An Uplifting Experience
Some people invited me in and wanted to talk for an hour. One older woman kept firing rhetorical questions at me — “Don’t we want a town where people can feel safe walking down the street?” — and every time I answered correctly, which is pretty easy with rhetorical questions, she said, “Bingo!” I made a mental note to visit the VFW hall on bingo night.
Other voters opened their doors a crack and clearly didn’t want to be bothered. Some seemed lonely, others angry, but most seemed grateful that a candidate cared enough to call on them. Everybody had dogs and they all barked at me, especially at the end of the day when I smelled like every other dog in town. My car got stuck in lots of icy driveways, which is where I learned spin control.
A lot of voters wanted to know where I came from, and they didn’t mean which side of Davis Stream. I never hid the fact that I was from “away,” or anything else about who I was. As I was designing my flier on the computer, I noticed I could manipulate my photo to look thinner. I played around with it, briefly admiring the slim me. But I put it back to normal. If I was going to win, it’d be the real me.
On the night of March 28, I went to the town office to watch the vote count. One of the more vocal rubble-rousers (as I had nicknamed the supporters of the mining company) glared at my muddy boots. I’d been working in my greenhouse all day, and I hadn’t taken off my Tingleys with the steel toes.
“If you get elected,” he told me, “you can’t wear them boots in here.”
He wasn’t worried about mud on the floor. No, his meaning was clear: I was a college boy, a Top-Sider faker who hadn’t earned the right to wear farm boots around town. Since I was a politician, I smiled and bit my tongue. “I didn’t know there was a dress code.”
The hand count of ballots took several hours. I lost to the incumbent, Donnie, a native son and career National Guard officer. His family was one of the oldest and most respected in town; he was an honest, intelligent and conservative man who governed only when necessary. I offered him my support in the coming year.
It had been a three-way race of 519 votes, and I wound up getting 140. This might not seem like many, but out here in the back country, people don’t vote for you unless they know you. For a newcomer like myself to get 27 percent was seen as quite an accomplishment, directly due to my five Saturdays of campaigning, and (I believe) my inclusive but progressive stance.