Another nice guy finishes last
In her column this week, my boss Sandra Clark offers her take on what voters said in last week's local elections.
Of the close win by Eighth District school board member Mike McMillan over Carter activist Conley Underwood she says, "Nice guys really do finish last."
I tend to think I'm the exception to that rule. But I digress.
We ran a front page photo (not the one here) from Underwood and McMillan's "debate" earlier this month at Gibbs High School. Looking directly into the camera, Underwood, smiling broadly, reminded me of former Minnesota Sen. Hubert Humphrey, the perennial nice guy who lost to both Jack Kennedy for the 1960 Democratic presidential nomination, and to Richard Milhous Nixon in the 1968 presidential election.
Sandra's comment made me think of a documentary I saw last year on Humphrey and Kennedy slugging it out in West Virginia during the early portion of the 1960 campaign. There was Humphrey, an honest-to-God liberal crusader, pressing the flesh but losing in the end to the bronze warrior Kennedy, who was financed by his daddy's rum-runnin' money. Kennedy, later, used dirty tricks of his own (aka the dead voting in Chicago) to win against Nixon.
Now, let's get one thing perfectly clear (to quote a favorite pol): Mike McMillan ain't Jack Kennedy. He isn't even Boss Tweed. Or Boss Hogg.
But McMillan's backers played hardball. They followed Sandra's second rule: Politics is a blood sport. They reportedly flat-out lied to neighbors, telling them if McMillan lost, the new Carter Elementary School would never be built. They reportedly violated school board policy, politicking on school property.
It was a close vote, but it was enough.
I don't have a dog in this fight. I live in the Seventh District, don't know Conley Underwood (but I adore his aunt Shirley) and have known and gotten along with McMillan for years.
But, I do know that Conley Underwood worked his butt off for a new Carter Elementary School. Even after his kids moved on to middle school, Conley kept up the fight. Didn't have to, but he did. I can remember sitting through soporific, mind-numbingly long school board meetings, only to perk up when Conley approached the podium. He was sincere. He spoke from the heart.
Hubert Humphrey's optimistic grin went down again last Tuesday, this time to the bare knuckles, back rooms and deep pockets of the Knox Vegas good ol' boys.
A nice guy finished last in a very bloody sport.