Primo participated in a candidate forum last night, along with his opponent, Mark Smith, and the candidates for two other districts.
It was nervewracking and it was fun.
1. Primo was the last candidate to give his opening statement. I had read it in the car on the way over. It was focused and addressed straight on the issues that Mark had raised in the news story about Primo's mailer showing him flanked by supporters of both Senate candidates. Mark had said that Primo wasn't running an honest campaign, that he was a protester who had signed the recall petition. Primo said that yes, he was, but it wasn't a partisan issue with him as much as it was a procedural one. As Primo and I have argued about this issue many, many times, I think the truth is between what he said and what he did, but there is no doubt about the truth of his closing statement, which was that he would legislate in a way that would represent his constituents, not necessarily in a way that advanced his own personal agenda and beliefs.
So. The other five candidates went first and they all rambled on about their wives and kids and where they grew up and I was thinking, "Who cares about this stuff? What is your overall philosophy of government? What would you do if you were elected?"
I was relieved because I knew Primo would not talk about that BS.
But he fell to the peer pressure! He opened not with what he had written but with a statement about his wife, Goldy, and how supportive I had been and how we were only married a few years because we met at our college 20-year reunion. He smiled at me as he said it and I rolled my eyes. But then he said the statement as scripted. It was the best opening statement.
2. He was very nervous during the questions. This is the first time he has ever done anything like this. All the other candidates are already elected officials or have run in other races and been on forums or in debates. Blesshisheart. But he still did well. He fumbled a little at the beginning of some of the questions - which came from the audience, so the candidates didn't know what to expect - but recovered in the end. This is the kind of thing you get good at only by doing it. The substance of his comments was solid.
3. He is getting better about making eye contact with the audience, but when he is thinking, he looks away. We'll have to work on that. He is better than he used to be. When he would read at church, he used to look straight down at the Bible the entire time and never once make eye contact with the congregation. He has improved enormously since those days, but has more room to get better. And he will.
4. When the candidates were asked what issue they disagreed with their party on (that's awkward phrasing, isn't it?), Primo was only the second one to answer. He panicked. He didn't have time to think about the answer. I was miming smoking a cigarette to coach him about the smoking ban and private property rights. Primo and I agree that telling bar owners that smoking is illegal is an egregious violation of their property rights. I absolutely agree that smoking should not be allowed in the library or the DMV or in any public building, but private property? If I don't like the smoke, I don't have to go there or work there.
Primo didn't know what I was doing. He told me later that he thought I was telling him to relax. Then he spent the rest of the evening kicking himself for not thinking of the smoking issue.
But he still did fine. He said that the Polka Dots complained about the way the Stripes did the redistricting, but when the PDs had the chance to change the rules, they didn't. He (and I) both think there should be a non-partisan group that draws the district lines.
5. There were only a few attendees and I think most of them were the campaign staffs and the families of the candidates. Plus a reporter, the same one I see at my board meetings where people think we want to kill kittens.
6. Samantha was there. She wants $100 from Primo to pay for some maps that she ordered without his authorization. She was supposed to bring the maps; Primo was supposed to bring the money. He took the money. She didn't bring the maps. We did not speak to her. As in, we carefully avoided her. Note to us: The next time we hire someone for a $7,000 job, get references and get other bids. We did that for our $5,000 driveway job. Why on earth didn't we do it with this? (Hint: I was not in charge and in fact, I was trying to stay out of it. Plus Primo had really liked Samantha when she was working for Teresa. But I stayed out of the divorce negotiations and that was a big mistake. Note to self: Always interfere when there is money involved.)
7. I met Mark Smith. Primo went up to him to say hello, then brought him over to meet me. He told me right away that he liked my writing. He must have googled me, which makes sense, because I would do the same if I were investigating an opponent. So he had read the columns I wrote for the paper. "So you know Primo and I are in a mixed marriage," I smiled.
He laughed and said yes, he had figured that out and had wondered about putting a sign in our yard.
We talked about voter ignorance. "There are so many people who have told me they would vote for me just because I am the first candidate who has ever come to their door!" he said.
"I know! Primo has heard the same thing! Don't you want to tell them, 'Don't you think you should do some research on the issues and see where I stand?'"
He nodded. "Yes. But if that's how they're going to vote, I'll take it."
As will Primo. But I still think it's kind of sad. It was especially sad that there was such a low turnout. This stuff is important!
8. Primo and I both really like Mark. He is a super nice guy, gracious, warm. Primo made some pointed comments about Mark during the forum, but they were policy issues, not personal attacks. Afterwards, we talked to Mark. Primo said, "You know, I actually agree with you on some of these issues." Which was true - during the forum, there were at least two times when Mark made a point that Primo agreed with when it was his turn.
Mark said, "We should have a beer when this is all over. I hate the way politics has become so divisive. I used to be friends with most of the Polka Dots at the capitol."
Primo agreed. "Whichever one wins, let's have a beer."
Which I think is how it should work.