Mary Miller Not Responsible for Past Actions of Volunteer

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Andrew Harnik/AP

I don’t believe Mary Miller is responsible for Brad Graven’s past actions simply because Brad Graven volunteered on her campaign. He is someone who, as both a motivated supporter and well respected Republican within his community’s political structure, injected himself deep within her campaign.

Motivated supporters like Graven, that carry the respect of both the political establishment as well as the motivated activist crowd, are upon what politics often hinge in rural America. Given his record, he likely could never run for office, yet he curries access as if he’s an elected official. Becoming involved on the grassroots, volunteer level is all Graven has open to him.

Yes, there is an important step in the political campaign process to vet staff. Miller would naturally trust the Republicans of Moultrie County. They would notify her of problems, unless they were setting her up intentionally. I don’t see how this is a set up considering Republicans have embraced Graven and his extended family nearly his entire life. By all indications and for many election cycles, Graven has full support of local Republicans. 

Full disclosure, I’ve known Brad Graven my entire life. He was in fact my Sunday school teacher, so long ago. Despite his family being members of our church throughout my life, he recently left our church during the last few years because it was too welcoming. I do know more than any of these articles could ever say about these issues and more.

If anyone would be to blame for Miller’s blind trust of Moultrie County’s most outspoken and proud Republican, it would be all of the other Moultrie County Republicans who never mentioned a word of what is well known history in my hometown.

Hell, after I had moved to Charleston and Coles county, I begrudgingly brought all of this up when Brad fought so publicly against the school facilities sales tax. I will always fight for my hometown. Sometimes, the way that manifests is more direct than others. 

Not only did Graven lead a campaign then that promoted misleading messages about that specific sales tax for schools, he dropped literature loaded with Bible verses at Amish and Mennonite homes suggesting it would be against the Word of God if they voted to support a sales tax most Amish avoid simply by using horse and buggy as their preferred mode of transportation.

We see recent outcomes from Brad’s political success in turning the community against investing in their education on an ongoing, consistent basis by voting against the sales tax. Without the influx of revenue to support and maintain local school facilities, now, a new school is likely necessary with a much higher price tag. This reminds me of when I was in high school and I fought to pass a referendum to build a new elementary school. We waited too long to maintain the building, which upped the price tag for replacing it. As the community drags their feet today, inflation is further driving up the cost tomorrow. 

I forgot to mention that besides a Sunday school teacher Graven used to be a school teacher in El Paso before his stint on the sex offender registry. It only makes his position to undermine and sabotage public schools inherently a conflict of interest or at least terribly ironic. Was this more about retribution for losing not only his livelihood but also his pension because adult cops asked him to meet him for sex as a setup with someone who is underage? Gas is still more expensive in Sullivan than it is in surrounding counties that opted to increase their sales tax to support their school facilities. 

In a district this large, and this rural, Miller has learned to trust  those around her. You have to trust that your tribe has your back or you become a dreaded micromanager. Micromanaging a mammoth enterprise like a congressional campaign is not easy and is likely a bad idea unless you’re a Democratic candidate with no party infrastructure for support. It is my experience with the size of this territory, the timelines of a contested primary, and the bucking of all trends that lends credibility to my words here. 

You can’t possibly believe you know the life history of everyone you meet and that supports you.  You cannot afford to lose anyone. If you do, those folks are often more motivated than any of your supporters. Also, those folks you lose can make anything up that helps their agenda. Facts don’t matter. 

Further, rural communities tend to trust certain people and voices over others. In fact, it was Graven who likely told Miller which community members to avoid and which ones would be more receptive and with what messages. This is the information that data brokers offer campaigns today from all of our clicks on social media and the internet, except this might be accurate unless this is a setup.

When this process is personal, potential political rivals and new voices that challenge authority and orthodoxy of local, state, and national party influence can be easily handled through a.word of mouth, whisper campaign that discredits and dismisses without spending a dime. For people like Graven, it is the preference to  wield power in this fashion instead of working for results for the people which may be as fleeting as is complimentary his lingering desire to help Miller. Graven doesn’t need access to women’s rights, after all. 

So, don’t blame Mary Miller. Blame the culture that dangles a character such as Graven in front of a Miller, providing a shelter from seeing the direct results of all actions and definitive non-actions. That culture is often a beast we feed daily. We often lend it our ears, and spread it by mouth. It is often worse than any pandemic because at least there are vaccines. We can do something direct about a pandemic. It is far more difficult to know everything about everyone and to judge them harshly for it. 

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