Election Day finally arrived. Thursday, Aug. 20, 1998, was perhaps the most awaited date in Lennox Valley history.
In a year filled with anticipation, featuring visits from celebrities of all types, the mayoral race between current mayor, Dick Bland, and his opponent, Raymond Cooper, had created a greater stir than any event in the 148-year history of the Valley.
Who would have thought an election could draw more attention than Todd Cecil, celebrity evangelist from Joplin, Missouri, or an appearance at the upcoming Spring County Fair by Tangi Blevins and the Heavenly Hosts? Perhaps the only event to rival this campaign was the appearance of the first female pastor in the Valley just two months earlier.
Knowing the majority of ballots were entered near the end of the day, Cooper wasted no time in swaying any fence-sitting voters. Raymond began his daily show, "Renderings with Raymond," three hours early, at 9 a.m., under the guise of informing the public of any breaking news on Election Day.
The morning buzz at Caroline’s Beauty Parlor focused on one topic: Juliet Stoughton’s campaign rally on the square just 18 hours earlier. With the help of Rhonda Goodman and Caroline (who were both persuaded to attend the rally after hearing Stoughton supporters referred to as "stupid" on Cooper’s Wednesday show), along with Jessie Orr, waitress at the Hoffbrau, more than 120 women – plus a handful of men – showed up to hear Stoughton speak. You might remember it was Jessie who originally planted the idea of running for office in Juliet’s mind as she sipped tea at "the ‘brau" just a few weeks earlier.
As customers discussed the rally, "Renderings with Raymond" could be heard playing on Caroline’s speakers.
Realizing Farley Puckett’s "stupid" comment might have hurt his standing among female voters, Cooper attempted to heal any wounds by tending to the sensibilities of women listeners.
"I believe a woman has just as much right to run for mayor as anyone else," Raymond muttered as he began hour two of his "special edition." "However," he continued, "it’s obvious that a vote for Stutin," purposely mispronouncing Juliet’s name, "is a wasted vote in this race."
"What kind of name is Stutin anyway?" interrupted Raymond’s guest, Earl Goodman. "It sounds kind of Russian to me."
Unbeknownst to the listeners, Earl and Rhonda Goodman slept separately the previous evening for the first time since her mysterious impetigo attack seven years earlier. Earl could not believe his wife of 32 years had been swayed by that "conniving woman."
Raymond was acutely aware that he needed more than 50 percent of the vote to win the election outright. If Juliet could acquire enough votes, she could force a runoff between him and Bland. Even though Cooper had a substantial lead in the Spring County League of Women Voters poll, he could feel his support shrinking with each passing day.
The poll showed him with 39 percent of the voters on his side. If he could draw just half of the 28 percent who declared themselves "undecided," he would win the election handily.
"If she were to get just a few votes," continued Raymond, "she could force a runoff between me and Sliver Tongue," purposely twisting Bland’s nickname. "And even though I would defeat the so-called mayor easily, it seems like a huge waste of taxpayer time and money to hold another election next week."
"Just think of all the things that money could be spent on besides an election," Earl chimed in.
"That’s right," said Cooper. "I’d hate to think of all the extra taxes our voters would have to pay to stroke the ego of one self-centered woman."
"The women of our city need to talk to their husbands. Voting against them is like wasting both of their votes," shouted Goodman.
"You know, Earl," offered Raymond, "after dealing with our corrupt Valley government for years, I believe you are the only public servant we have that makes any sense," referring to Goodman’s role as mail carrier to the good folks of Lennox Valley.
Several listeners thought they heard a sniffle as Earl whispered, "Thank you, Mr. Mayor."
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