Vice Presidential Candidate Paul Ryan rallies support in Fernandina Beach

Submitted by

Susan Hardee Steger

As local politicians were back slapping and glad handing, a crowd of 2500 to 3000 (official police estimate) waited with great anticipation  for Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan’s arrival in Fernandina Beach.  Since 3400 tickets were obtained, it was a smaller crowd than expected.  On a work day for many, retirees were the majority of those in attendance.

The crowd was warmed up by familiar local Republican faces; State Representative Janet Adkins, State Senate candidate Aaron Bean, State Senator John Thrasher, and Congressman  Ander Crenshaw.   As those attending await the arrival of Congressman Ryan, Mitt Romney makes a video appearance, flags are distributed, and upbeat music blares.

Ryan’s appearance was not soon enough for many who arrived at the Main Beach Wolff Park earlier in the day.  As the press bus and Ryan motorcade were sighted,  the excitement grew and Ryan was warmly welcomed.

From a distance, it was a tired looking Ryan whose voice seemed strained after numerous  speaking engagements.  While being introduced, Ryan stood hands on hips and warmly gazed at the crowd.  He mentioned how pleased he was to be in Fernandina Beach, pronouncing Fernandina perfectly.

Ryan’s DC-9 arrived at the Jacksonville airport. Fernandina’s municipal airport was 800 feet too short.  Those with him included secret service personnel, campaign staffers, and the press from major media outlets as ABC, NBC, Fox news and a representative from the Spanish speaking press.  Along with the press, was a Danish reporter who learned of Ryan’s appearance while visiting friends in Jacksonville.

There was no sighting of sign carrying Obama supporters at the event sight although Obama supporters were in the area where Patrick Murphy of Pennsylvania was the primary speaker and Rear Admiral Gene Kendall also spoke. The only indication of an opposing political voice was from an individual who questioned if the media would report on the lack of racial diversity present at Ryan’s Fernandina rally.

As far as Ryan’s speech,  it was the typical political stump speech inspiring support and making a case for the Romney – Ryan team. Ryan did ask that everyone remember those in the path of Hurricane Sandy.  Remaining campaign appearnces scheduled for Monday were cancelled “out of sensitivity for the millions of Americans in the path.”

City Mayor Arlene Filkoff was called from the stands by secret service personnel, who  worked with the city in planning the event to welcome Ryan to the city. Two sources who wish to be unnamed claim Republican political operatives, denied Filkoff access to Ryan.  According to Nassau County Republican Chairman Cherie Billings when contacted by the Fernandina Observer, it was for security reasons. “Even John Thrasher [Florida State Senator] was not allowed close to him,” says Billings.

Campaign stops in small towns  are rare occurrences during Presidential campaigns.  Ryan’s  visit to Fernandina Beach just days before the Presidential election, generated much excitement.

City of Fernandina Beach Mayor Arlene Filkoff sums up the day by saying , “It is always wonderful to welcome new visitors to our beautiful city.  They always fall in love with it and I’m told that the campaign team and Secret Service felt extremely welcomed by city staff.  City personnel were able to provide police coverage, fire and rescue coverage and coordination for construction, security, and traffic within 48 hours of notification.  We have a city staff to be very proud of.  And our weather was gorgeous.”

October 30, 2012 11:46 a.m.

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Kim Maddox
Kim Maddox (@guest_1915)
11 years ago

The rally was awesome. Thanks to all who made it possible. Paul Ryan held my son as he waved to the crowd and even turned to the media for coverage because it was so funny. I missed the opportunity to take a photo because I was too busy catching the moment. I’ve not had any luck getting a copy. 🙁