Friday, November 01, 2002

I love covering elections

I love covering elections. I really do. Elections test our mettle and they are always full of surprises.

The first election I covered was in 1972. I worked the Logan County Courthouse in Lincoln, Ill., calling in voting results for the town’s public radio station, WLCC.

In those years, the results were posted on a huge blackboard. Each media outlet wanting a reporter at the courthouse would put in its request and it would be provided with a desk and a telephone.

I remember “the real radio station” manager came through the room while I was getting settled in for my first broadcast of the night. The “real radio station” news director was with him and said, “Frank Phillips from WLCC is here for their station.”I was elated! I was recognized as a reporter by a professional newsman! At the time I was a sophomore in college, but I knew then I would do as much writing and reporting as possible. Later, I became the “real radio station’s” fill-in morning reporter and regularly covered school board meetings.

In either 1974 or 1976, I again covered an election for a radio station.

My first broadcast was scheduled before there were many results. So, after giving what few precinct reports that were available, I said something like, “As baby chicks fight over a fresh worm, so reporters here at the Logan County Courthouse eagerly await election returns.”My words were quoted in the Lincoln Courier newspaper the following day. That was also a thrill.

In 1994, I made a career change to pursue journalism full-time. On election day, I was in the radio station newsroom in Crawfordsville, Ind., when a disheveled, bearded Mike Harmless came into the building with a well-dressed, gray-haired gentleman in tow. Harmless, who was running for Indiana’s 7th District Congressional seat, explained he had been on the road for more than 30 hours straight, campaigning as much as possible leading up to election day. He introduced me to the gentleman standing behind him. “Frank, this is Lt. Gov. Frank O’Bannon.” Again, I was thrilled.

When I later told the story to my boss, he laughed and told me, “You should have said, ‘I know who O’Bannon is, but who are you?’”

In the course of covering election campaigns, I have met many people who lead me to believe the country is in very good hands.

In the 1970s, I interviewed a man making the rounds of county fairs. Jim Thompson was elected governor of Illinois that year.

When U.S. Rep. John Myers announced his retirement at Indiana State University on a cold winter’s Saturday, I was the only reporter from Montgomery County in attendance.

Later, I had the privilege of meeting his successor, a man who had been a Brazil attorney, Ed Pease; and still later, Pease’s successor, Brian Kerns.

I am told I offended local attorneys with a column I wrote shortly after arriving here nearly two years ago. I apologize. Ed Pease treated me very well and I did not aim my verbal barbs at any local attorneys. I respect the Clay County attorneys I have met or read about.In fact, Rep. Pease, the former Brazil attorney, took a half hour one day to answer listeners’ questions on my radio show in Crawfordsville.

Since coming to Clay County, I have met legends and newcomers to political campaigns. I respect them all. What a thrill to meet Sen. Vance Hartke and be invited to Washington, to dine in the Senate dining room! How great to meet Sen. Birch Bayh and learn of his Patricksburg connections!

I respect our local candidates and public officials as well, but will not name some lest I leave out any.

God bless America!

Please vote Tuesday, if you are so inclined. I will!