The twilight zone

Posted: Nov 07, 2006 12:01 AM
The twilight zone

How many candidate interviews did we conduct here at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette during this finally, finally concluded election campaign - 20, 30, 40? Let's just say it was enough for the mathematical concept of infinity to take on real meaning.

Would they never end?

Then suddenly they were over. At 4:36 p.m. last Friday. That's when our last endorsement interview concluded.

It was as if a weight you'd grown accustomed to carrying around was gone.

Ah, the lightness of it. What were we to do with our lives now?

What we did, being editorial writers, was trade stories. Over the Internet, alas, instead of face to face at the nearest bar. Modernity has its drawbacks.

Somebody on the chat line maintained by the National Conference of Editorial Writers had put out a call for zaniest moments during this year's - or any year's - endorsement interviews. Nominations flooded in.

I'd give the prize to a Texas editorial writer. She told about the natty candidate for state comptroller who showed up wearing a shoulder holster complete with snub-nosed .38 - despite the signs all over the building saying firearms were prohibited.

Uh, sir, she reminded him, "they call it concealed-carry for a reason. No one is supposed to know you have a gun." To which her armed guest responded with a long spiel about how he was never going to be a victim. The happy thought occurred to her that he was never going to be state comptroller, either.

For the record, the editorial writer wanted it noted that she wouldn't be caught carrying around a piddly little five-shot revolver. Her own semi-auto with a 10-round mag and one in the chamber was safely and legally off-premises.

That's a Texas girl for you. I know. I married one once - kindest, smartest, politest, most dulcet-voiced thing you'd ever want to meet. She favored the Longhorns, good manners, and the Second Amendment with the same understated but unassailable politesse.

To which I always responded, "Yes, dear." An armed society is a civil society. In my case, very civil. I learned long ago not to mess with Texas.

Among other Great Moments in Endorsement Interviews were these:

-"Some years ago," an editorial writer in Ohio recalled, "a candidate for common pleas judge showed up with the customary glossy, full-color handout detailing his background and qualifications. Included was a family picture with wife, kids and dog, all looking like the perfect embodiment of "Leave It to Beaver." One of us said something about the dog, and the candidate, sheepishly but without hesitation, admitted he had rented the dog for the picture."

What, not the family, too?

-My own entry was the congressman (the Hon. Jay Dickey) who always brought his beautiful and beautifully behaved ashen-gray Weimaraner to interviews. Her name was Romy, after the German actress Romy Schneider, although The Honorable, being from Pine Bluff, Ark., where the real South begins, pronounced it Rah-my.

I miss the dog.

-This entry came from an editorialist in upstate New York: "Our former Green Party candidate for mayor rode in here on a Skateboard (and his platform) consisted entirely of getting the city to legalize hemp. When we informed him the mayor couldn't legally do that, we just kind of looked at each other, said thank you, and he got up and left."

Well, he was concise, which beats some candidates I have known.

-At one interview, a candidate solemnly assured the assembled editorial writers that he was not the Antichrist.

Hey, it's good to know these things.

-Then there was the candidate who, in the midst of his campaign, was confronted by the news that the IRS was coming after him for several hundred thousand dollars in unpaid taxes. He withdrew from the race, but then re-entered it a few days later, explaining that, by not paying his taxes, he'd saved his employees' jobs. Besides, he owed it to his fellow citizens to offer them his expertise in business.

-One candidate running for a city council seat somewhere said he was doing so because his rural property had been annexed 15 years ago and he was still sore about it. Told that the city council couldn't un-annex land, he replied: "Well, then, I don't want on there. I haven't got time for all them meetings anyhow."

He got 20 percent of the vote.

-When asked the usual question at the end of an endorsement interview about whether there was anything else the editorial writers needed to know about him, one candidate replied, with considerable emphasis: "I have a closet full of skeletons and I'm not sharing them with you!" Another pulled out a scrapbook of newspaper clippings about his embezzlement conviction.

There was a post-endorsement story, too. It seems a county coroner was unhappy when the paper chose not to endorse the candidate she wanted to succeed her in office. Next day the editorial page editor - fellow by the name of Mike - got a short note from her. It was marked Personal, and all it said was: "Mike, no warm slab for you!"

This is the same lady who, at her political fund-raiser, served the wine via an IV line.

Red or white, do you suppose? It may not have been the choicest of vintages, but, as the connoisseurs say, surely its presumption amused.

Finally, there was the ingenious candidate for mayor of a little town who came up with the idea of building a swimming pool above a pizza restaurant, using the heat from the pizza oven to heat the pool. How efficient. He lost but went on to open a hot dog and beer joint, which he named - steel yourself - Frank 'n' Stein.

I may never again complain about the quality of candidates in Arkansas.