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Delaney: On The Campaign Trail

09/27/10 5:55PM By Dennis Delaney
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(HOST) It's election season and commentator Dennis Delaney offers some anecdotes on being a local candidate for the legislature.

(DELANEY) A few days ago I was crossing Shelburne road at the traffic light in the center of Shelburne village. Behind me, coming off Harbor Road, was an enormous 18 wheeler huffing and puffing, squeaking and groaning, as it turned onto Shelburne road. The driver, an old political friend who recognized me, stuck his head out the window of the cab, and with a broad smile yelled: "If you was a Democrat I'd of run you over!"

That encounter reminded me of a very important part of my political life, and I miss it: Humor.

It was my great privilege to serve several terms in the state senate during the 80s and 90s. No one ever sat in one of those legislative seats with more pride than I did.

Before throwing my hat into the political ring I asked some advice from a state senator from Bennington county, Madeline Harwood. Madeline, with her down-to-earth common sense, epitomized the savvy Vermont Republican from long ago.

Senator Harwood had two pieces of advice.  First, she said: "Don't run if you are afraid to lose." OK. Her second caveat was earthier: "It's OK to campaign in a bar, just don't trip on your way out the door." And I never did - trip, that is.

But one day in my first campaign I was walking the streets of Milton, knocking on doors, and looking for votes. Chittenden County is big and has a lot of them. A cranky elderly man came to the door, took a look at me and exclaimed: "Yesterday the septic overflowed, this morning there was a skunk under the porch, and now there's a politician at my front door." Now how do you respond to that? I don't remember what I said but the gentleman became a great friend over many years.

Most folks are courteous when you knock on their door and ask for a vote. A few shut the door in your face and that hurts.

Dogs can be a problem. I was bitten a few times but only in Burlington -never figured that one out.

Once an elderly lady in Westford sent me five dollars and with painful handwriting wished me well. If that won't make you humble, nothing will. And one very cold day, while I was waving at passing cars with my vote for me sign, a man come out of his house, walked up to me and handed me a cup of hot chocolate.

The political anecdotes are endless and rich, more so than you can believe.  And I'd say that just about the best thing about politics is another word that starts with a "p": and that's people. No, that's incomplete. I'd have to say "Vermont people".

(TAG) For more commentaries by Dennis Delaney, go to VPR-dot-net.
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