.”
Leah Rush, also from Brooklet, agreed. “It’s good to have something like this to do in Statesboro. It gives people the chance to get involved and find out more about who is running.”
Caiazzo said all proceeds from sale of food and drinks, as well as the raffle of an American flag cake, would be donated to the Georgia Southern University Relay for Life campaign.
Candidates either attending or represented at the event included Jared Akins, Keith Howard and Noel Brown for the Bulloch County sheriff's seat; Charlie Aaron, Lonnie Ellis, Martin "Marty" Waters, Kevin Wadley and Lorna Glisson DeLoach for Bulloch County probate judge; Heather Mims for Bulloch County School Board District 7; and Eugene Yu for U.S. Congress. Also, Cheri Wagner, Shalah Hendrix and H. Lee Jones for Bulloch County School Board District 1; Daniel Almond and state rep. Jon Burns for Georgia State House of Representatives District 159; Richard Mallard for Ogeechee Judicial Circuit district attorney; Michael Muldrew, Martha Hall and Mickey Kicklighter for Ogeechee Judicial Circuit superior court judge; Jimmy Hayes for Bulloch County commissioner seat 2A; and James "Major" Woodall for State Representative District 160.
Local sponsors of the event include D&R Car Care, Ocean Galley, El Sombrero and Burger King.
Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.