Butler County Times Gazette
  • Kent Bush: Winners and losers should maintain their perspectives

  • The day is finally here.
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  • The day is finally here.
    It is time to vote and cast the shadow of Presidential politics off of our lives for at least a year – maybe 18 months if we're lucky.
    If you are a Christian and a Democrat – contrary to popular opinion, they do exist – you probably enjoyed all of the free advice you got from people at church Sunday to "vote your values" or something to that effect.
    Of course, in this case, "values" means abortion and gay marriage. And of course, the implication is that we are to vote Republican despite the fact that their candidate spent the vast majority of his public life as a pro-choice moderate Republican in one of the first states to approve gay marriage and even instituted state-wide health care.
    Like Mitt Romney, I think Jesus would have liked universal health care. He did see a need for either the church or the government to take care of the poor. Jesus even said that what we do to the least advantaged person in society is what we do to him.
    I think Jesus would be a socially conservative Democrat. I am a socially conservative Democrat.
    I am probably more pro-life than most Republicans and I know most of my social views are far more conservative. Until 2008, I never voted for a Democrat for President.
    I know how Republicans think because that's how I started my political life.
    I had a teacher who became very much a mentor for me. She was one of those wacky liberal educators. We talked about religion and politics – both difficult in the school setting, more so since she was a science teacher.
    She even registered me to vote. On Nov. 7, 1988 I turned 18. On November 8, I voted for George H.W. Bush over Michael Dukakis.
    Three years later, after I had changed my major from Mechanical Engineering to Political Science and Economics, she called and offered me a chance no young poli-sci student could refuse. She had decided to run for office and she wanted me to manage her campaign.
    In order to avoid the appearance of disorder, I changed my registration to Democrat so that she wouldn't have to answer those questions. At the time in Oklahoma, it also meant I got to vote in more local elections where Republicans were scarce.
    I worked hard for her. I don't think I was great, but I tried to be.
    We had a huge head of steam going into the primary. I had gone all over six counties in central Oklahoma. We spoke, went door-to-door, walked in parades, and mobilized volunteers.
    When the primary came, we won with a large margin over four other candidates but we fell short of the 50 percent needed to win without a run-off.
    Page 2 of 3 - The man who survived the primary with us was a farmer. He had been quoted in the Daily Oklahoman as saying he was pro-choice, as was my candidate. But in the run-off, agriculture money flooded in for him. He ran ads with his thousands of ag dollars criticizing my candidate for accepting a few hundred dollars worth of signs from a union. He used that in-kind donation to make her out to be one of those evil, union-supported teacher-types. We faced endorsements for our competitor because of our ties to unions. Even the Daily Oklahoman came out against us.
    Our competitor also became fiercely pro-life to draw a further contrast.
    I wanted to use what was left in our tiny warchest to slam him for standing on both sides of the issue. I wanted to use the fact that he grew seedless watermelons against him. I wanted to rage against the machine working against us and throw everything we could at him because I knew he wasn't the best candidate.
    But my candidate refused. She wasn't sinking to that level to win. We had several heated discussions about the issue but she never waivered.
    On the day of the run-off 20 years ago, the votes were coming in pretty well. We won our county easily despite his attacks.
    But you could see the returns in other counties were affected. We weren't gaining much ground despite having three fewer candidates in the race.
    As the night wore on, it appeared we had withstood the charge and several television channels were asking my candidate to come to Oklahoma City for interviews. It was a foregone conclusion that a Democrat would win the seat. But a woman had never held it.
    She got in her car and headed up the turnpike.
    Cell phone technology was new then. But I remember plugging in my bag phone and placing a call.
    "Don't talk to anyone, yet," I told her. "It's going to be close."
    As the final precincts came in, our lead dropped from 550 to 420 to 310 to 100 to "quick, somebody re-run those totals!"
    We prayed we were wrong. It appeared we had lost 4,227 to 4,201.
    I didn't cry because I lost. I cried because I let my candidate down. I cried because I could count so many ways I could have done more or done better to change a dozen or so minds or get 30 more people out to vote.
    I was angry because I thought fighting back would have won the race. I was angry at myself for not having better ideas.
    There has never been an election in the past two decades where I didn't relive that night. I relive the fear and desperation as we watched those final precincts come in. I recall the sadness when it was over.
    Page 3 of 3 - The man who beat us went on to be a very good state senator for 12 years. After I became editor of my hometown paper, we even became friends and played golf together dozens of times.
    Even as a Democrat, he had one of the most staunch pro-life voting records for his entire tenure in office.
    My candidate went on to become principal of the school where she taught me and has continued to educate and inspire young teachers and students alike.
    She and I are still friends even though using a 21-year old political science student as her campaign manager probably cost her the election. I worked for free and was worth every cent.
    Sometimes I let my mind wander to what might have been.
    But life has turned out pretty well for both of us.
    Hopefully, those who win and lose today will maintain their perspective.
    Those who lose can still find happiness and success in other arenas. And winners should be graceful friends of those who lost and govern well in honor of those who voted them to victory.
    Kent Bush is the Augusta Gazette Publisher. He can be contacted at publisher@augustagazette.com.

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