Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Richardson Hunts for Votes in Southern Iowa

Bill Richardson is a hunter, and he wants rural Democrats to know it.

He purposefully mentioned the fact that he is a hunter at least three times in the span of an hour during a campaign stop today in the small southern Iowa community of Albia. The New Mexico Governor and presidential candidate chatted and joked with a gathering of about 20 locals at Mom's Place, a cozy roadside cafe at the intersection of highways 34 and 5.

"I'm a hunter, by the way," said Richardson after answering an unrelated question. "I know a lot of you are hunters, so please support me. The NRA gave me an A+ rating."

While the right to bear arms is obviously not a burning issue in the minds of most Iowa Democratic caucus-goers, Richardson's record on the subject may well earn him the respect of rural Democrats in places like Albia and other small towns that are often ignored by presidential candidates. "You know, I get grief all over the country," he laughed. "Doesn't help me in the Democratic Primary, but hey, I'm a Westerner."

Albia Mayor Richard Clark, a Democrat who has been involved in local politics for many years, told Iowa Independent that it may, in fact, help Richardson in rural areas. "I feel like it is an important issue," said Clark. "I know there are people trying to do away with guns. But they're never going to be able to get all the guns away from criminals. I think he's right on that issue."
Clark said he hasn't picked a favorite candidate yet, but he liked just about everything Richardson had to say.

The early morning campaign stop in Monroe County marked the 88th Iowa county that Richardson has visited. "I've got 11 to go," he said. "And I'm going to go to all of them. I'm going to have meetings like this everywhere. There's no town that's too small."
He had traveled from Centerville, about 20 miles to the south, where he stayed the night in a small bed-and-breakfast. He was scheduled to follow Highway 34 east throughout the day Wednesday, stopping in Ottumwa, Fairfield, Mt. Pleasant and Burlington.

Richardson spent most of the time in Albia talking about his regular stump speech topics, emphasizing his plan to end the war in Iraq and move all U.S. troops out of that country. He stressed the need for a new direction in world diplomacy, and his experience as a United Nations ambassador and foreign affairs. "I believe in diplomacy," said Richardson. "And I don't believe this president has practiced diplomacy. It's important that we restore our standing in the world." He also spent a good deal of time talking about education and health care.

One of the local Democrats in attendance, Doran Haywood, liked what Richardson had to say. Haywood, who lives in the Monroe County town of Lovilia, pledged his support for Richardson. "I'm going to caucus for him," said Haywood. "Because of his all-around experience, as a congressman, a governor and an ambassador. And also because I'm a card-carrying union man of 50 years, and I like his stance on labor."

Richardson, using a warm self-deprecating sense of humor that has served him well in the campaign, said he doesn't have much money and he doesn't have much glamour, "but I have the experience to bring change."
"The good news is that Iowa decides. The good news is that the pundits and TV people don't decide."

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