- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 4, 2012

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Edith S. Childs has spent more than 15 years as an elected official, but her moment in the national spotlight came just five years ago.

In 2007, the Greenwood, S.C., resident was one of just 20 or so people who welcomed then-Sen. Barack Obama to her remote city of 23,000, as he arrived to a sparse crowd on a rainy day that admittedly left him and many attendees uninspired.

A friend of Ms. Childs suggested that she liven up the atmosphere with a chant she had picked up during 1970s NAACP rallies and was still known to use. After some coaxing, she obliged.

“Fired up!” she shouted, with a rhythmic cadence that her fellow residents recognized and repeated.

“Ready to go!” she followed, with the crowd again reciprocating. Eventually, Mr. Obama joined in.

The cheer caught on and became a campaign staple for Mr. Obama, as the first-term senator rode a historic wave of grass-roots enthusiasm to take the Democratic nomination and the White House in 2008.

As president, he has struggled to pull the country out of a long economic downturn and has been a lightning rod for Republican criticism, but Ms. Childs remains one of his biggest fans.

“I think he has done a super job, considering what he had to face once he got there,” said Ms. Childs, now a 63-year-old Greenwood County Council member who is attending the Democratic National Convention here this week as one of her state’s Obama delegates. “I see him as having done his best considering the situation.”

Ms. Childs, a retired nurse, wife and mother of four, said she was drawn to support Mr. Obama from the first time she saw him speak earlier in 2007. She became convinced that he was more sincere than the average politician and wanted badly to help the downtrodden and lift the country out of the recession.

Quickly after meeting Mr. Obama, she got to work going door to door in Greenwood to urge residents to vote in the state’s 2008 Democratic primary, where Mr. Obama lodged a key early victory that helped propel him to the White House.

She attended that year’s Democratic convention in Denver, and Mr. Obama often told her story on the campaign trail as an example of “what one voice can do.”

“I’m standing there and I’m thinking, ‘She’s stealing my thunder,’” he recounted during a November 2008 rally in Virginia. “After a minute or so, I’m feeling kind of fired up. I’m feeling like I’m ready to go.”

Four years later, Ms. Childs thinks the president did a good job of shepherding passage of the Affordable Care Act during his first term, but has since been stopped at every turn by Republicans whom she says are more concerned with winning political points than helping the country.

She is hopeful that a second term for Mr. Obama could force some compromise between himself, a likely GOP-led House and a currently up-for-grabs Senate.

“To see one party separate themselves from the president entirely, I think, is an insult,” she said. “People in the United States are sick of all the mess and they just want to see things get better for them.”

Many such complaints have come from Ms. Childs‘ constituents, who she says come to her on a weekly basis with stories of how they have lost jobs or are unable to find work, despite their best efforts, and are struggling to pay rent and utility bills.

She said she ran for county council to help people in these types of situations and give them “a voice at the table,” but it has been hard to find solutions in South Carolina, which had a 9.6 percent unemployment rate in July, the fifth worst of any state. She said things have improved this year, but that people are still struggling.

Her desire to help these residents landed her in hot water earlier this year, when she was one of five council members who came under fire for their use of a county fund that allowed them to spend nearly $150,000 on in-district expenses without having to document where the money went.

Mrs. Childs said she received more than $28,000 from the fund over a three-year span, and that she used it primarily to pay bills for struggling residents and to help pay for road improvements and community events.

The council ended the fund last year over concerns about transparency and the lack of record-keeping, but she said she does not regret spending the funds to help her constituents.

“It was justified, to me,” she said. “It was there for me to use for in-district stuff and that’s what I used it for.

“I help my folks. Now the money is gone but I still help my folks the best I can.”

Ms. Childs said she has spent much of the past year leading voter registration drives and encouraging her neighbors to vote. While GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney is all but assured of winning South Carolina this fall, she said she is proud to represent her state’s Democrats this week in Charlotte.

“If you’re at the table where the decisions are made, perhaps you can affect those decisions,” she said. “To be there to represent the people who are not at the table, I’m just honored to be in this position that people respect me enough.”

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