The Van Wert County Courthouse

Wednesday, Jun. 19, 2024

Back in the saddle again

About five months ago, this column went on hiatus because I was running for re-election to the Commissioners’ Office. A lot has happened since then.

Donald Trump, love him or hate him — and there doesn’t seem to be much in between — has redefined American politics. And even if you’re not a fan, you have to enjoy that the Washington establishment likes him even less than you do.

Hillary Clinton is proving that you don’t have to win primaries to become the Democratic nominee for president, Bernie Sanders is proving that there are a large number of people out there who don’t understand economics, and, suddenly, after two hundred and forty years of independence, we’ve become confused about which bathroom to use.

By County Commissioner Todd Wolfrum
By County Commissioner Todd Wolfrum

Lincolnview went to the state finals in basketball only to be beaten by an all-star team from the Cleveland area masquerading as a small Christian school. Why the OHSAA can’t accomplish the separation of public and private schools in its state tournaments is beyond comprehension. Seems like even the private schools would want to be in a division where they compete with other teams that play by similar rules.

Without a doubt, the most thrilling stop in that Lancer run was the district final game with Crestview over at Elida. Connor Lautzenheiser put on an offensive display reminiscent of Doug Etzler and Brandon Pardon to the respective fan bases. Lincolnview won on a last second shot and that team’s steamrolling over the next three opponents proved that Van Wert County likely had the best two Division IV public school basketball teams in the state.

And, by the way, I did get through that election.

A local election is a singular experience. It clarifies not only who your friends are and who doesn’t much care for you, but more importantly, who doesn’t much care for you that you thought was your friend.

Going door-to-door is the only good way to get a message out in these things. There’s no polling or television coverage locally and advertising, even on the radio, can only get out sound bites. One of my friends after hearing one of my radio ads called to tell me that it about put him to sleep. He suggested I try something more like Trump was doing. Although that would have been interesting, I’m glad I wasn’t tempted.

As a commissioner candidate, the further you get away from the center of the county, the less relevant you feel. I knocked on many a door in Willshire, Delphos, and Jennings Township and received a “Who are you again?” or “What office are you trying for?” Fair enough — need to do more to reach those places, I guess.

Some doors were better left unknocked. My favorite interaction was with an elderly gentleman in Delphos that went like this:

Voter, after I introduced myself: “Who are you voting for in the Republican Primary?”

Me: “I’m not really sure yet” (this was shortly after Ben Carson dropped out and there were five remaining candidates).

Voter: “Then I’m not sure about you.”

Me: “Well, it’s between Trump and Cruz. I like the outsiders.”

Voter: “Then I can’t support you.” Door shut in face.

Very few people actually want a conversation when you come to their door. I had discovered the Jehovah’s Witness effect in my first election — the less well I dressed, the more likely people were to answer their doors. Stay away from ties.

I delivered a standard spiel on the porch: Introduce myself, say why I was there, and get my literature in their hand. I’d see a smile on most faces when I’d start to back away, indicating I had no intention of taking any more of their time. Not being critical – I’d be the same way. I might even be one that pretended no one was home. That’s what I would do with the Jehovah’s Witnesses anyway.

As for my opposition, I knew what was coming at me well before the race actually started. Largely because of this column, there had aligned a sizable contingent from the old guard waiting for this election as an opportunity to shut my big mouth. Someone once had told me that her daughter had read one of my columns when she was home from college and couldn’t believe what I was saying. “They’re going to come after him,” she had said.

I had only thought of these things as telling the truth with occasional attempts at humor. But the daughter was right: they came after me.

I talked during the campaign about the old status quo supporting my opponent financially and as much as they could by preaching the good word. I was asked several times who specifically I was talking about. I would drop a name or two of the most vocal, but if you really want to know who wanted a return to the old days of steady population decline and limited and fragmented economic development efforts, you can obtain the list of my opponent’s donors from the Van Wert County Board of Elections.

The negative that I heard as I campaigned was a bit confusing. One contingent against me said I was a troublemaker, another said I was just a yes-man for the other commissioners (the other commissioners got a kick out of that). You learn that if someone doesn’t like you and they don’t know why, they’ll provide themselves a reason. It reminded me of the scene from Cool Hand Luke where Luke has been beaten-up by the bosses and the warden is explaining why he’s getting beaten. Luke says, “You don’t need a reason to kick me, boss.”

Overall, I wouldn’t say it was fun, but I would say it was necessary. I had attempted enough change in my first term that a referendum was certainly in order. To the 65 percent that voted for me, thanks for understanding and supporting what myself and the other commissioners were trying to accomplish over the last few years.

It’s always seemed disingenuous to me for a politician after an election to thank all of the voters, even the ones who didn’t vote for him. One could even see how that could be characterized as sarcastic or insulting. So to those who didn’t vote for me, I say only this: Perhaps it’s my fault for not communicating better. I promise to write twice as many of these columns in my second term.

POSTED: 05/21/16 at 6:07 am. FILED UNDER: Opinions