Seventy years old, Bob Turner was retired with 13 grandchildren, sitting comfortably in the Breezy Point section of Queens, N.Y. to enjoy life and be generous to his church and family. But now he's one of 435 legislators trying to get something constructive done in a town that often seems poised for something very different.
He spoke at his congressional campaign's victory party in Howard Beach early in the morning on Sept. 14, armed with a message that was as humble and confident as the messenger delivering it. He has been elected to the seat vacated by the now-infamous Anthony Weiner, a seat that may very well be redistricted out of existence next year. Which is actually just fine with him.
As he told me in 2010 about the prospect of being Rep. Turner: "I will have a job to do. I want to do it and get the hell out."
This wasn't his dream, you see, it was his calling.
He was furious about the health-care monstrosity and his own congressman's dodgy answers. He wanted to send a check to someone. But no suitable name suggested itself.
The rest is history, as they say. And now folks agitated about the economy, marriage, the future, sent him to Washington.
"So I understand I start on Thursday," he said to the crowd cheering him on.
Hours after Turner was sworn in, Speaker of the House John Boehner reflected on his own position: "Hell no, I'm not having any fun! But I'm glad I'm there ... I came here to do something on behalf of my country."
Welcome to the no-frills, no whining campaign season. President Obama, prone to both frippery and complaint, should pay attention.
It was telling to see that in the other special-election win for Republicans in the House this month, the commercial that helped seal the deal featured a telling parallel: President Obama speaking followed by Nevada Democratic candidate Kate Marshall doing the same.
"This election is about you." First it was the president, followed by Marshall, saying the same thing.
Increasingly, people don't want to hear that.
"Change the direction of America." This time it was Vice President Joe Biden. Then Marshall.
You get the picture. All the way back to that perhaps soon-to-be-infamous "Yes we can."
Kate Marshall lost.
Americans won't actually be played for fools -- well, not for too long.
And now, as the frenzied arguments of the campaigns dissipate, there's work to do. Who is going to get to it? Who has some experience? Some motivation?
The guy who still has money in the bank and all those grandkids might be a good bet. The one who doesn't seem to get a thrill from it, but is grateful for the opportunity.