Published Friday, May 2, 2008 in The Register-Guard.
“How about this political season?” asked my friend Connie, as she strapped on her cane and we prepared for a walk between rain showers. Then she got to her real question. “Who do you like in the Eugene mayor race this time around?”
“Are you asking me who I like or who I think is likely to win?” I wasn’t trying to be difficult. It just comes naturally.
Prior to her hip replacement, Connie walked for fun. The doctors prescribed walking now as physical therapy, warning her not to sit still for more than an hour. If I’ve ever seen Connie sit still for more than an hour, I don’t recall it. She claims her injury was caused 60 years ago by “dodgeball on asphalt.” That’s what I call “deferred maintenance.”
“Perhaps we should start with the last question and work our way backwards to the first,” Connie said, revealing her years as a teacher. Do people from any other profession begin a sentence with “perhaps”?
“You want to know who I think will win the mayor’s race? I can’t tell you until after Tuesday.” We exited her cul-de-sac and rounded the corner, watching for cars and biding our time. Connie and her cane prefer the street to the sidewalks. In all these years, she hasn’t lost her love of asphalt.
“Because?” Connie knows me well. I’ve piqued her curiosity. I can now go on.
“Indiana is a mini-Pennsylvania and North Carolina has a large black population. If Barack Obama edges Hillary in Indiana and thumps her in North Carolina, then I think John Edwards and the other superdelegates may line up behind Obama and it will be all over.”
Risking life and limb, Connie stopped right there in the street. I kept walking. When I looked back and saw her stare, I was glad to be beyond the reach of a swinging cane.
“That’s interesting,” she said — a phrase that teachers use before they lower the boom. “But I was asking about the local election, and you told me about the presidential primary. I’m the one on pain-killers here, so only I’m allowed to be incoherent—”
“Hold on.” I cut her off before she called me a “young man,” which is how these flashes of playful aggression usually end. “I was answering your question. They are related, in a strange sort of way.”
“Do tell.” She turned around and we started heading back. When you’re pushing 70, it’s best not to push much else.
“A lot of the people in Eugene can’t wait for their chance to help either Obama or Hillary get the Democratic nomination. If the presidential nomination race ends next week, those people won’t get that chance. Most of them are also planning to vote for Mayor Kitty Piercy. If their ballots arrive at the same time they get the news that their vote for the Democratic presidential nominee won’t matter, many of them may throw away their ballots. They’ll forget all about the mayor’s race. Without those votes, former mayor Jim Torrey could glide to victory in May.”
“You’re saying if Obama closes the deal and wins the nomination, many of Kitty’s supporters won’t vote.” Connie was making sure what she heard through the pain killers was correct.
“Money is the other issue. Torrey has more of it. Money is politco-speak for TV ads,” I continued, as we reentered her cul-de-sac. “Jim Torrey can buy more TV ads, but there are only so many good spots to be bought. If the national race is decided, Torrey won’t have to bid against Obama and Hillary for the best ones.”
“Ever wonder if pain killers might be like a double negative?” Connie asked as we got to her door. “The doctors warned me that some things may be a bit cloudy. But for some reason, what you’re saying makes perfect sense. So Jim Torrey should be rooting for an Obama blow-out? Hmmm. OK, so, of our two major mayoral candidates, who do you like, young man?”
“Like? I like them both.”
Don Kahle (email@example.com) lives and walks in south Eugene. He welcomes comments from readers about past and future columns on his blog, right here.