Primo met with Blake, the chair of the county Polka Dot committee, this morning. This was his first official meeting with the party as a candidate. Samantha had set it up. "Be nice to Primo," she had emailed to Blake. "He's quirky, but he's smart."
"Quirky?" I asked. "What does she mean?"
"Oh you know. I bring wine to the meetings. And I correct the grammar on the mailers."
"Wouldn't they want the grammar to be correct on something before you mail it out? Or do they want to be the party of grammatical errors?"
He shrugged. "You would think they would want to be correct."
"So why do you have to meet with this guy?"
"Because if he doesn't like me, it's bad. He runs things around here. If he approves of me, it will be very helpful. But he's really demanding and picky. I'm worried."
The night before, on his way out the door to a campaign event for another candidate, he had asked me to do some research for him to prepare for the meeting. "Find out how much it costs to run a campaign for the State House."
"How on earth am I supposed to do that?" I asked.
"Google it," he suggested. "I need to go to a meeting."
"I'll do it tomorrow."
"No! I need to know by tomorrow at 10 a.m.! I have to know so I can talk to Blake about it. Forget it. Just forget it. I'll do it myself when I get back."
"No, I'll do it. Sheesh. You could have given me some notice, you know. Is this what it's going to be like for the next seven months? You decide you need something right now so that means I have to drop everything? I don't mind helping you, but I would appreciate more than five minutes notice."
"Start with the election board. Try that." He hovered over me nervously, which I hate, while I searched. I found a series of reports.
"Which ones?" I asked. "Which candidates?"
"Let me see. Find the results from the last election."
I googled 2010 state house elections. (I might capitalize "state house" on this blog, I might not. It's however I feel.)
"There," he said, leaning over me into the screen. I hate when he does that. "District 4. District 16. Let me see. Let me see!"
I took my hands from the keyboard. Sat back. Pressed my lips together. Breathed.
"See how these were close?"
"Well, the ones that were close."
"Just tell me which ones you want."
"The ones that were close."
"No. Just tell me which districts."
"The ones that were close."
"That's not what I mean."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean tell me the numbers. Don't make me think about it. You already sprang this on me. I didn't want to do this. I didn't ask for this. Just tell me what you want me to do and I'll do it. Tell me the districts and go away."
He grit his teeth. "Forget it. I won't go to this meeting. I'll just stay and do this."
"No, I said I'd do it. But you have to tell me which races you want. I'll pull the numbers for you, but you have to decide which ones you want."
We glared at each other. Politics does indeed make strange bedfellows.
"Fine," he hissed. He looked at the screen. "One. Five. Seven. Fifteen. Twenty. Twenty six. I have to go."
"You're welcome," I muttered under my breath as he slammed the door. Oh this was going to be a fun, fun seven months.
It didn't take me long to find the appropriate reports. It took even less time to figure out that running for office is not an inexpensive endeavor. Forty to sixty thousand dollars. No wonder it's rich people who go into politics. Rich people with rich friends. Who else can afford it? And this is for a simple, state-level office without much power. This isn't even national-level office.
I wondered what kind of job I could get if Primo were to be elected. Michelle Obama got a $200,000 raise the year her husband was elected to the Senate, but that was at the national level. What kind of raise do you get at the state level? Maybe $20? Of course, you have to have a job to get a raise. Maybe I can parlay Primo's position into a job! Someone will hire me because I will be a peddler of influence.
Primo was pale after he returned from the meeting with Blake.
"He says I need to be able to raise $2,000 by the end of today. He says Joe Smith, the candidate from the 28th district, did it."
"Two thousand dollars? In one day? How does anyone do that?"
"You call your friends and family."
I felt sick to my stomach. I hate asking for money for myself. I don't mind asking for others or for a cause, but for myself, I can't bear it. Primo is not much better.
"What are you going to do?" I asked. "How on earth do you raise $2,000 in one day?
