The time leading up to Bryan Cutler's eventual announcement was an exciting one. A critical component was the meetings which were held on Friday or Saturday nights at Bryan's house and later at Ryan Aument's house. A large group of us, none experienced political strategists, began formulating a plan of action. Luckily we were too inexperienced to be deterred from our "vision." Inexperience aside, there is one thing we all were-idealists.

The majority of the people associated with the campaign early on were 32 or under. Still we "early on" older folks shared the same vision of the future and the belief that we could make things better as the younger set. In the meantime, it was noted on several occasions that young or old we now had someplace to go on a Friday or Saturday night. Yes, the campaign had actually given us a social life!

Despite our very serious planning we still had a lot of fun. Everything from pizza to Hogan's Heroes to club subs to dueling bad jokes found their way into these meetings. The overall feeling was one of intensity and purpose, but there was always room for a laugh.

By the time Bryan announced on November 16, 2005 we had already garnered a lot of press by not publicizing who the candidate was. Still the night before the announcement a reporter figured out that it was Bryan and put it in the paper. The first grenade had been launched. Disappointed, but not deterred, Bryan arrived at his announcement event to find, a beautifully decorated hall, excellent food, a large group of supporters and-Ron Harper, editor of 5thestate.com.

5thestate.com is a Web site related to breaking news stories uncovered by investigative reporter Ron Harper. Why was Ron there? As a member of the media, Ron was more than welcome, but why was he interested in Bryan?

For all our strategizing and analyzing no one had even given a second thought to the fact that we might be asked about former State Representative John Barley. John Barley had resigned his House seat for as still undisclosed reasons, in 2002 leading to a Special Election. The Special Election was won by Rep. Gib Armstrong, the man Bryan was attempting to unseat.

Barley's resignation was the subject of much rumor and innuendo. Our inexperience, which we thought we hid very well, was soon revealed loud and clear when Ron asked Bryan about John Barley. Bryan, who had never met Barley, said so and told about a positive experience he had with Barley's previous staff. Ron, who was taping the entire evening, put the video on his web site and released a highly publicized press release criticizing Bryan for not taking a strong stance against Barley.

Another grenade was about to be launched however. Within three days of the announcement, two reporters from different large newspapers wrote that Rep. Armstrong was saying that he had assisted Bryan, who was a law student at the time, to get an internship. Bryan said it didn't happen, but the reporters had never contacted him to confirm.

Two situations seemingly small but both potentially damaging were staring us in the face. We had to make decisions and we had to make them fast. Do we try to get the truth out to the public or do we just ignore the attacks?

Next week: Looking for an endorsement.

Shelley Castetter lives in Bart Township. Her e-mail address is southernexposure1@yahoo.com.

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