Friday, July 06, 2007

'tis the season. A bittersweet political season begins.

Mr. W often says, “Why don’t you blog about politics?” I think the underlying message in that is, “and lay off me!” I’ve been reluctant to blog about politics because my involvement with local campaigns feels real personal to me. “What?” you ask, “more personal than your family.” “And your job?” “And you religious beliefs?” Yeah. Sorta. But that’s because it involves others who haven’t necessarily bought into the “love me love my blog” stance. And I deal with some confidential stuff which can’t make its way into my blog.

But I’ve decided to inch my way into the political blogging arena. Here’s the problem; I don’t know how to inch. Every time I try to get into something new I say, “I’m going to stick my big toe in the water to test it.” Then along comes someone who shoves me into the deep end.

Either way, on this day, the start of City Council filing, I’m going to start “political blogging.” We’ll see how it goes. Some names will be changed to protect the innocent, guilty, and just plain stupid. To those who are getting a little nervous right now, no confidential or financial information will be revealed. Friends, your secrets will remain safe with me.

So, I’m going to start from the beginning, with a story.

It was 1989, as memory serves (and it usually doesn’t), when the call came from Elsie Prince, a good friend. “You are never going to guess what happened now.” Elsie’s phone calls usually started with that sentence. But they were usually about one of her five kids having broken something, either on their body or in the house. “They’re going to build a shopping center across from Smith High School,” she went on. Well, that’s pretty stupid, I thought. The Mall is down the street. There’s lots of shopping on High Point Road. What do we need a shopping center across from the high school for? We didn’t need it and so a group of us got together and worked to stop it. We were “officially” a registered PAC called, “Citizens for School and Community Safety,” “unofficially” we were known as the “Vanstory Street Group,” and in SOME circles, “those haughty bitches.” We were successful and while it may sound like it was easy, it wasn’t. A lot of blood, sweat, tears, and toil, by a lot of folks went into it. It was my first foray into Greensboro politics.

I’d done political stuff in other places. I grew up in the sixties near Baltimore. I stuffed envelopes for the Berrigan Brothers. I was at the big anti-war rally in 1969, though I admit it was more of a social event than a political one. I worked on an anti-chemical war campaign while my father, a sergeant in the Army, worked on developing more efficient chemical war agents. I’d been involved in mostly big-picture things.

So, to make this long story short(er), I met some wonderful people while working to stop the shopping center. I made some life-long friends, one of whom is Henry Isaacson, the attorney for the shopping center. Another is Sandy Carmany, for whom I am campaign treasurer. But the most important friend is one whom I am missing very deeply right now.

After many strategy meetings on the Vanstory Street issue, feeling tired, defeated, and hopeless, then District 5 Councilmember Bill Burckley declared, “I wish Edie were here.”

Edie Jones. The Godmother of District 5, was out of town at the time tending to her mother’s illness and then her estate. She wasn’t there to give Bill and the rest of us the benefit of her wisdom, experience, and just plain common sense. “We need her,” Bill said, convinced we couldn’t be successful without her. We were. We pulled it off, somehow, without her. It would be the only time I did something political in Greensboro without her. And I would never want to try to do it again. Someone asked once, “Can you get elected in District 5 without Edie?” I said, “Maybe, but I wouldn’t want to try.”

She knew D5 like I know my living room. She would stand at a poll and say, “You know, I haven’t seen Margie’s son come by yet. He usually votes during his lunchtime,” and off she’d go to find out where he was. “He’s a vote for our side,” she would claim. And she would make sure OUR side got every vote it could.

Edie took one of the “Vanstory Group” under her wing. She successfully managed Sandy Carmany’s first campaign for City Council, against a sitting incumbent, rarely, if ever, done. Against all odds, they said. Edie knew grassroots politics and she knew D5. She worked other campaigns as well, County Commissioners, State Senate and House. She was a die-hard Republican who cut across party lines to work for Democrats in whom she believed, because loyalty was more important to her than partisan politics. Though one time, in the heat of the Clinton/Dole campaign she said, “[jw] do you think our friendship is going to survive this election?” I said, “I will give up politics before I will give up our friendship.” I meant it, too.

On election night I would pick up Edie to go downtown to watch the election returns come in. We called it our “date night,” something I looked forward to every election season.

Edie died in September. I’m facing filing day without her for the first time. She would always call me throughout the day to check in on what she’d heard, what I’d heard (though I guarantee SHE would have heard first), and what do you suppose is going to happen? And we would gossip. And we’d make wise-cracks about folks. Those things would stay between us. Many of those filing today and in the days to come will miss her advice, consulation, and support.

I’m certainly not looking forward to election night without her. I know Sandy will have a hard time, too. But we’re going to do this. Successfully. Because Edie wouldn’t have it any other way. At times we’re going to stop in the middle of this campaign and say, “What would Edie do?”

So, come election night, Sandy and I will stand together in the Old Court House, look upward and say, “We did it again, Edie. And the only reason we did is because you were with us all the way.”

There will be more about Edie in the coming months.


Blogger Sandy Carmany said...


Thanks for the memories and the smiles through the tears!

July 06, 2007 9:43 PM  
Blogger Roch101 said...

Jw, you and I first met on one of your "date nights" with Edie. 2001, on the steps of the old courthouse.

July 06, 2007 9:54 PM  
Blogger jw said...

Yes, Roch. I remember.

I have NO idea how I'm going to get through this campaign season without her. Everything I do will be to honor her and her memory.

July 07, 2007 6:56 AM  

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