Ray McKinney has a new job in mind.
The Effingham County High grad has given up his run for the presidency to run for the Republican nomination for the 12th Congressional District, a seat currently held by Rep. John Barrow (D-Savannah).
“My flyer is a job application,” said McKinney, vice president for nuclear services for Continental Field Systems. “The way I look at it, this is a job. I plan on treating it as a job.”
His run for president was an effort to make a statement to show how fed up the rank and file is with the leadership.
“People were asking me, ‘Why don’t you run for Congress?’” McKinney said. “I thought, maybe it’s something I need to look at.”
McKinney spent a few days in Washington, D.C., meeting with members of the National Republican Congressional Caucus. Some of the staff there wanted a non-political candidate but some others dismissed McKinney’s chances of winning. But the prevailing attitude was to back McKinney in his run.
“They said, ‘Ray, we’d like for you to give it a shot,’” he said.
During his presidential campaign, McKinney took part in Texas state Republican events and said he was treated as an equal with the other, bigger-name GOP presidential hopefuls.
“If you are willing to run, they’ll give you the same treatment as Duncan Hunter and Rudy Giuliani,” he said.
While the party treated him well, what he found difficult was getting media attention. Some talk shows told him they wouldn’t interview him.
“They interviewed other candidates, including ones I beat (in the poll),” he said.
Meeting the other presidential candidates also revealed something else to him, according to McKinney.
“It also makes you realize they’re just regular people. There’s nothing special about them,” he said. “They are no special breed. It took a lot of the intimidation out.”
McKinney is making his way around the 22 counties of the 12th Congressional District and is discovering the issues, including the Effingham Parkway. He’s been driving around the district for about six weeks and has hit Waynesboro, Vidalia, Reidsville, Glennville, Oak Park and Statesboro, among others.
“I’ve put over 5,000 miles on my vehicle in the last two weeks,” he said. “I enjoy meeting the people. I had the opportunity to learn what’s going on in a lot of neighborhoods.”
He’s gotten a good reception so far, he said, including during his four days when he didn’t have to travel so far — he had a booth at the Effingham County Fair.
“I met a lot of old classmates,” he said. “And I met about three John Barrow supporters.”
The prospect of being a Congressman appeals to him because there is a chance to have an influence on local issues and on national matters. He’s not changing his stance on national and international matters and wants the U.S. to develop an energy independence plan to get away from the need for Middle East oil and oil from Venezuela and its anti-American leader, Hugo Chavez.
“We have put ourselves in a very bad position,” he said.
Some polls show that Congress’ approval rating has plummeted to 11 percent and McKinney’s travels across the country and the district are backing those up, he said.
“People are mad,” he said. “They are really getting fed up. That 11 percent is not a joke. They are upset with the way politicians are running the country.”
McKinney said the feedback he is getting also shows people are tired of politicians treating the children’s health insurance package known as S-CHIP as a political toy. The current bill is an expansion of the existing program and would add $35 billion to the cost.
“It’s supposed to cover 6 million kids for five years,” he said. “That’s $2,200 per child for health insurance.”
So McKinney went on the Internet to get quotes for a 4-foot-10, 250-pound, smoking, pregnant, diabetic 12-year-old with a heart condition. The quotes he got, out of 62, ranged from $520 to $1,600 a year.
“Twenty billion dollars is waste,” he said of the present S-CHIP proposal. “I have no idea where it’s going. There’s $20 billion of fat in there. You are playing on people’s hopes and fears with our money.”
McKinney also took exception to a Congressional proposal to spend $10 billion to help developing countries battle global warming.
“I don’t know how effective I would be as a legislator,” he said. “But I would be one of the biggest mouths in Washington.”
His needs now are getting people involved and getting exposure. Should he get elected — the Republican primary is in July and McKinney figures it will take 80,000 votes to win the election — he doesn’t plan on disappearing to Washington.
“I will be visible and accessible,” he said.