It’s The Stupid, Economy…or How My Uncle Gordie Became Mayor

This past summer, I published an account of my uncle Gordie’s improbable victory in the mayoral primary for my hometown of Porter’s Bay. Since then, my readers have inundated me with requests to tell the story of the general election campaign. Well, both of you can relax now. Here’s what happened…

Coming out of the primary in August, Gordie was facing Carla Hebner, a local attorney and DFL activist. The match up presented sharp contrasts. Hebner studied political science at the University of Minnesota (where she graduated Magna Cum Laude), worked on a number of local, state and national campaigns and testified before a state house committee in support of an expanded childcare bill. Gordie didn’t know what DFL stood for until he looked it up on the internet last year. Still, it was projected to be a close race. Gordie was an ill-educated oaf with a tendency to embarrass himself in public. And Hebner was a woman. So clearly, both candidates had their drawbacks.

Gordie kicked off the fall campaign by holding a rally in the parking lot of the Village Bowl. He was understandably nervous and took his friend Leroy’s advice to steady his nerves with a drink beforehand. One drink lead to two and two lead to twelve. They eventually had to pull Gordie’s head out of the toilet to get him to the reviewing stand. Once there, Gordie was, in fact, relaxed; largely because he didn’t know where he was or, specifically, WHO he was. He opened his speech with “The thing about mayor”, rambled incoherently for five minutes and then ended with what everyone agreed was, “F**k the Jews.” He was carried off stage by his supporters and puked in Leroy’s car on the way home.

This was widely-believed to be the end of his campaign.

Carla Hebner opened her campaign with a speech in the high school gymnasium. During the speech, she pointed out that Porter’s Bay had never elected a woman as mayor and that it was high time this was corrected. She talked about her time in the PTA and her work to increase education standards and safety for children. Gordie’s supporters responded by circulating pictures of Hebner with devil horns and a Hitler mustache.

While canvassing the neighborhoods, Gordie was outraged to hear that Elmer Mengseth, the town’s last living WWII veteran, had endorsed Hebner. Gordie broke off the trip and marched over to Elmer’s place to demand an explanation. The conversation got so heated that Gordie took a swing at Elmer. Fortunately, Gordie missed and Elmer used a combination of judo chops and his walker to beat the living s**t out of him. Word is that Gordie had to be talked out of sending his emergency room bill to Elmer and demanding payment.

This was widely-believed to be the end of his campaign.

Things started looking up for Gordie at the beginning of September. During a Labor Day picnic at Frank Porter Park, Hebner was seen taking a single sip of a beer that had been offered to her. Immediately, rumors of alcoholism began to follow Hebner around. That these rumors were traced back to Nick’s Corner Bar and Gordie’s circle of friends did not register with the voting public. Suddenly, Gordie’s campaign had momentum.

By the beginning of October, the race was considered close again. Certainly, the enthusiasm at Gordie’s campaign appearances was high. (The incident in which Rip Odegaard’s front hedge was set on fire was considered unfortunate, but only a bump in the road.) With the closeness of the race, a lot was riding on the one mayoral debate of the campaign.

The debate was held in the high school auditorium, which was filled to capacity. It covered a range of topics: municipal development, the city economy, salaries for police and firemen and funding of basic services. Hebner carefully laid out a point-by-point plan for dealing with each of these issues. Gordie’s rebuttals usually took the form of saying, “I don’t know about that” and then not expanding on that answer. (According to my father, Gordie’s debate prep consisted of looking up a few things on the internet and then getting sidetracked for several hours by various porn sites.) When pressed for specifics, Gordie told the moderator, “Up yours.” After about 45 minutes of the hour-and-a-half long debate, Gordie had run out of answers and was bored. He spent the rest of the time just giving Hebner the finger.

This was widely-believed to be the end of his campaign.

Certainly, these were dark days for Gordie. The Chamber of Commerce endorsed Hebner, as did PTA and several other civic organizations. Nearly every member of the City Council came out in Hebner’s favor. The Porter’s Bay Daily Times endorsed her with a one-sentence editorial: “You’re kidding us, right?” With just under a month to the election, Gordie appeared to be in serious trouble.

