Duncan has been working hard rearranging stuff in the house. This is being done mostly in the name of trying to find a good space for Emeline to play. Between school work, managing the life of a seven-month old, managing her own life, preparing our dinner, and wrangling our own tragi-comic version of animal control, it is no simple task.
She has gone through our books a few times, now, and has weeded out several of the ones we really don't need (is Bush at War truly such a keepsake?). Still, I am glad not to be much a part of this process because if it were up to me I would almost certainly keep every single book we own. I love books, I love having books around, and it's hard for me to make those kinds of decisions.
The other day I was delighted to see that Duncan left a love note of sorts on my pillow. It was a newspaper clipping. I figure she found it in one of those books, or high on some dusty shelf somewhere.
The clip was small -- just five or six paragraphs -- on narrow, yellowed paper. Five inches long, maybe. The brief story was about Katherine Harris. I don't actually have the clip in front of me but I don't need it. I know it very, very well.
To the untrained eye, it was a small piece quoting the then-13th Congressional District candidate, Florida's Secretary of State, a Republican and the presumptive nominee, as saying she needed to raise at least $2 million dollars. The Harris campaign needed the war chest, she said, because the Democratic establishment was going to "pour" money into the race against her as vengeance for her role in the disastrous Election 2000 fiasco. All of this was accompanied by a fairly unfortunate photo of Katherine.
Despite the passage of nearly ten years, that is still hilarious. At the time, there were around four Democratic candidates running, one of them a fairly obvious plant from the Republican Party. Candice Brown McElyea, the candidate who ran on the theme "Anyone but Katherine" went on to endorse Katherine Harris after she placed third in the Democratic primary.
I worked for Jan Schneider, the Democrat, from February of 2002 to August -- just before the primary she won with 44.4% over three other rivals (including Charles McKenzie who had about 23% of the vote, Candice who had around 21%, and Patrick Feheley who had about 10%). I certainly don't take credit for Jan's win in the primary. She was just a better candidate and Democrats knew it.
And by the time she went head-to-head with Katherine and came out with 45% in November, I was back in Arkansas working on Jimmie Lou Fisher's campaign for governor.
None of Jan's campaign was done with any attention paid from the Democratic establishment. It certainly wasn't done with any of their money. Jan invested a lot of her own money in the campaign. I expended a lot of time trying to get her to raise more money, and I'm sure she got tired of hearing me bother her about it. She paid me about $3,000 a month. I think perhaps the state party sent a field director down at some point late in the game, but I doubt he was making much more than I did. And if he was, it was likely paid out of the party's account.
Every major organization that makes electoral predictions had called the 13th Congressional District in Florida a safe Republican seat, and it was (and it still is). No reasonable Democrat was going to invest one dime fighting Katherine Harris. Remember, this was less than a year after 9/11 and the build-up to the Iraq war was beginning. Bush's popularity had shot through the roof, and the GOP was preparing to break with tradition and usher in more seats for their party in a mid-term. Democrats were scrambling, trying to avoid the inevitable bloodbath.
I'll never forget sitting in a Taco Bell in Sarasota having former president Clinton's aide (and Sarasota native) Doug Band screaming at me. He was tired, he told me, of entertaining the request to have the former president come campaign for his old friend and Yale Law classmate. I threw everything I had at him -- this was a race against Katherine Harris, the thief of Election 2000. This was about Florida, a huge electoral state where the president's presence could have a major impact in an area where we knew Democratic registration was starting to grow. Jan was indeed an old Yale Law classmate, Democratic fundraiser, and friend of the Clintons. Didn't any of that matter?
Not really, no.
Doug wasn't the only one who wrote us off. The Democrats running in District 13 were written off by the media as well. I can't find a link to it, but the Sarasota Herald-Tribune did this multi-page fluff piece on Katherine, complete with glamour pics and over-the-top beauty-queen shots of her in her gaudy house. It was all about her, her life, her likes, her dislikes... It was the least political piece you could imagine. And it was huge. A full front page of the "Style" section, and then at least a couple of pages following. It was genuinely disgusting.
When one of Jan's supporters wrote to Herald-Tribune editor Rosemary Armao, he got back a remarkably candid email.
"Katherine Harris is an international figure, like her or not," Armao wrote of the woman who became a central player in the presidential recount in Florida. "She's going to be the next congresswoman from this area, like it or not... I have no intentions of covering each of the Democratic candidates to the same extent."
Whoo, boy. With respect to the political piece, this was my high-water mark on the campaign. I got in touch with Howard Kurtz at the Washington Post, and the media boomlet which ensued eventually got Armao run out of the paper.
The personal high-water mark was meeting Duncan. I did a lot of my campaign work on the New College campus because they had a good library and all the free internet access you could want. That, and it got me out of Jan's house.
About a month or so into the campaign, I knew I'd need help. I looked up political science professors at New College and found one: a very sharp guy I've talked about before named Keith Fitzgerald. When we were done talking after a couple of hours, I asked him why he wasn't running. His twins were a lot younger then, he told me, but I knew he wanted to be involved. I asked him to introduce Jan at her formal campaign kickoff. He agreed.
I also asked him if he had any students who could help with the campaign. This is the advice I'd give any campaign manager today: find volunteers and all the help you can get right out of the gate because you can't do it on your own. Believe me, I've tried. It doesn't work.
Never will I forget the day I stood outside one of the country clubs waiting for Jan. I introduced myself to three New College students, Carolyn, Eric, and Duncan. All three of them looked maybe a little confused, maybe a little bored.
To this day, she doesn't believe me when I say was smitten right then. But that's okay. I was. I still am.
The rest of the story of how we got together is ours, and I'll keep it that way. But you can see just how special a gift I was given just the other day as I watched my seven-month old grab a piece of yellowed newsprint and start to give it a little taste (don't worry, I kept her from chewing on it just in time).
Duncan and I learned a lot about politics on that campaign in 2002, much of it difficult lessons. We learned a lot more about each other, and we fell in love.
So thanks for the news clip, babe. Every time I think about Election 2002, I think about tough decisions, hardball politics, biased media, difficult candidates, liars, cheats, and other strangers. But I also think about you, sweetheart -- the very best part of 2002.