‘It’s over. All polls in the township are closed. Now we just have to wait it out,” Mary Metzko, my campaign manager, said.
I laid back in the cushioned chair and said, “I couldn’t be happier. I’m exhausted. We’ll soon see if all our hard work paid off.”
Mary looked at my sagging body and droopy eyes, and said, “Sam, we gave it our very best shot. No regrets. Now it’s out of our hands. It’s time to see what the voters think. I’ll start working the room and thank our campaign and poll workers as they are coming in. Why don’t you have a good stiff drink, put your feet up and get some rest. It could be a long wait before we know the final results.”
After someone fetched me a tumbler glass full of Ketel One, I shut my eyes, sipped my drink and thought of the past year. It all changed when Charlie Denworth, head of County Democrats approached me and asked, “Sam, why don’t you think about being our candidate for the township council next year?”
“Are you serious?”
“Completely. If you do it, no matter what the outcome, you’ll do well for the party and for yourself.”
“I’m flattered. Let me think about it and talk it over with my wife and my law partners. I’ll get back to you in day or two, if that’s okay?”
Grace, my wife, thought she would be all right with my running as long as she did not have to be on the campaign for me. My law partners were more encouraging. They thought it would help our small firm gain name recognition in the County and maybe get some of those political jobs that the Republicans threw were out as bones to the loyal opposition.
Charlie’s response when I said I’d do it was, “You’ll never regret it. Welcome aboard.”
The journey started with me going to almost every township meeting that the members of public could attend. And, whenever the county had anything that affected our township, I showed up at its meeting. There was so much about local government that I did not know. I quickly learned that anybody else attending these meetings were people that either had a vested or personal interest in what was being considered, or what they wanted to be considered. So much for my belief in altruistic civic duty as the motivation that brought people out.
When I inherited Mary Metzko as my campaign manager, I lucked out. She knew everything about township and county politics. She was well organized and a true extrovert. Best of all, we hit it off from day one. We cobbled together a small campaign organization and started on the difficult and unpleasant task of asking for money for our campaign.
I knew that the cards were stacked against me. Our township had always been staunch Republican. There was little likelihood of my winning a seat on the township council since the Republican Party always controlled the township. Its primary was more important to the voters than the general election. I thought, what the hell? It would be miracle if I ever won in the general election.
I read everything that impacted the township. I looked for issues that I could jump on. The scary part was that the Republicans even with their complete control were doing a good job. No corruption. No smoking guns. No disgruntled voters.
I went to every meeting of Democrats I could attend. I shook a lot hands and met an awful lot of people whose names I quickly forgot. Fortunately for me, Mary knew them all.
At the same time, I was trying to find time for my family and my growing law practice. Although I was originally in denial, I knew that both were suffering. Grace never said anything but it was easy to see she had second thoughts about this whole situation and its impact on our family. My law partners were more vocal. They were growing tired of covering for me at the office and were hoping that I’d be less ambitious in running for office.
As the campaign season went into full swing, looking for voters and donors became more intense. I attended meetings of the Jaycees, the Lions, Rotary and other civic and social clubs. I attended as many coffees each night as Mary could be arrange. Routinely, I gave my stump speech, smiled a lot and shook as many hands as I could. I soon became tired of smiling and appearing to be happy about campaigning. I hated it
I had talking points for every issue that I thought could come up. For the debates, I practiced with Mary fielding her hardball questions. She was tougher and more skillful than any of my adversaries.
The worst thing for me was dodging or sidestepping questions where I knew my personal opinion could lose voters or contributors for me. I had to think about what weasel words to use and which questions to deflect.
As Election Day approached, the intensity of the campaign ramped up. I had dropped my jogging and healthy eating habits. My stamina was waning. I missed my old life.
Surprisingly, for someone without a chance of winning, I was doing well in connecting with new voters and donors. Also, my campaign organization was doing a far better job for me than I’d ever expected. I started to believe I could win this election.
Almost up to the time the polls closed, my campaign workers were on the phones and making arrangements to get voters to a voting booth. This could be a close race.
In addition, Jim Ryan who was running at the top of my ticket for mayor also ran a good campaign and stood a chance of winning.
Just as I was drifting off to sleep, I could hear cheering coming from the main room as voting district results were being reported.
Then I heard a burst of loud cheering. I knew either Jim Ryan or I had won.
Mary came into the room, and said “Sam, Sam…
“Wake up. Wake up.” But the voice wasn’t Mary’s, it was Grace’s. “You’ll be late for work and that important meeting with Charlie Denworth. He’s going to be unhappy when you tell him that you won’t run as a candidate for the township council. What were you dreaming? I could hardly wake you.”
Alan Wohl is a retired attorney now living in Somerset. He has been a member of the Watchung Writers Group.