The Year My Mom Ran for Office

By far, my most memorable election year was 1972 when my mother decided to run for Adams County Circuit Clerk.  I come from a long line of politicians on both sides of the aisle, so this was no surprise.

My family of origin all grew up on farms or in small towns but various members somehow met Presidents Truman, Roosevelt, Nixon, Johnson, Reagan and got invited to Clinton’s first inauguration.  My mom and nephew ran into George W. in Austin and my daughter-in-law, granddaughter and daughter have all met Obama.  A few years ago, I was finally able to cross off “Meet a President” from my life list when I shook hands with Jimmy Carter.

In my lifetime, my grandfather, father, brother, and cousin all ran for political office. A few of them actually won!

Mom decided to enter the race early in the year and had already won the March primary. When I arrived home from doing mission work in Italy The Night I Preached in Rome in late summer of 1972, the campaign was in full swing. I was newly engaged, fresh out of college and hadn’t found a job yet. My dad asked me to hold up on that and just work for the campaign. I readily agreed.

She had a funny, competent campaign manager that she met through church connections. Walter had the last word on everything and delivered it all with a thick New York accent. We all liked and respected him.

Her opponent was a long-standing incumbent and my mom decided to run a clean campaign, no badmouthing of the other guy.  She wanted to win on the strength of her platform, not by discrediting him. Very consistent with her character.

Most of the campaigning I was part of took place behind the scenes. Getting yard signs delivered, making calls, listening to her practice speeches, and whatever else was needed. Later, we started going from house to house in town knocking on doors. It wasn’t all glamorous like on West Wing!

My main memory of that fall was of church basements for chili suppers and chicken dinners. I think we went to every small-town church that would have us and smiled all evening during the meet and greet. Mom would give her speech and the rest of us would try to get her votes.

The momentum was building, and Election Day arrived, November 7, 1972. I cast my presidential vote that year for McGovern over Nixon but moved over to the Republican side to vote for my mom and her friends. Still my voting trend to pick some of each party depending on the candidate.

The whole team gathered over a huge spread of food to wait for the results. It was so nerve wracking! The results weren’t instant like they are now but by the end of the evening we knew she had lost.

The condolences and flowers started coming in the next day, but I remember my mom stayed in bed a long time. I’m sure I was sympathetic but was probably too fast to get on to the next thing. I’ve learned a lot about sitting with pain over the years.

My mom moved on and soon was the executive director of the YWCA. Quite a change from her previous career as a nurse which had ended after a fluke accident on the job when she severed her Achilles tendon.  Her sadness about losing was overshadowed by her pride in running.

For Christmas in 2005, I presented her with a gift of a scrapbook from the campaign. She kept it close at hand in her living room.

I don’t plan to ever run for political office although some in my family may again someday. I do hope to hang on to the spunk and courage it took of her to make the decision. She won after all, just not the circuit clerkship.

Hope for the best,

Tish

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