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Date published: 10/25/2012
MINERAL--On a sunny day in Mineral's acorn-strewn Walton Park, a couple dozen people munched on popcorn while they waited for the man they'd come to see.
It could have been Democratic congressional candidate Wayne Powell. Or maybe it was bluegrass musician Ralph Stanley.
Stanley, his son Ralph II and their band joined Powell--who's running against Rep. Eric Cantor in the 7th Congressional District--for what Powell's campaign billed as an "old-timey" barnstorming tour of the district Tuesday night and Wednesday.
They called it the "O Cantor, Where Art Thou?" tour, a riff on the 2000 movie "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" Stanley's singing for that movie earned him a Grammy award and a surge of popularity outside bluegrass music circles.
The group made stops in Ashland, Culpeper, Mineral, Goochland and Glen Allen, with Stanley singing and Powell and his aides making speeches to supporters.
"Now, on Election Day, don't forget to go out and vote for Wayne," Stanley said. "He's a fine fellow and he'll do you a good job."
Stanley sang several of his well-known songs--"O Death," which won him the Grammy, "Little Maggie" and others.
Stanley is not from the 7th District, but instead from Southwest Virginia's 9th. His son said Powell strategist Dave "Mudcat" Saunders, a friend, invited them to come do the campaign tour.
They were happy to oblige, Stanley II said, because they are "old-time" Democrats--something Saunders described on stage as "Jacksonian the kind of Democrat that'll fight you," and fiddler John Rigsby described as supporting rural, working people.
Powell is fighting an uphill battle against Cantor, who is House majority leader and much better known and better funded than Powell, who is running his first-ever political race.
On stage in Mineral, Powell complained about Cantor's campaign donations from the oil, pharmaceutical and other big industries, and said his opponent is more interested in power than in his constituents.
"He sells his vote," Powell said. "Which means he sells out places like Louisa."
Powell also criticized Cantor on women's issues, saying the Republican opposes intrusive big government until it comes to birth control, abortions or other women's health issues.
The Mineral stop didn't draw a big crowd, but Powell's campaign said the other stops on the tour drew upwards of 100 people each.