Anatomy of an (authentic) American political campaign

Follow the 96-day evolution of a grass roots political campaign as an All-American rural community fights back against the political manipulation of their town board's election.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

The Final Hours

I returned to the polling place where I have always voted to finish up my election day handout blitz. As with all the other locations, I was once again hassled by an elections commissioner who bluntly stated that they didn't want me there. When I tried to politely explain that I was well within my legal rights to be onsite handing out election literature 100 feet away from the polling entrance, she replied that she didn't understand why I was there as no one else was doing the same. Again politely, I responded that just because I was the only one, didn't make it illegal.

At that point, I realized that debating with the woman was fruitless. So I asked exactly where she would like me to stand, thinking that perhaps I could mollify her by moving to a location of her choosing. Her classic response was, and I quote, "In the street." I laughed out loud at her answer and told her that while I would be happy to try and accomodate her, I thought I would probably get hit by a car should I stand in the street. Therefore I was not willing to move there.

My slightly sarcasic reply sent the woman storming off with an over-the-shoulder threat that she was going to call the Board of Elections. This time I chuckled and told her to go ahead as she would find out that I was fully within my rights to be there.

I bet that the Board of Elections hated my by the end of the day, what with all the complaints that they received from the Town of Eden!!

As the sun set and the night air began to chill, I became tired and longed for the end of the campaign trail.

I began this day with high hopes and a true sense of excitement over the fact that I thought I had a good chance to win 1 of the 2 Town Board Seats. However as the day passed and the dark and cold started to seep into my weary bones, I really didn't care anymore. I just wanted to go home and eat some good food and drink something warm.

Then with about an hour and a half left to go, my daughter and grandson showed up at the polling place with flowers and inspiring attitudes. Together we began approaching people and talking about the election. I must admit that never in the two months of this campaign was I more proud of what I was doing and why I was doing it then when they joined me.

They stayed almost until the final minutes when I sent them home with a promise to follow soon. I then talked to a few more voters and called it a night. I passed through the Town Hall parking lot and checked in with my ever-loyal friends staffing that polling place and rounded them up to come home with me. It was time, and there was really nothing left for us to accomplish. We had done the best that we could do and the only thing left was to wait for the results.

A wonderful group of supportive friends and family awaited me at home, along with delicious food from The Poppyseed Restaurant. The Poppyseed is owned by 4 women who I wrote about in my recently published book. They wanted to throw a fundraiser for me. When I declined the fundraiser, they then volunteered to supply the food for my election night gathering. As always, with their gourmet creations, the food was perfect in all ways!

We waited out the election results with laughter and stories and a beer or too. Finally around 10 pm, two of my election crew returned from the Town Hall with the voter tally and I found out that I lost.

The news was initially shocking, especially after listening to so many people tell me that they were going to vote for me. All along I had publicly stated that I didn’t join the race to win, but rather to provide voters with a choice. But human nature being what it is, by election eve I was filled with positive thoughts and ideas on ways that I could contribute once elected. So, to hear the words that I didn’t win anything pretty much knocked me for a loop.

I can’t say that I really remember exactly what happened in the minutes following news of my defeat. I know that many people looked over the results and praised my 748-vote effort. They said that with only 1 line located in an impossibly low position, I did amazingly well. Considering that the other 2 candidates received only twice my number of votes with 3 and 4 lines apiece, I guess their assessment was valid. At the moment however, it only felt like empty praise.

I do remember that my daughter came over to hug me and whispered in my ear that I needed to go around the room and thank everyone. Being an obedient candidate, I proceeded to work my way around the kitchen, hugging people and thanking them for their support. It was a very tough thing to do as what I really wanted to do was hole up in a warm quiet space and reflect on the experience.

At about the same time, the phone began ringing with calls from out of town family and friends. So I removed myself from the center of activity to report the results to the next round of supporters. When I finally returned to the kitchen, people were ready to head home and so we bid good-bye.

I finished the night slumped on a stool by the kitchen sink while my husband and 4 of my best friends and my daughter cleaned up the remants of our celebration. Intermittently we engaged in conversation about the election and they valiantly tried to buoy my spirits. But by virtue of the fact that I was at the end of a 17 hour day and a six week campaign stint, there was little they could do to energize my flagging spirits or my exhausted body.

Finally, around 11pm my husband and I crawled into bed and as I drifted off to sleep, he held me and told me how proud he was of me and what a great thing I had done by sticking to my ideals.

No election victory could ever have given me the feeling of inner peace and accomplishment that his words provided at that moment---and so I slept.
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