AND THEN AGAIN….by Tamara Pettit

……..Old habits are hard to break.  The day before an election was always excruciating for me…and for those who knew me.  As a candidate it was a day to remember all you should have done: the doors you should have knocked on; the people you didn’t reach; the ads you didn’t run; the response to your opponents attack that was on the tip of your tongue but never made it beyond.   What to do?  Tomorrow you could concentrate on getting out your vote.   Today you just keep busy.

………I think I qualify as an election expert from the side of the candidate or candidate’s family.  Should your candidate win, take a moment before you celebrate and say a prayer for the candidate  who was defeated.  We often endow them with despicable qualities… makes them easier to attack when in fact they have families who are hurting and are very vulnerable humans themselves.     Dad was elected to office before I was born.  He filed for office during WW II just before he shipped out to the Pacific front.  He would not be back to conduct a campaign.  Did I mention he filed as a Republican in a county where Democrats always prevailed.  My Mom, from a family of Irish Catholic Democrats who considered FDR right up there with the Pope, instead went door-to-door for him.  I still have the door hanger that pictured a young curly head sailor with a grin that radiated good will and hope.  Without a baby sitter, she also took along my two-year-old sister Marsha who could speak enough to say “will you vote for my Daddy?”   It was a winning combo:   a sailor serving his country and a young wife and daughter hitting the bricks to make a dream come true.   Dad won.   I still have the Hancock County Courier in which he was the ONLY Republican in the entire State of West Virginia to win in a Democratic landslide.

………He would return home and take office in a  place a 1973 article about him in LIFE Magazine referred to as a “sleepy little river-hugging town” and for 36 years he would win every four years.  Back then the day before the election was a flurry of activity.  You had bought cars and drivers to take voters to the polls, one car for each precinct.   You delivered your marked sample ballots to the drivers along with your election materials to hand out—nail files, magnets, cards, brochures, even paint stirrers with the candidate’s names.   Candidates would pool their resources to buy cars.  All the Democrats would go together on cars, but somehow and I cannot tell you how, my Republican Dad always managed to be on that sample ballot and have his cards in those cars.  There were some very hard feelings on the part of Democratic candidates for Justice of Peace when that happened.  But, that’s politics.

……..After Dad exited politics the family still had my brother-in-law Bill Webster who was elected constable and then Sheriff.  After Bill lost his second term there was a pause of a few years before I entered the fray as a candidate for House of Delegates.   I would get elected five terms and find that in politics everything changes and some things stay the same.   Cars hit an all time high at $75 when the legislature stepped in and set limits.  While cash was once king when you paid for cars, checks now had to be written and a limit of $35.00 per car was the law.  Gubernatorial candidates got around that rule by paying people for three days work….two making phone calls to set up voters for rides and one actually delivering them to the polls for a total of $105.00. How legitimate was that? I once got the list of Hancock County election workers in a Democratic primary for a gubernatorial candidate and pointed out to him that our young people were very advanced in Hancock County. A 6-month-old baby was making phone calls while an eight-year-old daughter of a politico was doing that and driving voters to the polls. A final nail was delivered to the coffin when the Legislature enacted a 300 foot rule from the precinct so that cars could no longer deliver voters to the poll.

……It all changed and the get out the vote effort was reduced to calling voters and pleading with them to vote.  Early voting has now resulted in much of election being resolved prior to election day.  So what did I do the day before the election?     I once drove to TJ Max and spent the afternoon browsing aware that my fate was no longer in my hands. I cut my grass in anticipation of those who might come to my house to celebrate. I switched out my summer clothes to fall. I called friends and family to share my apprehension and agitation.

…….I always described my feelings on this day as “the flutteries” in my stomach and in my heart.  It’s been 20 years since I ran for office,  Why then do I still get “the flutteries” on this day then?  Because I care so very much about the results of tomorrow’s election and I hope you, the voters, care as deeply.   Not gonna presume to tell you how to vote. But, I am going to plead with you TO vote.    Politics aren’t pretty.   They are downright ugly at times, but it’s the best system in the world and you and your children and grandchildren’s future in in YOUR hands.  Remember, “if you don’t vote, you don’t count!”