Election Day. I always get a charge when I watch the numbers roll in after the candidates have spent vast time and money to convince voters to push a single button on their behalf. I spent Thursday evening with various candidates at their victory parties… or rather their “God, I hope we win” parties. There was plenty of food and conversation to be had throughout the evening.

I started the evening at Ken Takasaki’s party at the First Federal bank on Ft. Campbell Blvd. There were a few familiar faces, and I had the pleasure of speaking with Shirley Berardo for a few minutes. She commented how glad was that she was able to support Takasaki in his bid for the 67th seat of the Tennessee House of Representatives. Alas, we spent most of our conversation near the food table, which is a dangerous place me and my fidgety fingers.

It was a clear reminder of my father’s first election, and of the first time we huddled around our television set with friends, people from church, and several of Dad’s colleagues and co-workers. His race back then was against Bill Cloud, whom Dad has long considered to be very qualified as a judge. We did indeed win that race back in 1980, at a 2-to-1 margin.

My brother and I teased Dad with an impromptu chorus of “here come de judge.” Never mind the fact that he had already been on the bench for a year. Oh well. We were young.

I still hold a great appreciation for anyone who’s willing to step into the torrential waters of a political campaign for the first time. Sometimes they’ll win. Usually, they don’t. One of the night’s disappointments was for Wanda McMoore who ran for the 10th district seat of the County Commission. Her loss to Martha Brockman was by less than 70 votes out of a little more than 340 that were cast for that race.

“I figured I’d just give it a good go,” she said. “However, I was surprised at the low turnout.” She also noted that there were more than 2000 people registered to vote in her district.

Her decision to run for the seat was especially remarkable in light of her previous run-ins with the authorities and a conviction of assault. I asked her if it bothered her. She said, “I’m a firm believer that just because you have something in your past that you’re not proud of doesn’t mean you can’t run.”

We all have skeletons in our closet, and I’m more than impressed that she decided to run for public office, knowing that the bones would rattle. Even still, she’s not deterred. “I gave it a good run,” she said. “And I’ll give it a try again.” I hope she does.

Later, I decided to spend a little time with some familiar faces and pay a visit to Jack Hestle’s and Norman Lewis’ parties. Fortunately, they were on separate floors of the Riverview Inn. Sheriff Norman Lewis and County Mayor hopeful Carolyn Bowers shared the same ballroom as their supporters stood by them while the votes came in all too slowly. Apparently, there was some difficulty with some of the machines used for early voting.

I took the opportunity of the lull in activity to greet several of the people in the party. Both Bowers and Lewis enjoyed commanding leads in their races, and I congratulated them.

What I found interesting was that there weren’t any more people in that grand ballroom than there were in Takasaki’s small party. There were a few dozen in each party, even a upstairs in Judge Hestle’s “God, I hope we win” party. Hestle was one of the few people in the night that were sweating bullets the whole night. He was running for re-election in his judiciary position and was challenged by three other candidates. One of them, Ken Goble, came really close to unseating him.

It’s the one night of the year that our leaders and officials really sweat. They put on a good face, and they will smile for the cameras. But in the end, they’re more vulnerable on Election Day than at any moment.

Yet sadly, so many of us are willing to let this critical day pass by as any other; without even so much as pressing a simple button. We’ll complain, gripe, and whine when things don’t go our way, but as Wanda McMoore discovered, almost 90% of the people registered just don’t bother to vote.

Tonight brought lots of winners and losers. Unfortunately, the real losers are those who have allowed a great cloud of apathy to leave them relegated to armchair politics. I’m always amazed at how few people really vote, even with the convenience of early voting. We had two weeks to vote for our candidates. Yet, most did not.

So to all of those who ran and to all who voted, you’re all winners. Even those who didn’t win their race, they took part in the greatest challenge of all: Politics. So whether their party was a victory party or a condolence party, I offer congratulations to all. It’s great to know that we can be a part of our community in such a profound manner.

Just think. We get to do it all again in November. Get those skeletons ready!

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