Past political campaigns lot more fun

By Bob Huber: Local Columnist

I once asked a gubernatorial candidate to give me one word that would describe why he put himself on the awful election campaign trail, and after a moment, he looked at me and said, “Ego.”

So now that all the election rhetoric is over and the winners are happily getting muscle cramps while patting themselves on their backs, and the losers are vowing revenge on those who voted against them, I’m transported to happier political times, days when affairs of state were not so polarized and lots more fun. Ah, those were the days.

I’m remembering office seekers crisscrossing their states on merry campaign safaris, kissing mothers and handing fliers to babies. I often accompanied them as a wire service reporter, taking obscure notes and mooching free barbecue and potato salad as was the wholesome feedbag for reporters in those days.

On one occasion I flew with a candidate to the tiny town of Roy to drop off some campaign money. It had rained heavily in the night—folks in Roy were asking each other, “What’s a cubit anyway?” That’s when our pilot announced he couldn’t put the plane down on the dirt runway. “Too much mud,” he said.

But standing below us with his pants rolled up to his knees was a local party boss, a fat little man, waiting for his bag money. A thousand feet over his head the candidate whined, “We have to get down there. He needs this money.”

The pilot thought a moment, then pulled out a barf bag. “Here,” he said. “Put the money in this. I’ll donate a screwdriver to give it some heft. When I buzz the field, you toss it to him.”

So we circled the party boss and manufactured our money bomb, and out went the barf bag and the screwdriver and campaign dough.

I’ve never been back to Roy, but I still retain a vivid picture of the barf bag blowing to pieces in the wash of the plane, and the little fat man dancing wildly around the muddy runway, his bare feet smacking and sucking in the goop, his frantic eyes upturned as he watched the descent of a deadly screwdriver and the fluttering money.

He darted first this way, then that way, as the screwdriver plummeted toward him. The money, meanwhile, burst into a cloud of green butterflies and drifted northeast on the wings of prevailing winds. The last I saw of the party boss he tripped and body surfed a puddle the size of Lake Michigan.

Another time I was privy to a political convention in Albuquerque when a state party chairman was called on to introduce the candidate for governor. The chairman was a weather-worn rancher, a crusty old work horse who had served the party well as both legislator and appointee to various high level posts.

But he drank a lot. And that affected his memory. Still, he was enthusiastic about the party’s candidate, a lifelong friend, he said, and he began an extended, drawling series of anecdotes extolling the man’s virtues.

Twenty minutes later he was still extolling away when he suddenly stopped mid-sentence and gawked at the candidate, a perplexed look on his face. He stood for a long moment — it was so quiet you could have heard a mouse snore — then turned to the candidate and cleared his throat.

Dammit!” he said. “I can’t remember your doggone name.”

And then there was the time — Aw, I’ve run out of room. Maybe next time.