It was a November Tuesday, back in 1992. All the local politicos had gathered in a downtown bar, and I imagined they were sitting around a big table, laughing and tossing back drink after drink.
I always imagined one guy at the center of that little party, a local attorney-turned-realtor, laughing louder than the rest, drinking more and generally having a better, more boisterous time.
I, on the other hand, was stuck at the Town Clerk’s office with a notebook, dutifully writing down numbers and names, figuring out who the next Town Councilors were going to be. Election night. It was a position I find myself in once a year.
Anyway, I made my way back to the newsroom, notebook, names and numbers in hand. I’d made arrangements earlier to call the candidates once I knew the winners, and luckily for me that night most were clustered in that one little bar. I called it, and the lawyer-turned-realtor snatched up the phone.
Here’s the deal. He was a successful, rich, educated, handsome guy. Glib, serious, polished, he assumed he’d do really well at the polls.
But he didn’t. He got absolutely spanked, embarrassingly so. I mean, he had two votes or something— he and his wife, probably. I’m sure it made for uncomfortable talk at work the next day.
“Sure, I voted for you, Peter,” they said.
Anyway, he was the first guy to grab the phone. I recognized his voice, but asked for someone else.
“Is this Scott? It is! Hey Scott! It’s Peter!”
I said hi, and asked for the other person.
“Oh sure. So. But, how’d I do?”
I didn’t want to be the one to tell him, but I really had no choice. It was the only way to get him off the phone so I could talk to the winners, finish my story and meet my deadline.
“You lost,” I said. “Didn’t win. Sorry.”
That should be enough, I thought. Nope.
“What? How many votes did I get?”
“Two.” And that was that, the very last time I talked to him. Ever. My sources that night say he dropped the phone, just picked up his coat and wandered out the door. Didn’t talk to another soul, didn’t pay his tab. A few months later, I found out he’d completely moved out-of-town.
The thing is, some 17 years later, I can still recall his name but not the folks that beat him. Somehow, his humiliation lodged itself in my memory.
It’s no surprise that politicians have big egos. It’s a must. They’d never run if they didn’t think that they were best. And frankly, in my opinion, that’s not a bad thing.
And I guess it’s not surprising how incredibly vulnerable those same egos can be. It simply cannot be easy to put yourself in such wide-open position, to leave yourself so vulnerable to an utterly humiliating defeat.
I’m guessing the waiting isn’t the worst part, but it has to be a close second.
Some friends have told me that the local Lewiston-Auburn politicos are working themselves into a fine froth. With less than a week before the municipal election, they’re getting anxious. Not sleeping well, I gather.
I’m not foolish enough to guess who’s going to have their egos crushed, or who’s going to have that pleasure delayed for another two years.
And I’ll be there Tuesday night, writing a story about the lucky few. But I’ll be thinking about the ones that got spanked.