Nov 10, 2009
by Melinda Zosh
Last week, as Scott Garrett waited to hear his election results, his campaign manager informed him that his opponent, Shannon Valentine, was leading by 1439 votes.
“Most of (my workers) were pretty anxious, and we wondered, ‘How are we going to be able to make up that many votes in just one precinct?’” Garrett said. “But I knew potential (to win) was there.”
At 8:45 p.m., Mike Lukach, Garrett’s campaign manager, told him that his luck had changed. Heritage Elementary School, the precinct with the largest number of registered voters and the largest number of votes cast — mostly by Liberty students — according to Lukach, reported its results. Garrett gained 1964 votes in this precinct, and Valentine got 324 votes.
After the votes came in, Garrett garnered 10,159 votes in Lynchburg with Valentine winning 10,010 votes. In the City of Amherst, Garrett won 654 votes, and Valentine won 594 votes, according to the Virginia State Board of Elections Web site. Garrett won by 209 votes, a one percent margin, over his opponent.
Even though Garrett won, Lukach was concerned about a possible recount. But he attributes the slim margin to Liberty students.
“The work that (Liberty) College Republicans did on election day was very helpful in providing that slim margin that put us over the top,” Lukach said.
Rather than a victory for the Republican party, it was a victory for values, according to Garrett.
“There were common social conservative values that we heard regularly going door to door,” Garrett said. “Our social values matter, (and) we need to value our votes and vote our values.”
“When the folks who share your values show up to vote, you win,” Garrett said.
“Republicans value smaller government, individual responsibility, strong national defense and keeping taxes low,” Garrett said. “That’s why we saw a landslide victory for the Republican Party.”
Garrett, a retired surgeon, said that his biggest challenge wasn’t long campaign hours and door-to-door campaigning, it was deciding to run for office in the first place. If he hadn’t run, he would be fighting for family values at the national level, he said.
“A huge value that constituents voted (for) was their economics,” Garrett said. “We need to bring some trust back to families and get them working in the job market again.”
Garrett said that he was most moved by strangers telling him that they would vote for him, because he shares the same beliefs that they value. One woman in particular stood out among the crowd.
“One woman told us that she had … faith and hope that we’ll get real change, not Obama change and not change for change sake,” Garrett said. “You haven’t heard the first inkling from this campaign that we’ll be all things to all people at all times.”
Knowing that he couldn’t be all things to all people, Garrett said that he remained true to his beliefs, and his constituents realized it.
“That’s the thing that’s the most endearing to me: when people’s life story or their issues brought me to tears,” Garrett said. “Then you know it’s true passion that drives you to do it. If you can fulfill their needs, then you really have done the right thing.”
After he is sworn in at the state capitol building in Richmond on Jan. 13, Garrett will work with Bob McDonnell to help small businesses potentially create more jobs for the unemployed.
“I heard it loud and clear going door-to-door for the last nine months,” Garrett said. “We need to figure out a way to get people back working again. The family unit needs that degree of economic security to function.”
Garrett said that his most rewarding experience was what he called “getting in the moment” with voters, or learning more about their concerns and values on a personal level.
“When you get in the moment with someone, you understand where their heart and their head is,” Garrett said. “Voters knew that I shared a lot of their same values.”
Garrett got in the moment with one woman by sharing his pro-life values with her. She said that she would vote for him. After he spoke to her more, he learned that her husband had recently been laid off from his job, and he realized that their family unit needed job security.
“Sharing a common value gets your foot in the door, but you still need to get in the moment and understand where people are coming from,” Garrett said. “Today it’s jobs or health care. Tomorrow it’s going to be energy.”
Garrett said that the government can’t fix these issues, but it’s up to the people to push for their values in the legislative process.
“Seeing the challenges that kids are facing, families are facing and all the relationship issues, it’s very disruptive and discouraging,” Garrett said. “We the people have got to address and fix the issues, and we need to listen to each other and find out what our various needs are.”
Contact Melinda Zosh at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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