Concentrating on the issues

Kevin Cowherd

June 17, 1991|By Kevin Cowherd

TEXT OF MY recent kickoff campaign speech to the Elks Club:

The first thing I want to stress is that we're going to run a clean mayoral campaign and concentrate on the issues, and not this business we've all heard about my opponent's dalliances with a certain waitress at the Bright Star Diner. Claire, I think her name is. Works the midnight to 6 a.m. shift.

The consensus of the voters is that the No. 1 issue facing us right now is taxes. I agree. Two weeks ago, I would have said, no, the No. 1 issue is whether we want a man running for elective office who was detained by security personnel at the Rite Aid on Route 32 and found to have three packages of pantyhose stuffed into a pocket of his raincoat, none of the three packages having been paid for.

But since the charge of shoplifting against my opponent has been quietly (some would say mysteriously) dropped, by all means, let's talk about taxes.

Yes. Well, I . . . my own feeling is that there is not a whole lot we can do about taxes. They're going up. It's that simple. For God's sake, let's stop whining about it.

But crime is quite another matter. When a candidate for mayor is handcuffed to a Pampers cart in broad daylight and sobs, "Can we keep this out of the papers?" to the policeman reading him his Miranda warning, well, you tell me there's no crime problem here in Middletown.

Now my campaign manager Bernie -- you all know Bernie, he owns the Exxon station over on Mulberry -- says we're going about this campaign the wrong way.

"Kevin," he says, "this is the '90s. You can't run a clean campaign anymore. You gotta play hardball. Down and dirty, that's the ticket."

He says the citizens deserve to know that last Thursday night, my opponent was so stewed that he spent two hours at Chet's Tavern talking to a coat rack, the one over by the Bud Light sign.

But I said, no, Bernie, I'm not going to stoop that low. The voters are sick of that kind of negative campaigning. And even though we have five or six eyewitnesses, including Chet himself, who watched the entire disgusting episode, I'd prefer not to mention the whole thing.

Besides, I said, if my opponent has a drinking problem -- and I'm not saying he does, since glassy eyes, trembling hands and a sallow complexion can be symptomatic of a host of other illnesses as well -- then it's up to the voters to decide if he's qualified for office.

After all, lots of towns have drunks in supervisory positions. And one or two of these towns even manage to remain fiscally sound and corruption-free, even as cheap-shot investigative reporters

from the big newspapers and "60 Minutes" crews descend en masse to make life a living hell for its citizens.

But, as I say, this campaign is not about philandering, petty thievery or drinking problems.

Let's talk about the concerns of you, the average citizen. For instance, folks keep coming up to me on the street (often interrupting my conversations) to say: "Kevin, the traffic situation here in Middletown is really getting bad."

Yes, traffic is a problem. I see that even my opponent, driving that big ol' gas-guzzling Cadillac of his, takes 15 minutes to get from one end of town to the other, even when he actually stops for a red light.

But what the heck can you do about traffic? Go back to the days of the horse and buggy? Of course not. So I suggest we all stop grousing about traffic and just do the best we can. By the way, isn't the speed limit still 55 miles per hour on the interstate? Someone should mention that to my opponent, although I suppose a man who goes zooming through school crossing zones on two wheels is not particularly concerned about human life in the first place.

As for all your other concerns -- the new zoning laws, the glut of 7-Elevens, pollution, sewage problems, the mosquito spraying which defoliated the entire north side of town -- let me remind you that I only have two hands.

Perhaps if I had a job like my opponent's, which apparently involves driving to South Florida once or twice a month and returning with the car trunk mysteriously loaded down, I would have more time to tackle these problems. Nevertheless, I will do my best.

Anyway, thank you for having me here this evening. The food was delicious, especially the German potato salad -- which, incidentally, my opponent does not care for.

God bless you all.

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