A lesson in politics

Posted: May 03, 2006 12:01 AM
  • In the People's Republic of Alexandria, Virginia, yesterday was, as President Bush likes to call it, "votin' day."

  • At stake were the Mayor, the city council and the school board. This is politics at its most basic level. It is the charmed quark of politics.

  • A race for city council in a small city is as far from a Presidential campaign as Mullings.com is from Ford. But if it is your name on the ballot, it is no less important.

    Dear Mr. Mullings:

    How can you compare a two-person operation - you and The Lad - with Ford which has 300,000 employees?

    Former Studebaker Owners of America

    For starters, Mullings.com made about a billion dollars more in profit than Ford this quarter alone. Ford lost $1.19 billion in the first quarter.

    Mullings . . . didn't.

    Second, all two of Mullings.com's employees are productively employed.

    Ford's . . . aren't.

  • About 100 years ago, I ran for a seat on the city council of Marietta, Ohio 45750.

  • In Marietta at the time, there were four ward council seats and three at-large seats. At-large, as the term implies, ran city-wide.

  • In the primary election of that cycle there were four Republicans running for the three at-large seats. I paid my five bucks, got the requisite number of names on a petition, and was qualified to be a candidate for city council.

  • Back in the day, the State of Ohio required candidates to use their official names on the ballot which in my case was (and still is) Richard A. Galen. This rule was changed by the then-Democratic state legislature when a guy named James Earl Carter wanted to run as "Jimmy Carter."

  • I was the news director of the local radio station. On the radio, I used the stage name: Rich Galen. This turned out to be a problem.

  • As radio is largely an aural medium, most people had never seen my name: Rich Galen. On the radio it sounded like one word: Richgalen. Maybe the good folks of Marietta, O thought I was trying to emulate famous one-named people of the past, like Michelangelo. Or Newt.

  • In any event, on election day people were coming up to me and saying they had wanted to vote for me but couldn't find my name on the ballot.

  • Fraud! Trickery!

  • I took my friend back to his polling place and, as this was a fairly small town, convinced the election officials to let me look into one of the booths.

  • Sure enough, there it was: Richard A. Galen.

  • My friend shrugged and said, "I didn't make the connection."

  • I lost by two votes: 902-900.

  • I told this story a few years ago at a GOP dinner in Marietta. When I got to this point the woman who was the director of elections for the county back then, Georgia Guilenger, stood up and said, "That's not true!"

  • "Oh. My. God," I thought. "I've been telling this story for 30 years and it's not true?"


    Here's what I have in common with Al Gore and John Kerry: If we tell a story long enough, we believe it actually happened, even if we made it up in the first place.


  • "Miz Guilenger?" I asked with some trepidation. "That didn't happen?"

  • "No," she said squaring her shoulders in the way that women of a certain age who have been challenged are wont to do. "You lost by ONE vote."

  • The teaching point, however, remains: Do not ask your supporters to make logical leaps on your behalf. If your candidate's name is Charles Everson Provolone, don't make bumper strips and signs which say:

    Vote for Chuck E. Cheese!

    They won't get it.

  • The next time I ran, I had married the Mullings Director of Standards & Practices. She ran my campaign. I won.

  • Another teaching point.

  • On a the Secret Decoder Ring page today: A link to my most recent column on the Washington Nationals from the Alexandria Times; a puzzling Mullfoto; and a catchy caption of the day.