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Wednesday, December 01, 2004

The last, best seat

I miss retail politics. Living in a big city just isn't the same -- maybe you hit a couple of rubber chicken lunches, but unless you are knee deep in the political scene you just don't get any real exposure to an actual candidate.

New Hampshire is retail politics at its best. Thanks to their small population and first primary status, you can't swing a dead libertarian in the Granite State without hitting some politico, be it your local state senator or John McCain. I remember showing up at a lunch meeting to discover that I was sitting next to Steve Forbes. I love Forbes, but do you really want to have small talk at lunch with the guy? I made the strategic move to stick with the flat tax and stay away from the topic of gay parents.

I also remember attending a small wedding in Wolfesboro with former-Sen. Bob Smith (who, sadly, went nuts this past year and had to be put down), where the bride stopped next to him while walking down the aisle and yelled (she was deaf in one ear) "I CAN'T TELL YOU HOW HAPPY I AM THAT YOU COULD MAKE IT!" Bob is something like 6'6" and from the 2 rows behind his bald head looked red enough to fry eggs.

I was reminded of small ball politics today when I found an article about an old acquaintance of mine, Rep. Rick Jore of Montana. I met Rick during his first term as a state representative, and did some work with him during his second election. I wish I had some crazy, funny story to tell about Rick, but he's not what I would call a "funny" guy. He's about as straitforward as they come. I remember that Rick used to carry a pocket-sized copy of the U.S. Constitution with him wherever he went, and the thing was brown from him thumbing through it and covered with small notes he had made. I've known a lot of legislators over the years, but I have never seen one with such an amazing grasp of the Constitution or one who related every bill he voted on to that document. He claims that he started studying the founding documents years ago when he worked at a lumber mill, and he has continued to this day.

Rick lives in a small town in the western part of the state -- the kind of place where everybody knows their state legislators. Jore put his trust in that familiarity and did something that would give nightmares to most legislators: he left the Republican party and decided to run under the Constitutional Party banner. Instead of staying in the safety of a big party, Jore decided to go it on his own, and the result has been a barnburner. The original vote count had Jore beating his Democrat opposition, Jeanne Windham, by a whopping 2 votes, with the GOP candidate a couple of hundred back. Yesterday, the results of the hand recount narrowed the margin to 1 vote with another Jore vote being contested. Today, the second recount showed the thing to be a sister-kisser, tossing the whole thing to the courts. To make matters more interesting, Windham is challenging 5 Jore votes that were "double marked."

This wouldn't be nearly as interesting if control of the State House didn't hinge on the outcome. Currently the House is divided 50-49 for the GOP, and the leadership would likely remain Republican with Jore seated (and Rick will no doubt get a cherry committee assignment for his independent vote). If Windham wins, the Dems get to nominate the Speaker (because the Speaker comes from the same party as the Governor), and the parties will divvy up the committee "floor leaders." In the event of a tie, the governor, Republican Judy Martz, will choose the winner. To forestall this, Windham has sought and received a court order enjoining the Secretary of State from certifying a tie, and has filed a separate suit asking the court to toss the 5 disputed Jore votes. The final fun fact is that, if she can keep things tied up for a few weeks, the new Democrat governor will be inaugurated and he will seat her anyway.

With more intrigue and drama than Desperate Housewives, this thing promises to continue burning well into next year.

Damn, I miss retail politics.
 
Centinel 5:01 PM #

2 Comments:

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