The Musings of

Something full of magic, religion, bullsh*t.

Monday, November 08, 2004

A second chance

My first real job in politics took place in between my junior and senior year of college in 1992. A local state representative, I'll call him David, allowed me to intern for him in the state legislature for the summer "short" session -- on the grounds that I work for free. So that summer I moved to the state capital, ate cheap food, and went to politics school.

David was different from all of the politicians I had met to that point. First, he was young. David had begun running for his seat at the ripe age of 26. He started law school after college where he met and married a wonderful woman. They began going door-to-door in what would become his district the day after the wedding and he ended up winning handily. At 31, he was serving his third term, and his now-pregnant wife was beside him at all times as his secretary.

The second thing that set David apart was his enthusiasm. Unlike most politicians who talked "at" you, David really listened to what you say and took it into account. Legislatively, he was a tireless worker and obstructionist to the Democrats who controlled both the state house and senate. As a campaign advisor, no matter how bad a local race looked he was always willing to give the candidate a pep talk.

The thing I noticed most about David, however, was his ambition. David had mapped out his future well before ever running for office. His plan was to work in the state legislature for a decade building up chits and preparing to run for Attorney General or Lieutenant Governor, and then on to Governor after that. Every decision he made was centered on his political life and future. He had never missed a vote on the floor of the House -- something that had never been done for one session much less two -- a move designed to set him apart from other legislators and to give him something to brag about during his campaign. David traveled the state constantly during recruiting local candidates, raising money for their elections, and providing them any other assistance they needed to win their campaigns all in the hope that they would support his bid for House leadership if elected (or, perhaps, chair the county committee if he ran for statewide office). He never went to an event without knowing who was on the guest list and never left one without making notes about each person he met. He even joined the Army Reserves for the purpose of being able to put military service on his resume.

David taught me that politics is not something you do every now and again, but something that needs to be attended to at all time. He showed me how to determine whether a Republican can win in a particular district, what issues played best in state legislative campaigns, and how to use the legislature to create those political issues. He also showed me how to do the grunt work of campaigning: sifting through committee vote records and campaign finance reports to extract those nuggets of information that would later be used as ammo against sitting Democrat legislators.

After that session, I went back home and eventually returned for my senior year of college. The things David taught me became invaluable when I went on to work in state legislative policy and run state legislative campaigns, and I will always be grateful to him for that.

After my summer, David's star began ascending at an even steeper angle. Later that year he was selected as Minority Leader in the State House, and had he continued his plan he would have likely become Speaker of the House when the GOP took over the legislature two years later. Unfortunately, the ambition that spurred David to success eventually ruined him.

After a decade on the Hill, our local congressman decided to step down. Seeing an unexpected opportunity, David made a bold decision to run for the seat. At the time, I was working for another congressman in Washington, D.C., but my friends and family back home kept me informed about David's campaign. At first it seemed like David had picked a bad race. He was running against a city councilman, a county commissioner, and a former mayor, all of whom had much more name recognition than he did. Despite this, David showed the drive that had served him so well in the legislature and campaigned into a second place showing in the polls right behind the former mayor.

In those pre-internet days I was unable to read the daily reports of what followed, but here is what I heard. Mere days before the primary election, another candidate called a press conference and used the event to accuse David of lying on his resume. There were four things, said the candidate, that were complete fabrications:

1. David claimed to have graduated Dean's List from law school, but did not;
2. David stated that he had been on law review, but he had not;
3. David claimed that he had clerked for a state supreme court judge, but he did not; and
4. David declared that he had played varsity soccer in college, but he did not.

David responded by claiming the allegations were a lie. He claimed that his campaign opponent had placed a "mole" in David's campaign, and that person had found David's resume on the computer, altered it, and sent it to several of David's enemies.

My mother called me to tell me the chain of events. As it happened, I had David's resume in my files from our time together. I went and looked at it after getting off the phone. Seeing that all of the claimed items were on my copy from over two years earlier, I phoned my Mother back and told her not to do any more work on David's campaign because bad things were about to happen.

And they did. David ended up finishing the primary in second place and forced the former mayor into a three-week runoff, but things had finally caught up with him. Given a few days to review the charges and claims, the press had gathered proof that David had lied on his resume and, worse politically, that he had lied to the public about the matter. David made a tearful televised apology and then lost badly in the runoff.

From what I understand, David's stock began falling faster than it had risen. In a prelude to divorce, his wife left him several months later and took their baby daughter. Not long after that, his car was found abandoned with the door open and blood on the front seat. David turned up 3 days later on the doorstep of a woman in on of the seedier parts of town with a gash in his forehead and claiming amnesia.

Ironically, it was his ambition that likely saved him. His stint in the army reserve was meant to be little more than a political ploy, but the JAG had other ideas and called him up for deployment overseas. From the scant news I received, David was able to get his life back together to some extent by getting away from his problems.

I did not hear about David for several years, until I received a call from a friend out west. My friend, who is heavily involved in legislative campaigns in his state, claimed that David was now living there and talking to Republican candidates. Using Google, I was able to keep up with David over the next few years -- seeing that he had gotten remarried, was still involved in politics, and had a successful military career to boot.

This year, a decade after his public meltdown, David decided to run for the state legislature in his new home. Although he consciously left his past problems off his new political resume, David's Democrat opponent found the information and broadcast it throughout the district with the aid of local liberal media columnists. Fortunately, the people of David's district were able to look past his mistakes and see the man he is now, and they handily elected him.

Not everyone who makes a mistake gets a shot at redemption. I hope that David makes the best of his.
Centinel 11:42 AM #


Post a Comment