By Tom Tillison
Orlando Political Press
Upon reviewing Craig Miller’s ambitious schedule for Monday, August 9th, the first day of early voting here in Florida, I pondered what it would be like to walk in his shoes for the day. Suddenly, I was struck with an incredible idea! Typically, when I have these bolts of intellectual lightning, self control gets the better of me. Alas, this time it was not to be!
The idea? Tag along with the Craig Miller campaign for the day as an embedded reporter. What better way to experience first hand what candidates endure in their quest to serve the people. Of course, this idea came to me in the air conditioned comfort of my home with little thought of the oppressive Florida weather in August.
So, with fleeting self control and no thoughts of the sweltering conditions that awaited me, I contacted Jon Miller, Craig’s campaign manager, and he was only too happy to have me on board. So, bright and early at 7:00AM, Jon, Craig and I began our day by meeting in downtown Orlando.
First stop for the day was the Deltona Regional Library. As we were on our way, I quickly realized what an educational experience this was going to be. While making small talk, an urban myth was quickly dispelled. Not only is Jon Miller not related to Craig, which most folks do know, it turns out that Dr. Ken Miller, an early candidate for the district 24 race, is not his father either!
Upon stepping out of the race, Dr. Miller endorsed Craig and that’s where the myth began. The naysayers claimed that he did so only because he was Jon’s father. A real lesson to all not to buy into all the rhetoric that you hear about candidates. Unfortunately, too many in the political spectrum buy into the philosophy that if you tell a lie often enough, it becomes the truth, and, apparently, for some, Dr. Miller’s endorsement of Craig Miller on merit alone was a troubling thought.
Arriving at our first stop right at 8:00AM, which is when the doors open for early voting, there were far more campaign yard signs than there were voters. In fact, there may have been more yard signs than there are people in Deltona! This occurrence of a virtual sea of signs let us know all day long that we were approaching our next stop well before we were actually there.
The first voter we did encounter was a Democrat. Upon realizing that he was speaking to a Republican candidate, he loudly informed us that he would never vote for a Republican. Due to his boisterous disapproval, all around stepped back to allow him to continue on his way, except for one. Almost surprisingly, Craig Miller stepped forward and engaged the man in conversation, who turns out to be an unemployed electrician. Not sure if Craig converted the man over to the good side, but the two did proceed to have a civilized conversation on what was behind the decline of the construction industry in Florida. My first indication that Craig Miller really likes people.
Next stop was the Dept. of Elections in downtown Deland, which has a very quaint, hometown feel to it. Again, voter turnout was light and after a spending a little time waving to passing traffic, we were on our way to the New Smyrna Beach Regional Library. Voter turnout was beginning to pick up at this location and, again, Craig was quick to interact with the folks.
And then, on to the next location, the Government Complex in Titusville. This stop yielded the best experience of the day for both Craig and myself, I believe.
While standing outside this facility, a truck passes by with ‘Craig Miller for Congress’ signs taped to each side. After parking, the gentleman, an 84 yr. old WWII Marine Corp veteran, walks up and introduces himself. In a coincident of a lifetime, it turns out that he went to school with Craig back in the 70’s and, even though the two did not know each other then, he was left with such a favorable impression of Craig that he was now actively supporting the campaign. Craig was visibly energized by this man’s devotion, explaining later that this was a great example of just how enjoyable it is for him to meet and talk with folks.
An equally amazing coincident was this veteran’s experiences in WWII. For regular OPP readers, you will recall that I wrote a column on Friday addressing the 65th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima. Hearing that his time during the war was spent in the Pacific theater, I asked his opinion of this and he proceeds to inform me that he was on a ship heading to China when the bomb was detonated and he actually heard the explosion! He explained that those on the ship did not know at the time what had occurred, as it was top secret, but he knew ‘something’ had just happened.
He went into the service in 1941 at the age of 17…a different era where kids grew up fast. How so very humbling to think of the sacrifices that were made on our behalf. And at the age of 84, he is still just as proud and still has the vigor of a 17 yr old – truly inspiring!
And so the day went, with little chance of topping this experience – On to Merritt Island, then Apopka, where our timing was impeccable, having just missed a thunder shower, Winter Park, East Orlando and Oviedo. Twelve hours later, Craig was just as motivated and just as eager to mingle with the voters.
I did have the pleasure of enjoying a nice lunch at a dive simply called the ‘Diner’. Being a restaurateur, it seems Craig just naturally knows where to find good food. This place was an all-American diner, with a local clientele and the prerequisite charming server. It’s located just outside of Merritt Island in a small strip mall and if you ever find yourself there, I highly recommend the tuna melt!
Having plenty of down time between stops, I had the opportunity to talk with Craig at length on his background, why he’s running for office and what he hopes to accomplish. He is adamant about his willingness to stand up to the Obama, Pelosi far left power base that’s bankrupting this nation. As a businessman, he’s eager to re-establish conservative values to get the people of this country back to work. His goal is not just to win an election, his goal is to be sitting at the table in Washington, D.C. when the agenda for the country is being determined.
Naturally, we could not spend all this time together and not have the immigration issue come up. It was noteworthy to see his genuine frustration of how badly his opponents have distorted his position here. He understands that amnesty does not solve the problem and he pointed out that in 2006 as CEO of Ruth’s Chris he applied for and was accepted to participate in the Federal Governments Pilot E-Verification Program. His general position seems to be that it should not be left up to businesses to enforce the immigration laws of this country, that it’s the federal government’s job to do so, which makes sense.
Overall, the day was very enjoyable. It was encouraging to see a candidate out in the heat, working hard to gain the support of the people. Voter turnout seemed to be light, for the most part – hopefully, this is a trend that will change. There’s simply too much as stake in America today to sit this election out.
As for Craig Miller, I had a favorable impression of him going into the day. Looking back on yesterday’s experience, I don’t think it’s possible to spend 12 hours with a person and not begin to see who they really are. Very few can stay “on” that long, without showing their personal side. What I came to learn is that Craig actually does enjoy people, and in private moments, I learned first hand that he is a man of principles. I also learned that he may be the only member of Congress that will know how much sushi costs at the local supermarket.
Whereas, I may stop short of endorsing Craig Miller for strategical reasons, I will say this; if the residents of district 24 want a leader, not a follower, if they want someone who understands firsthand how government decisions affect their daily lives and they’re looking for someone who will go to Washington, D.C. to advance the conservative cause and make a difference, not just fit in, there is no better choice in district 24 than Craig Miller.
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