Wednesday, November 02, 2011

10 years ago: Chris Saxman's delegate campaign

Chris Saxman (right) talks with former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore in September 2011.

In 2001, America had a new president, George W. Bush, and had gone through the tragic terrorist attacks of 9/11. A young, energetic, personable candidate named Chris Saxman was running for delegate in the newly-formed 20th house District. He announced in April and never looked back, walking his District meeting and greeting voters leading to the November 2001 election.

This post was originally published in September 2006, a remembrance of that campaign and the 30-something candidate who gave us all a ride for our money. No one worked harder than he ... ten years ago.

Chris Saxman ... my Delegate

Bacon's Rebellion has this post today about Chris Saxman who happens to be my delegate. I am grateful to be represented by such a capable, hard-working public servant.

Chris was the first candidate I worked with from the very beginning of his elected life. I was there in 2001 when he announced he was running, and worked at all the volunteer activities that are necessary in any campaign. He was one of the hardest-working candidates I had ever seen. He wore out about three pairs of tennis shoes walking door-to-door to visit folks in the newly-formed 20th District which included my home.

He walked behind the Republican float in the Staunton Fourth of July parade that year (and every year since except 2006 when he was out-of-state at a family reunion), jogging to catch up, dashing up the embankment to shake hands with parade watchers on the hill, working his way around Gypsy Hill Park. His wonderful wife Michele and their children rode on the float, waving to the crowd which included many friends and family members.

One Saturday as I worked GOP HQs, he came in after walking door-to-door for hours ... stretched out on the sofa ... and promptly nodded off. That was a rare "down-time" moment.

Chris won the Republican nomination at Buffalo Gap High School in August against Dr. Charles Curry, a popular former Augusta County Board of Supervisor member. It was a resounding win.

He never slowed down after winning the nomination ... he kept running for the finish line in November. And we ran with him. Because of 9/11 it seemed to make it more urgent that we get the job done.

That fall, a well-attended Saxman for Delegate pig roast was held at a Churchville farm and the band D.O.G.S. of Pray played their signature tune, "Thank God for the U.S.A.," a song written prior to 9/11 but whose words fit right into the post-9/11 world we suddenly found ourselves living in. It kind of became Chris' theme song as the D.O.G.S. played at several events during the campaign. The chorus said:
"Thank God for the U.S.A. where the dreams haven't gone away / No matter what your wealth, your race, your creed, All can have their say / Thank God we're in America, Liberty, in God we trust. I stand to pray / Thank God for the U.S.A."
When I worked the Get Out The Vote phone banks asking folks to vote for Chris, I was amazed at how many people had a personal anecdote about him: he had knocked on their door; he had stood talking with one lady when he was going door-to-door and she was working in her flowers; another said he sat on her front porch and had a glass of iced tea. This guy had connected with voters.

On Election Eve about 20 campaign workers gathered with Chris for dinner at The Pullman Restaurant in downtown Staunton to reflect and be together before the next day's election. Chris thanked everyone for all their time, their efforts, and their sacrifices in helping him in his run. I was very surprised when he singled me out as the "goddess of Augusta County," thanking me for all my work. We all laughed but I've never forgotten that special recognition.

What an amazing campaign ... and what an amazing win!

On Election Night 2001, I ended the day working the Stuarts Draft precinct until closing (I had floated all day from poll to poll as needed). It was cold and, by 7:00 when the polls closed, frost was settling on the grass. But I still remember the voters hurrying in after work and, as I asked for their vote for Chris Saxman, almost every one of them said he was the guy for them!

That was the first time Chris had run for public office and, yet, 9 out of 10 voters arriving said they were voting for him because they had talked with him/ seen him/ had him knock on their doors. At 7:00 I removed the "SAXMAN - Republican for Delegate" signs and headed to Staunton's BisMark restaurant for the GOP victory party.

When I arrived, TVs were tuned into election returns and the place was packed with local Republicans in a party atmosphere but with a tinge of sadness as it became apparent we were going to lose the governor's race. However, local races were turning out in our favor.

The D.O.G.S. of Pray were on stage and played a set ... and then the call was made that Saxman had won the 20th District Delegate seat.

The band started playing the opening strains of "Thank God for the U.S.A." and in bounced a smiling ecstatic Delegate-elect Chris Saxman. The place exploded in cheers and applause as the band boomed out his "theme song." It was classic ... and perfect ... and a memory to keep....

When Chris finally made his way through the sea of cheering supporters and bounded up on stage, he took the microphone, and thanked everyone ... and then dropped a bomb shell that we all laugh about to this day. He and Michele were expecting ... it was such new news that even his mom didn't know! All I could think was, "When did he have time??" He had been all-campaign all-the-time for months!

Media were everywhere and, of course, everyone wanted a piece of Chris -- interviews, congratulations, hugs, kisses.

The last interview of the evening came from a now-defunct newspaper called The Observer. The reporter got his interview and then asked for a photo ... and Chris looked around the room and called, "Lynn! Come over here!" He wanted me in the picture ... and I had the distinct pleasure of having my photo, standing side-by-side with my new Delegate, on the front page of the next edition of The Observer. Humbling.

Chris Saxman has talent, energy, youth, and personality. He is driven to succeed, both in the family business and in representing the citizens of the 20th District. He recently showed up at a luncheon for Susan Allen and local GOP supporters ... in shorts! An employee was out that day so he was driving the Shenandoah Water Company truck route. He simply pulled the truck into South River Grille, popped in for lunch in shorts and tennis shoes, then went back to work.

That's our Delegate!

Chris Saxman retired from politics in 2008 and currently lives in Richmond with his wife Michele and their children.

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