With seven days remaining until the mayoral "Race of the Century," groups gathered throughout Lennox Valley to cheer on their candidates.
"Silver Tongue" Dick Bland held his campaign gala in the First Baptist Church Fellowship Hall, where 200 supporters gathered to celebrate his upcoming victory. Red, white and blue streamers hung throughout the room, alongside photos of Bland glued to letter-size sheets of red, white and blue construction paper. All who gathered knew Silver Tongue had at least two advantages in the race. First, he hadn’t angered many good folks over the past four years, which was quite the accomplishment for an incumbent in the Valley. If it hadn’t been for the furor over egg prices and the Federal Reserve System, folks would have been hard-pressed to name any issue that divided the community over the previous four years.
Bland’s second advantage was self-evident. Everyone in the room was quite certain that God was on Dick’s side. After all, he was a loyal church-goer, with 17 years of Sunday school perfect attendance pins to show for it. With God on his side, the mayor was a shoo-in.
The gala began with a somber yet powerful prayer by the church’s pastor, Brother Billy Joe Prather. That was followed by a rousing rendition of "Onward Christian Soldiers," sung by the attendees and accompanied by Loraine Sutherland, First Baptist Church pianist.
Two miles away, on Highway 11, there was another celebration taking place. The VFW was the perfect spot for Raymond Cooper’s "Campaign Bash," as he had referred to it during his radio talk show for the past five days. There were no prayers at Raymond’s celebration. There were no choirs or hymns. There were, however, tipsy veterans mixing alongside Raymond’s most fervent supporters. And, instead of hymns, the two cracked speakers in the jukebox blared "All My Exes Live in Texas." To be fair, there were a few inebriated celebrants singing along.
Juliet Stoughton, known until recently as "Claire" to the few folks she had met in the Valley, held a less animated event than her opponents. Supported by her friend and pastor, Sarah Hyden-Smith, along with Iris Long, editor of The Hometown News, Juliet listened as the two of them discussed campaign strategy, all the while knowing her chances of winning were someplace between slim and none.
Fortunately, Iris and Sarah were able to convince Juliet not to make the annual First Baptist Church Men’s Breakfast and Turkey Shoot an issue in the campaign. Long shared that she planned to endorse a candidate in the upcoming edition of The Hometown News, and pancakes and turkeys didn’t make for a suitable campaign platform.
Other than a story announcing Juliet’s campaign in the previous edition of the paper, there had been little notice of her candidacy. Cooper, obviously aware her chances of winning were miniscule, ignored Juliet’s campaign after initially reacting to the news when she entered the race. "Silver Tongue" seemed content to focus on his main adversary, Raymond Cooper.
With Cooper running on the slogan, "In your heart, you know he’s right," borrowed from Barry Goldwater’s 1964 presidential campaign, and Bland sticking with the rallying cry from his first race, "Stand with Bland," Juliet needed a catchy and memorable slogan, something to cause voters to recognize she was a viable candidate.
That’s when it came to her – "Vote for the egg-cellent, egg-citing candidate, Juliet Stoughton!"
"That’s funny," quipped Sarah.
"I love it," Iris chimed in. "It’s funny, and it reminds voters of Raymond’s involvement in the egg scandal."
Four hours later, reading over their notes one last time, Iris declared, "It just might work."
Meanwhile, Cooper acted as though he hadn’t a care in the world as Juliet’s troops discussed campaign strategy.
All the while, Raymond laughed and danced with his adoring fans as George Strait sang, "And that’s why I hang my hat in Tennessee."