"I don't know if I can do this," he answered miserably. "Who am I supposed to ask? My parents?"
"Oh yeah. That'll work. Your mom and dad have been so generous with you."
"I don't want to ask them."
"I'd rather use your bonus than ask them. Except I don't want to use our money on this."
"Teresa spent her own money."
"Yes, but Teresa was running for a job that pays $130,000 a year. She was making $60,000 a year. She took a gamble, but she was taking a gamble to more than double her income. You are running for a pay cut. We already decided that investing our own money for you to take a pay cut is probably not the smartest thing to do."
He shook his head. "No, it's not."
His shoulders slumped. "I don't want to do this part."
I shook my head. "I don't blame you."
"I guess I should call my mom and dad."
"Remind them of the twice a year trips - plane fare plus car. That's what, $250 for each flight plus $130 for the car. Five years of that. You can do the math."
"They pay for everything when I'm there," he reminded me.
"Oh, so you eat $380 worth of food?" I asked.
"You know what I mean."
"I'm not holding my breath," I muttered.
He went upstairs. Came back down
"I called them," he announced.
"They said they'll contribute."
"OK. That's good. How much?"
"They didn't say."
If they broke $100, I would be surprised. Cynic, that is I.
"I called Tom, too. He said he'd contribute. I need to call Sam."
"Wow. This is going to be hard. Do you think he'll contribute?"
"I don't know. Maybe. I think so. I would give if they were running. They're my friends. I might not give a lot, but I would give."
"What if they were on the opposite side? Then would you give?"
"I don't know. Maybe. Yes. I would give some. Not as much as if I agreed. If they weren't extreme. I wouldn't give to Dave. He's gone off the deep end. I don't even think we're friends any more. But anyone else, yes. I would. Twenty five dollars. No more than that if we disagreed. But I would give $25."
"Me, too," I mused. "And I have never donated money to a political campaign. But if one of my friends were running, I would."
A few hours later, he called Sam. I heard his happy, Sam voice coming from upstairs. It's the voice I hear only when he is talking to Sam. I never hear that voice when he is talking to his parents. I don't even have to hear him say a name to know who he's talking to. Somber, grim voice = parents. Happy voice = Sam.
He bounded down the stairs, happy. "He maxed out! One thousand dollars!"
I gasped. "You're kidding!"
He smiled. "Nope!"
Upon further reflection, I wasn't surprised. Sam is amazingly generous. When Mike, Sam and Primo's friend, lost his job and his company computer, Sam went online, bought a top of the line laptop, and had it shipped to Mike the next day. "How can he find a new job if he doesn't have a computer?" Sam asked. "He has a wife and a baby on the way. He needs a job." We only found out about it because Mike told Primo about it a year later, tears in his eyes.
The phone rang. We looked at each other. We looked at the phone. It was Sly and Doris. They never call. Never. It is always incumbent on Primo to call them. Primo took the phone and walked into the bedroom. I followed him. No way I was going to miss this.
"What? Oh! Yes! Thank you!"
"No. No, I can't take that much."
"Because it's illegal."
"The limit is $500 a person, $1,000 a couple."
"Mom, Dad, thank you so much. I don't know what to say. Thank you. Thank you so much."
Then they blabbed for another half hour and I tuned them out, although I had half an ear cocked for any talk of bad bacon eating. Nothing.
When he hung up the phone, he said, "They told me that I hadn't asked for a cent since I was 20 and they'd given a lot of money to my half brothers, so it was time they gave some to me."
"How much did they want to give you?"
"Two thousand dollars!"
"But they can't. That's over the limit."
"Oh well. Wow. That's really generous. That's really, really nice of them. Not that I don't think you don't deserve it. But that's really nice of them."
He smiled. "I've just raised two thousand dollars! I get to go to the county meeting tonight and tell Blake I've raised two thousand dollars!"
I hugged him. "You're a superstar. You did it."