Here are the five most bizarre things I ran across this election cycle in Park County. Now one more than month removed from the election, I think it's safe to put together a final list.
1. Getting a text message from Park County Commission candidate Hank Whitelock on Primary Election Day, asking me to vote for him. In a race where no candidate even set up a web site, getting invasive electronic campaigning was a little bizarre. I'm pretty sure he simply texted everybody in his address book (I had previously called him from my cell), but it was still weird.
Speaking of weird, for the record, that's not my hand. It belongs to composition whiz Carla Wenksy.
2. The flood of emails from anti-Obama campaigners on election eve. On Nov. 3, everyone at the Tribune with an email address - from the front office folks to the press room - was inundated with messages letting us know of Obama's promise to like to bankrupt the coal industry, in hopes we would run a story about it. Through some investigative email replying, it was learned that the barrage was orchestrated by PUMAs. The PUMA movement (which originally stood for "Party Unity My A**", but was later changed to "People United Mean Action") began after Hillary Clinton lost the Democratic Presidential nomination.
And apparently, their mailings were effective in some areas.
One emailing supporter who was gracious enough to respond to my inquiries, explained the movement's origins this way:
"They saw the fraud at the caucuses. It's not about them losing and they are somehow sore losers. They saw the sexist tactics used by the Obama team in the primaries and carried forward into the general election. They came together in anger, but they quickly turned that anger into action against the Obama presidency.I'll second the serious part. They referred to their mass mailings as a "daily prowl" and sent their messages to everyone they could at the Lovell Chronicle, Lusk Herald, Casper Star Tribune, Torrington Telegram, Guernsey Gazette, Douglas Budget, Jackson Hole News and Guide, and Platte County Record Times.
I found them when I went out researching the PUMA's' that had been referenced on another blog, and I, like several others, at PUMA Pac am a Republican. The thing is we are ALL serious about getting the info out to defeat Obama."
What makes the whole thing especially weird is that while Wyoming is a coal state, the PUMAs apparently overlooked the poll numbers showing Obama already hopelessly trailing in the Cowboy State.
Weeks before the election, even Obama's state director, Michelle Sullivan, was encouraging Wyoming residents to lobby their neighbors ... in Montana.
Then again, the PUMAs also predicted that despite poll numbers to the contrary, McCain was going to sweep the election in a landslide.
3. The importance of Ralston. The two Park County precinct results sought by national vote-tracker Edison-Mitofsky were the Cody Auditorium, and Ralston. With absolutely no disrespect to Ralston, there just aren't that many people there to effect the state-wide races Edison cared about. There must be something particularly special about those few hundred votes in precinct 21-1. Had the Lummis-Trauner results been a little closer, organizations like Edison-Mitofsky would have used data from Ralston to help predict a winner. Think about that one the next time you're tempted to say your vote doesn't count.
4. Having your boss run for elected office. I'll be frank - having Tribune publisher Dave Bonner seeking the House District 25 seat was awkward at times.
I remember when I first learned that Pat Slater was running a write-in campaign; I mentioned to Dave how cool it was to have some competition in the race. Then, I caught myself, realizing that for him, it meant more stress, time, and money. The paper, myself, and I think Dave, all welcomed another voice in the campaign, but that doesn't mean it was fun for him.
I don't think our coverage of the District 25 race was ever anything other than fair. Dave is pretty hands-off in terms of day-to-day editing these days, and he specifically stayed away from stories on his race. And contrary to some rumors, Dave paid for the Tribune ads out of his own pocket, not the Tribune's.
However, despite our caution, there was a slip-up in October.
On Oct. 14, we ran the at-left advertisements on page 4 of the Tribune Plus (the free ad mailer sent to non-Tribune subscribers in the area).
The advertisement urging readers to subscribe to the Tribune featured the April 3 cover of the newspaper. In that issue, the lead story was "Rec District Director Calls it Quits." Of course, that director was Pat Slater. And directly below that - same column width and everything - was Dave's campaign ad. That unintentional mess potentially created the impression that the goal was to disparage Slater while promoting Dave.
In reality, that Tribune subscription ad had been running at least since May - months before Pat decided to run his write-in campaign, and even days before the original filing period had closed.
It was an innocent mistake, but a stupid one on our parts. I think the Tribune consensus was that we should have caught it. It ended up not catching our attention until someone raised the issue.
5. The loser should have, could have, won in the hotly uncontested race for the Northwest College board seat for the Meeteetse area. James Sessions took the race with 45 votes to claim the NWC seat, defeating fellow seat-seeker Larry Todd, who fell 2 votes short with 43. Both Sessions and Todd were write-in candidates, as neither had filed for seat. Oddly enough, Todd actually had more people write in his name. However, Sessions had more supporters remember to fill in the corresponding "Write-in" bubble, said Park County Clerk Kelly Jensen. Both the name and bubble must be completed on the ballot for it to count.
Moral of the story? Never underestimate the importance of ballot access.
Or the complexity of the American electoral process.