Let me just be clear on one thing – I hate politics. I hate how it makes people act and I hate how it divides everyone. It turns normally nice people into raving lunatics, their eyes wide with seething hatred for the other guy.
It’s gotten to the point where you can’t even discuss politics in a civil tone without being called a racist, conservative Trumper or a left-wing, bleeding-heart liberal. It’s more about insulting the other guy than supporting one’s own candidate. I don’t care what your view is about politics and I dare say you couldn’t give a flip how I think. Opinions are like noses – everyone has one and plans on keeping the one they got.
With that being said, my name is Duane and I’m a politician. I never thought it could happen to me. I always figured it was the other guy who fell into that soul-stealing chasm of misery, not me. I was too smart for that. I’m Duane ‘Flippin’ Sherrill.
“What dummy would want to have the public as his boss?” I said when asked if I would consider a run for political office just a couple of years prior to my big mistake. “The public is the worst employer you could ever have. Plus, I don’t want to suck up to folks I don’t even like just to get elected. Yuck.”
However, like demon rum seducing the alcoholic, the songs of the political sirens called me in too close to the rocks a few years ago when the circuit court clerk’s office came up for grabs over in Warren County.
“Everybody knows you,” a “friend” encouraged me. “You know all about the courts so you’re well-qualified and people love reading your newspaper stories and your books. You’d be a shoo-in.”
That’s the thing about compliments. They tend to over-inflate one’s ego and frankly, that’s one part of me that didn’t need inflating. Now, a smart person, when being courted by the devil, would run away. However, like many poor souls out there, I decided to dance with the devil for a moment, not meaning to get too close to the fire.
“But I hate politics,” I argued even as the wheels in my head began turning. “I mean why would I want to subject myself to that?”
“It pays right at $80,000 a year,” he shot back, his revelation setting the line in my mouth. “That’s a lot of money around here.”
The siren’s song went from a distant call to the amplifiers being turned up to 11 as Spinal Tap so famously said. Ego and money are a powerful tag team.
“What could it hurt?” I said to myself. “I’m a shoo-in. I’m Duane ‘Flippin’ Sherrill.
That hubris would come back to haunt me from the get-go the very day I announced my candidacy. First off, the paper I worked for fired me after 28 years on the job the day I qualified to run for office, so I was unemployed – that means no pay coming in while the expenses of running for office were going out. And, by the way, just so you know, each of those small signs cost me $6 apiece and the bigger ones were $75. That adds up pretty quick. Oh, and if signs could vote, I’d be clerk right now. Big gold signs with black letters junking up the scenery everywhere.
“That’s okay,” I thought to myself, setting my jaw. “I’m going to win.”
And when asked, everybody claims they are going to vote for you. “You got my vote, Duane,” they’d guarantee.
However, as I got on the campaign trail it soon became clear that I was in for a fight from the other candidates who wanted to get elected also.
“Everyone knows me,” I told the eventual winner of the election, my brag getting a giggle from her.
“Yes, Duane,” she smiled. “That’s what I’m counting on.”
While many candidates can continue fooling themselves right up until the final returns come in, I’d been around enough elections, working them for three decades, to know when I was licked. I realized I was a dead man walking about a month before the election. However, that didn’t stop me from throwing good money after bad. Like a drowning man – um, like an unemployed drowning man – I was reaching out for anything to save me from sinking.
And the day of reckoning came. I finished third in a field of three. Several months wasted, several thousand dollars down the drain and looking for a job. Politics is the worst.
What lesson did I learn? First, never run for office unless you’re the only one on the ballot, especially if you’ve worked as a crime and court reporter for three decades where you’ve angered pretty well every registered voter in the county at one time or another.
Also, have mercy on those who are asking for your vote. They are putting themselves out there, risking a lot just in hopes they can get elected. Even though I’ve worked countless elections as a reporter, I never quite understood how it felt on the other side until I walked a mile in a candidate’s shoes.
My advice for those thinking about running for office? The first thing I’d do is go over to the cigar store and buy the most costly cigars in the humidor. Then, call up all your friends and have them come over to your house. Then, hand them each a fistful of $100 bills and tell them to light up. This is a much better way to squander thousands of dollars, plus you don’t have to go pull up all your political signs afterwards.