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Tensions flair as mayor election nears
Good folks of Lennox Valley
Lennox art-full

With just three days remaining until the "Election of the Century," the stress amongst the good folks of the Valley was considerable.

During a matter of weeks, the source of the egg inflation became public knowledge; Juliet Stoughton, previously known as "Claire" to her only friend, launched a last-minute campaign for mayor; and the leading candidate, Raymond Cooper, was tricked into agreeing to participate in the town’s first public debate since the "Red Menace Debate" back in 1958.

Valley old-timers remembered that spectacle as "Better Dead Than Red" Barry Jarrell faced incumbent mayor, "Friendly" Wiley Roark.

Both Jarrell and Roark vowed to keep the debate cordial, and it almost worked out that way until Jarrell called the mayor "a Stalin-loving communist from California" 20 seconds into the proceedings. It was at that moment "Friendly" Wiley picked up a metal stand, on loan from the Baptist Church choir, and smacked it squarely across the jaw of his opponent.

The 1958 debate lasted all of four minutes until fights broke out in the audience after Jarrell roared, "Anyone who would vote for this Red-loving Bolshevik should go on back to Moscow right now!"

No one anticipated as many fireworks in this debate, taking place 40 years later, but it wasn’t outside the realm of possibility.

Raymond Cooper began the Monday installment of "Renderings with Raymond" with a quote from Adlai Stevenson, who ran for president against Dwight Eisenhower in 1952. "I offer my opponents a bargain," quoted Cooper. "If they will stop telling lies about me, I will stop telling the truth about them."

The phone rang immediately with restless callers, anxious to chime in during the broadcast.

"Who is this so-called ‘Juliet Stoughton?’" Marvin Walsh almost screamed into his phone. "And what makes her think she deserves to share the same stage as Raymond Cooper?"

The next caller, Boyd Sanders, was even more adamant. "Tell her to come by after the debate and clean up," Sanders jeered. "It seems to me that she should be home cooking dinner for her husband, instead of wasting our time."

Cooper, as always, played the role of peacemaker. "Now listen," he told his audience. "This is America. And every American has the right to run for office, no matter how misguided their efforts might be."

The next caller, Vera Ingram, took a different tone. "It seems to me," she said, "that we should hear this young woman out. After all, isn’t that what America is all about?"

Raymond, not wanting to show disrespect to a potential voter, chimed in. "You’re right, Vera," he said in a charming tone. "Perhaps this is the perfect time to show this young woman, who is new to our community, what Lennox Valley hospitality is all about."

Cooper, skillful at manipulating the emotions of his audience, knew this would move the discussion to Juliet’s lack of experience in important Valley matters.

What happened next took Raymond by surprise, and that didn’t happen very often.

"Hi, Raymond. This is Myrtle Paxley."

"What’s on your mind today, Myrtle?" answered the gentle voice of Cooper.

"I just received the strangest call from Springfield. It was somebody taking a poll. They wanted to know who I was going to vote for in the mayor’s race. Of course, I told them I was voting for you."

Raymond searched for the right words before saying, "Myrtle, are you sure about that?"

"Yes, I’m sure. They asked if I supported Mayor Bland, you or that new woman. I told them that any real American would vote for you."

Raymond played a commercial for Pucket’s Hardware Store while he composed himself.

Following the commercial, Cooper calmly beseeched his listeners, "It is obvious we are facing more than two opponents in the election." After a pause, he continued, "We are facing the mobilized forces of the elite media and the federal government, who will stop at nothing to see this humble American fall."

Slimp now makes his home in Knoxville, Tennessee.

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