Is Prairie County really a one party county?

By Kay Braddock
Steppin' Out

  This past Sunday Prairie County Republicans hosted the annual Lincoln-Reagan Dinner at the Prairie Community Center. I believe this is the third or fourth year in a row that I’ve attended this particular event, which offers a potluck luncheon and then a series of presentations from local, state and federal Republican representatives. It also offers a brief question and answer period, which almost always proves to be interesting – not only for the answers given by representatives, but probably more fascinating it allows a window into the mindset of local voters – allowing one to see what issues are of particular interest.

Dependant on how many representatives speak - election years generally offer up a longer list of presentations – the event usually lasts two to three hours.
After the speaking engagement local Republicans hold their annual central committee meeting, electing officers and performing other business duties. 
Now before I go any further, a quick disclaimer is in order – the nearly 10 years I lived in Terry after returning from Idaho and prior to working at the Tribune I never attended this or any other political event hosted locally. Never, nada, zip, zero. 
But back to my point – where are all of the Republicans? I mean, really, when you look at election results, Republican candidates can generally easily receive at least 70 percent of votes cast in Prairie County. That is unless they’re our own local candidates, and as many communities can be, we’re usually tougher on our homegrown candidates than outsiders. But really, 70 percent of voters cast a Republican ballot and about 4 percent of them show up at the annual Republican event. 
What can be gathered from those kinds of numbers? 
One, it’s more appealing to stay at home on a Sunday afternoon than attend a political event. Considering the winter we’re experiencing this year, this easily makes sense. Although Sunday’s temperatures were particularly appealing – offering spring-like conditions. Granted at this point, any temps above 10 begin to resemble spring to those of us enduring a comeback winter of yesteryear.
Or is it option two – apathy. Who really cares what they’re doing in Helena let alone Washington D.C.? 
Or is it, as one elder and wiser individual suggested to me, Terry voters really aren’t hardcore Republicans. Could that be the case? Are we Prairie Countians more ambivalent in our political leanings than poll numbers may suggest? 
And if that’s the case – where are the Democrats? And why aren’t the local Dems offering an annual meeting, presenting their perspectives on issues of the day?
There must be more than the same 30 or so people who attend the annual political event in Prairie County, who find politics intriguing and take a genuine interest in what’s going on in Helena or D.C.  Where are you? And why aren’t you letting your reps hear your voice and see your face at local gatherings? 
Get this - about four people who live within Terry’s town limits attended Sunday’s event. Four – just in case you missed that number – 4. And that’s a pretty big representation compared to attendance numbers of recent years.
Where are the town folk? 
Maybe fewer Terry voters, than what was previously believed, are really Republicans. Or maybe those voters are disconnected from their own local political party. 
If the latter suggestion is the case, then the Dems would be making a foolish error if they didn’t take advantage of what could truly be an advantageous situation.

Published March 2, 2011

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