Cross-country: From Rotarians to a pastor in a pub

Campaign 2010

Rotarians in Canton, Ohio, like to get an early start. That is why I found myself on Tuesday at a 7:30 a.m. Rotary Club meeting at an East Canton community center. Here about 20 members listened to reports on fixing public restrooms, securing new playground equipment, and selling raffle tickets at an upcoming fair. The issues seemed far removed from the billion-dollar debates that occur in Washington, D.C.

But after the meeting, attendees assured me that they have greater fears than updating the community's jogging track. The exodus of major employers is a problem that continues to plague the area. Locals still talk about the 2007 closure of the Hoover Company's original plant in North Canton. The upright vacuum was invented in Canton 102 years ago.

"If I were a politician running right now, I wouldn't want to be a Democrat," said Tom Nieschwitz, a 30something banker who blames Democrats for the shower of D.C. regulations that threaten to hurt small businesses more than fix the economy.

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Nieschwitz said more Republicans are needed in Washington to "slow things down."

Several hours and about 250 miles later, voters in Hillsdale, Mich., stream through the county library to vote in the state's primary. In the parking lot we ran into Brian Rooney supporter Chuck Wiley (see photo). Rooney ended up losing the Republican nomination for Michigan's 7th Congressional District to former U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg, who will face off against freshman Democratic incumbent Mark Schauer in November.

We also talked to WORLD subscriber Greg Stuchell as he loaded his two children into his SUV after he and his wife, Heather, had voted. Stuchell said he is still smarting from Schauer's support of the healthcare law despite the fact that most of his constituents opposed the bill.

"We got our change, whew," said Stuchell, shaking his head.

But Stuchell is quick to add that he is just as frustrated with Republicans: "I don't trust either party anymore. It is all about power."

Calling on a higher power is the message pastor Peter Wallace brings to his weekly "Pastor in a Pub" sessions at the Fiddler's Hearth in South Bend, Ind. For four hours every Tuesday, Wallace, 39, holds informal office hours at the Irish bar. He believes members of his congregation and other locals feel more at ease talking at the pub over a pint of ale. The sessions often lead to debates over politics, even when the drinking companion is a pastor. This is especially true in a district with an open U.S. House seat and a state with an open U.S. Senate slot. But Wallace likes to remind others to resist putting their faith in government. He often recalls how during the recent economic struggles, his 125-member Presbyterian Church in America congregation helped the area's unemployed by paying for odd jobs and donating to a deacon's fund that grew to six figures.

"This is what it means to be a part of the body of Christ," Wallace said, "using our resources to help one another."

Day two mileage: 432. Miles to go: about 2,787.

Follow Lee's reports as he travels from Washington, D.C., to Washington state.

Edward Lee Pitts
Edward Lee Pitts

Lee teaches journalism at Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa, and is the associate dean of the World Journalism Institute.


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