By STEVEN NALLEY
â€śU.S.A. one, Bin Laden zero.â€ť
Thatâ€™s what Wade Morris, a political campaigner for Dolph Bryan, said to each visitor to the Starkville Sportsplex he saw. Morris then handed them cardboard fans and water bottles emblazoned with the same message, along with a political advertisement for Bryanâ€™s re-election as county sheriff.
â€śSheriff Bryanâ€™s a good friend of mine,â€ť Morris said. â€śIâ€™m just helping him out.â€ť
The dozens of political candidates who came to Starkville Parks and Recreationâ€™s Fourth of July event did not limit themselves to the podium. They also mixed and mingled with crowds on the soccer fields before their speeches, shaking hands and handing out cards.
Hudson Holliday, a Pearl River County supervisor running as a Republican for state governor, said the visit to Starkville was one of many stops on his campaign tour.
â€śWe were up in Jacinto, and we try to be as many places as we can be,â€ť Holliday said. â€śI told people I was going to be here, and I try to be a man of my word.â€ť
Holliday said he wanted to distance himself from career politicians who act in their own interests instead of the interests of constituents. He said it was fitting to talk to voters on Independence Day because the anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence is a reminder of what politicians ought to be.
â€śThis country was founded by those who had the most to lose,â€ť Holliday said. â€śToo often today, itâ€™s run by those who have the most to gain.â€ť
Another who said he found campaigning on Independence Day to be appropriate was Shannon Crow, a Republican candidate for the Mississippi House of Representatives, District 35. He said any elected official, especially a district representative, has a responsibility to represent the people.
â€śRunning for office is about as patriotic as you can be other than serving in the military,â€ť Crow said. â€śThatâ€™s where you have to be willing to serve the people.â€ť
Though the skies were overcast, hundreds of people turned out long before the fireworks. Children played on a variety of inflatables, including slides, obstacle courses and bungee raceways. Groups including the Starkville Tea Party and John Robert Arnold gave out free hot dogs.
Not everyone was using the Sportsplexâ€™s fields for fun, though. Matt Jones, a junior at Starkville Academy, spent the afternoon running sprints, training for the Birmingham United Elite soccer team. By the time he finished, he said he would probably be too tired to stay for the fireworks.
â€śIâ€™ve got to go get a protein drink and lay down for a while after this,â€ť Jones said. â€śSo, I guess Iâ€™m going to miss those.â€ť