Political 'Stump Meeting' in the works
Presidential candidates invited to heartland of Louisiana politics

By Tom Kelly
Editor and Publisher

A national presidential candidate stump speaking in Winnfield? Really? If Debra Kennedy, a political activist who organized for GOP candidate Newt Gingrich in South Carolina earlier this year, has her way, it will happen on Thursday, March 15 at the Louisiana Political Hall of Fame Museum in Winnfield.

Mrs. Kennedy is married to Winnfield native Paul Kennedy, son of the late Margaret and J.W. Kennedy, Jr. When the elder Kennedys' health began to fail, the couple, then residents of South Carolina, established a second residence in Winnfield to assist with their care.

Paul and Debra were computer consultants contracted to Blue Cross/Blue Shield health insurance companies in South Carolina. She was active politically, most recently in the South Carolina presidential primary, and incidentally, says she plans to file as a candidate for the South Carolina State Senate come November.

As a political activist, she says, "I was born for this," recalling that as a four-year-old in her native Camden, SC, she stood in front of her parents' home shaking hands with mill workers changing shifts at the nearby factory, inviting them to come and have lunch with her family.

With echoes of the Louisiana Political Hall of Fame induction at the end of January still in the air, and on the heels of the recent cable TV presidential debate in Arizona, Debra had an idea: Why not an old fashioned Stump Meeting, in the mode of a similar event which has become a tradition in her native South Carolina, and recalling the once-upon-a-time personal politicking done on the court house corners throughout Louisiana and the South.

She pitched the idea to a couple of local civic clubs and the management at the Political Hall of Fame Museum in Winnfield, where the ghosts of Winnfield-born former Louisiana Governors Huey and Earl Long are ever present among the enshrined portraits of lesser governors, senators, congressmen, state legislators, sheriffs, and all manner of "Famed" political personalities, past and present. Reaction to the idea of an "Old Fashioned Stump Meeting" with presidential candidates in Winnfield was at first "What?! In this small town, so far from the bright lights and concrete of the cities?" Given the glitzy parade of debates which have proceeded seemingly forever on the cable networks, it did seem a stretch.

But, Debra is not shy, and has convinced several local folks that she knows how it's done--calling up her experience with media and politics in South Carolina.

The civic clubs didn't agree to endorse the project officially, but several key members signed on to give it a go on behalf of their clubs. A Host Committee is forming to arrange for a private VIP reception followed by a Stump Meeting in which the candidates will be invited to speak. It is not planned as a "debate" in the format followed in the traveling road show of the past months. But, all candidates are being invited, and media is being contacted.

First of all, for the young generation: What In The Heck is a Stump Meeting? Well, there are those of us who remember, before cable TV, when politicians running for office went from town to town making speeches to whatever audience showed up. To be seen as well as heard, they stood on a platform, on a spot of high ground, or if it were available, as often was the case in a lumbering area, a tree stump. Thus, a Stump Speaking. Retail politics, up close and personal. I myself have attended several such meetings on the Court House square in Winnfield, where such notables as Earl Long, John McKeithen, Carlos Spaht, Jimmie Noe, and many lesser lights were on the program. Many of my generation have the same recollection.

The program as currently laid out is for the private VIP reception on Thursday, March 15, from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m., followed by the Stump speaking from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., at the Political Hall of Fame Museum, located at 499 East Main street in Winnfield in the railroad museum building.

A straw poll will be taken immediately following the speeches by the candidates.

Tickets are available in person at the Museum, or online at www.winnstumpmtng.eventbrite.com. Prices are:
Diamond - $1000, includes reserved table and admission for eight to VIP reception, and picture with all candidates; name in program at this level.

Gold - $500, includes reserved seats and admission for four to VIP reception; picture with all candidates; name in program at this level.

Silver - $250, includes reserved seats and admission for two to VIP reception; picture with all candidates; name in program at this level.

Host Committee - $100; includes reserved seats and admission for two to VIP reception; name in program at this level.

General admission - $50 per person; $25 per student.

Proceeds after expenses go to participating civic clubs and the Political Hall of Fame Museum.

Make checks to Winnfield Stump Meeting, mail to Winnfield Stump Meeting, P.O. Box 1361, Winnfield LA 71483. For information, call 318-648-6555, or www.lapoliticalmuseum.com

On her way out the door from this interview, Debra said over her shoulder, "Winnfield is gonna make $50,000 off this thing."

So, don't be shy; we're not going to let Debra down are we? Get on your stick and come to the Old Fashioned Stump Meeting in Winnfield. It's the way they did it when Huey and Earl were walking around and running things.