June 27, 2012

Y’all got any hawgs or chikins?

By Joe Pluhar

This month has been full of new experiences coupled with new opportunities. Some are expected; some are not. For instance, I was meeting with a veterinarian working in the Watergate Complex (Yes, THE Watergate Complex made famous in the downfall of a president, don’t believe me, Google it.) when it was suggested that I look into applying for some communications positions where I could showcase my animal health and agriculture expertise gained in veterinary school. I always knew veterinary medicine could take me to the most unusual and fun places, but never did I imagine my veterinary background would lead to conversations like the one I was having on Tuesday night.

Let me set the scene. When candidates run for political office, they have to raise money. Lots of money if they are in a highly contested race. Candidates receive funding from individuals, groups, corporations, and a certain set of organizations called Political Action Committees or PACs. Now, memorize that term, because if you have ears or eyes (or both) you will hear/see that term repeated thousands of times between now and the November Presidential Election. PACs are an important part of the election landscape allowing organizations to raise money and support candidates that are friendly to their issues. For instance, AVMA has a PAC (cleverly named the AVMA PAC) that raises money from AMVA members to support members of Congress that support veterinary issues. PAC contributions also open the door for members of an organization to attend certain functions, such as congressional fundraisers. I attended my first such fundraiser last night for Rep. Kissell from North Carolina.

On our way (my wife/arm candy went with me), Lauren and I saw several of these events occurring south of the House office buildings. All of them had some sort of theme such as Tex-Mex night with Rep. Ted Poe of Texas or the North Carolina BBQ for Rep. Kissell, and they all of their own unique structure. Some are mixer style while others are sit down with everyone gathering around a large table. These events are meant to be relaxing and fun providing the supporters of candidates the opportunity to raise their issues or give their thanks in a more personal setting than simply sending an email to the member’s office. It also provides the member an opportunity to ask questions about what is going on with certain issues around the country and talk about how well their current election race is progressing. This is how the conversation landed on hawgs and chikins.

Another thing you must understand is that accents appear to become thicker and more prominent at these functions with everyone playing up their local roots. Now to the good part. I was talking with Chris, one of AVMA’s hired lobbyists, Lauren, Elise, and a representative of the National Home Builders when the man-of-the-hour Congressman Kissell walked up to talk to us. We discussed veterinary medicine, education, student loans, etc. Chris then asked Rep. Kissell how is race was shaping up. He explained it was going great and fundraising was good, but he was still trying to raise a little more from the agriculture sector. Chris asked if they had chickens and pigs in his district. Rep. Kissell said they had some chikins and some hawgs, but wasn’t sure because his district is in the process of being redrawn thanks to re-districting. Rep. Kissell hollered (even my accent in this blog is getting thicker) and motioned one of his staffers to come over. For the next 5 minutes, we all had a serious discussion about how many hawgs and chikins were in the district and in the state. I learned they had a lot but were losing some turkeys. After a consensus was formed on the number of chikins and hawgs, the next question was who was supporting the Congressman. Apparently some of the chikin guys were and some weren’t. However, the hawgs appear to be on the bandwagon (notice I didn’t say truck cause that could mean a lot of things).

It was a fantastic display of linguistics and jargon. With the vintage vinegar North Carolina BBQ and the conversation, I felt practically transported to the middle of tobacco country. Like they say, all politics is local, and nowhere is that more important than your accent.