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Posted: October 28, 2011 12:00 a.m.

The funny thing about politics

A funny man from Enigma named Bobby Rowan declared that anyone who loved politics was "genetically flawed." He said it with a laugh and a twinkle in his eye because he was very much afflicted with the disorder. Bobby was a State Senator from 1963-74, a gubernatorial candidate in 1974, a member of the Public Service Commission from 1989-94, and a lobbyist and raconteur without peer in between. Wikipedia finds that Rowan is one of only two "famous" people ever to come out of Enigma, the other being a gospel singer of some small note.

Unless you've been hiding under a rock - a sometimes safe retreat these days - you know Covington is electing a new mayor after Kim Carter opted out of a re-election campaign, a bittersweet decision on her part. (In my book, she deserved and could have won re-election. The city has prospered under her leadership in these difficult times, but obstreperous opposition on city council took a personal toll.) Two candidates want her job, newcomer Ronnie Johnston and well-known Bobby Sigman who's put Covington in statewide news after being charged with stealing Johnston's campaign signs. Council incumbents Mike Whatley and Keith Dalton have challengers in, respectively, Ron Martin and Lamar Brown.

Nationally, the Republican presidential race has been going on since about noon on January 20, 2009, as far as I can tell. That's when Barack Obama was sworn in as president after beating the McCain-Palin ticket and was immediately declared a one-term president. We know the race will end a little more than a year from now, making it the longest campaign for president in U.S. history.

We've got a funny way of electing the leader of the free world, don't we? To this point, the decision appears to teeter on the question of who's got the biggest war chest and who's better at tossing off one-liners and knee-capping opponents. A poll shows most Republicans aren't interested in the race right now. President Obama says he's not paying attention to the line-up of challengers, yet it's clear his initiatives are campaign-tilted. His substantial successes in the war on terror don't seem to be solidifying his bid for re-election yet. It's still "the economy, stupid," to quote James Carville and his winning Bill Clinton strategy, and in Washington, it's still gridlock.

I'm one of Bobby Rowans' "genetically-flawed" individuals and admit an inordinate passion for politics. It's not my fault but my dad's. Back when children weren't supposed to speak at supper when the grown-ups were talking, we kids listened mutely to Jack's passionate discourses on politics. He was well connected to statewide officeholders and would one day serve in the state legislature and as local commission chairman. (My brother Davis and sister-in-law Kathy followed him into that office.)

With his political genes in my blood, I went on to cover statewide politics at the Capitol and then worked for Gov. Joe Frank Harris from 1983-90. As an idealist, I initially eschewed the underside of politics, believing that what was right and just should and would always prevail. Not. I got over that idealism and began to relish the behind-the-scenes work and negotiations it took to reach a goal or check off a campaign pledge. Personality definitely played a part in what could and couldn't be done. The governor had a motto I use to this day: "If you can't get the whole loaf, take half, and come back the next day for the other half. "

Were I ever to run for office in a world of my imagination, my platform might look a lot like this: I'd ban plastic bags and require re-usable ones. Everyone would have to recycle or face penalties. I'd limit the length and height of SUV's and monster pick-up trucks if they park on the square. (It is death defying to back out of a space next to one of these behemoths if you're in a car.) I'd require all new pets to come from the animal shelter, and I'd back countywide pet registration. I'd insist on a public discussion of the benefit of walking paths. If it were up to me, I'd ban talking on cellphones in a restaurant or in line. I'd want to penalize people who don't vote without having a doctor's excuse and require everyone to attend one local government meeting per month. I'd also insist that everyone make a volunteer commitment of some sort, at church, in the schools or at a nonprofit organization. Nothing here would require government spending. But wait. This all sounds like a dictatorship - doesn't it? - and dictators are falling right and left. Let me re-think this.


Barbara Morgan is a Covington resident with a background in newspaper journalism, state government and politics. She chairs the Newton Advisory Committee.

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