Stewart and Marcia Pillow sat amid a long, noisy demonstration for pre-voting favorite Andrew P. Miller yesterday and talked quietly about their commitment to God and his servant in this year's Democratic race for the U.S. Senate nomination, G. Conoly Phillips.
The Pillows had never been to a convention before and didn't even consider themselves Democrats. But when they heard Phillips' call at St. Giles Presbyterian Church in Richmond for Christians to become active in politics, they responded.
The Pillows epitomized the 400 or so Phillips delegates here, newcomers to the world of vote-swapping and political deals.
Pillow, 37, and his wife, 36, the mother of their two sons, ages 14 and 8, look like the all-American couple. He is clean-cut and boyishly handsome in a light summer suit and white straw hat with a Phillips band; she is wholesomely attractive and might be mistaken for gay-rights opponent Anita Bryant, in a tailored suit and streaked hair drawn up in a bun.
They are par of what evangelist Pat Robertson, in nominating Phillips, called a "great sleeping giant" in the electorate, 50 million Americans who call themselves evangelicals.
"Not conservatives, not liberals, not filled with the old clinches," said Phillips as he seconded his own nomination, but "filled with the love and concern for human dignity and freedom."
Pillow, who sells mobile homes and until recently operated a mobile home park in suburban Richmond, said he and his wife, who are members of the Assembly of God Church in Richmond, went home after hearing Phillips talk and "prayed about it."
No one asked them to run for delegates, but soon they were on a Phillips mailing list, and when they decided to get involved they went to Phillips.
Mrs. Pillow, who put her fingers in her ears during several of the noisier demonstrations, was asked if she were having fun. "Well, it's different," she said. Clearly, she wasn't having fun, but she stayed there, surrounded by horns and banners and baloons, because "the average American has got to get involved in politics."
She was disappointed at the "lack of respect (the supporters of various candidates showed) for each other. We're supposed to all be working for the some thing."
PIllow twice voted for Miller in previous contests, and still considers the former state attorney general "a nice guy." But Phillips' candidacy brought a new dimension to politics for him.
If there was one word that characterized the Phillips effort at the convention it was "quiet."
Throughout the night preceding yesterday's balloting, while supporters of many other candidates wooed delegates with drinks in hospitality suites, Phillips' supporters took turns keeping a vigil in a prayer room set up in the Fort Magruder Quality Inn.
Phillips appeared insulted when he was asked if his backers were asking God to help him win the nomination.
"They were praying for good government, for the convention to raise up godly men in government," he said.
During the balloting, Phillips sought out skeptics, quietly telling them that his Christian philosophy "works, in my home, in my business and in city government." He is a Norfolk city councilman.
After his name had been placed in nomination, Phillips told the convention that they were seeing just "the tip of the iceberg" with his 400 or so delegates on the floor of William and Mary Hall.
The millionaire Norfolk auto dealer and charismatic Christian layman said he could bring into the Democratic Party two new types of voters, "the business community - we need their money and I can get it this fall - and the church community. He said "thousands of ministers stand ready" to open their churches for a voter registration drive.