But there were rays of light here and there. Apparently, somebody had been spying on Hebner, trying to find damaging information. It was reported that she and her husband rarely slept in the same room, that her eating habits were alarming (peanut butter and olive sandwiches apparently being a favorite of hers), that she rarely drew the curtains in her bedroom and that she possessed “a surprisingly perky set of cans.” Gordie claimed to have no knowledge of who was behind this spying, though a reporter noticed that some of the information had been sent from a mail box near Gordie’s place. The various revelations kept the public from completely embracing Hebner and constantly kept her on the defensive.

However, Gordie found himself on the defensive when it was reported that he had been caught peeking into women’s locker rooms. Gordie immediately took to the stump and denounced the charges. He said there wasn’t a shred of truth in them and anyway, it had been years since he’d done it. He said he had a deep respect for women and all of their goodies. Except, possibly, the fat chicks.

This was widely-believed to be the end of his campaign.

Faced with almost-certain defeat, Gordie adopted a policy of doing or saying anything necessary to win. (This was not remarkably different from his policy up to that point, but he painted it as a new phase to the campaign.) He promised to increase pay for police and firemen, increase garbage service to include mowing people’s lawns, increase spending on promoting tourism, cut taxes, cut the city budget, give everybody a huge tax rebate and guarantee everyone in town a job. When asked during a radio interview how he was going to do all of this, Gordie said this was another case of the biased media attacking him and his followers and didn’t actually answer the question. Meantime, his attacks on Carla Hebner grew louder and more hysterical, climaxing in him shouting during a speech, “She’s got tits! What kind of a mayor has tits?!”

While the success of Gordie’s various tirades and pandering was debatable, he got a sudden assist just a few days before the election. The paper reported that Police Chief Neidermeyer was looking into some unpaid parking tickets that Carla Hebner had accumulated over the years. Hebner said that the tickets had been paid, that she had documentation of this and had no idea what Neidermeyer was talking about. My father speculated that Neidermeyer had a grudge against Hebner, going back several years to when Hebner went on three dates with Neidermeyer then refused another after he’d snuck her into a drive-in movie in the trunk of his squad car. While Neidermeyer confessed the next day that Hebner had paid all of her parking tickets, the damage had been done.

Still, those like my father were supporting Hebner were cautiously optimistic going into election day. Despite the idiocy of the campaign, surely Porter’s Bay would not commit such an act of mass insanity as to elect someone so clearly unsuited for the office of mayor.

Their faith was misplaced.

It wasn’t the landslide that Gordie and followers would later present it as being. In fact, if the trailer park vote hadn’t been abnormally high, Gordie almost certainly would have lost. Instead, he won by a few hundred votes. My uncle Gordie, a fifty-three year old pizza delivery guy who’d never held public office or a full-time job, had, against all odds, common sense and decency, been elected mayor of Porter’s Bay.

The reaction, according to my dad, was a stunned silence. It was made more eerie by the fact that no one openly admitted to voting for Gordie, but almost everyone could agree that his elections was a disaster. The day after, the headline in the Daily Times simply read, “F**k”. It’s believed to be the only curse word ever printed in the paper’s history. And no one called for a retraction.

Still, some held out hope that his election would humble Gordie, perhaps focus him on the task in front of him. That hope pretty much went out the window when Gordie announced that his first act as mayor would be to create the office of Ass-Kicking Party Coordinator and that he would name his friend Leroy to the post. He then announced he would be taking a sabbatical from his pizza delivery job in order to prepare for his term and that he expected the city to compensate him for this. As far as anyone can tell, Gordie’s preparation has consisted of several rounds of day drinking and bowling. I asked my dad if Gordie planned to keep any of his campaign promises. Dad said that Gordie doesn’t remember what they were and that he hadn’t bothered to write them down.

This is widely-believed to be the end of Porter’s Bay.

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