Saturday, May 30, 2015
Thoughts about Lynda Banwart, Gary Hart, and overplaying your hand
At that time, in addition to working at the Lamar Democrat newspaper, I was the Barton County coordinator for Gary Hart's presidential campaign and when I was not working on the newspaper, I was preparing for the Barton County caucus, which was held on an April evening in the upstairs meeting room at the Lamar Bank and Trust Company.
Those who sat on the Barton County Democratic Committee were almost solidly behind former Vice President Walter Mondale, but they heard rumblings that I was planning an insurgent campaign for Hart and did their best to put as many of the old line Democrats in the room as possible.
It was an interesting group that I had with me and it included nearly every Democratic officeholder in Barton County, and at that time, most of the officeholders were Democrats. Presiding Commissioner Doug Haile, County Clerk Bonda Rawlings, and Assessor Doug Sprouls were with me, as well as Ron Wrestler, the owner of the local pharmacy, and some young people who were barely out of high school.
When it came time to place our candidates into nomination, the county chairman Dr. Thomas Carroll, asked if we had someone to submit Hart's name. I did that and had a short speech prepared stressing that Hart was the candidate of "new ideas."
Since I had made a speech, the top Mondale supporter, Rose Marie Francis, felt she had to make one for her candidate. She was not quite as well prepared, but it did not make any difference. When the caucusing took place, Mondale collected five more votes than Hart. That was still a triumph because according to the rules which the Hart Missouri people had provided me, it was close enough that Mondale and Hart would split Barton County's two delegates to the district convention.
Only that was not the way Dr. Carroll saw it. Walter Mondale won the vote, so Walter Mondale was going to get both delegates. The argument took place in front of everyone and the doctor was adamant- Walter Mondale got both delegates.
I suggested that we call the State Democratic Committee in Jefferson City and get a ruling. At first, Carroll vehemently opposed that idea, but he finally agreed to do it. Over the next 20 minutes, he made repeated attempts to contact the state committee, but was never able to do so. Finally, he said, "I'll tell you what. Let's just vote again and the winner gets both delegates."
For the first time that evening, I raised my voice. "How is that fair? I asked. And I was about to say something else, when Doug Haile put his hand on my shoulder and said, "It's all right, Randy. Let's vote."
I was still ready to argue, but I didn't. There was something in the way Haile said those words that made it clear that I needed to back down.
A few moments later, the vote was held again- and Gary Hart won by three votes.
I turned to Doug Haile. "You knew that was going to happen."
"I wasn't sure," he said, "but I could see it in their eyes. They still like Walter Mondale better than Gary Hart, but nobody likes a bully."
As Dr. Carroll announced the results, he added, "This means that Mondale and Hart each get one delegate."
I was about to point out that Dr. Carroll said the winner would receive both delegates, but again Haile stopped me. "Don't push it, Randy; you've won. They overplayed their hand."
That was what happened last night at the Memorial Education Building. Lynda Banwart and the supporters from the Joplin Progtress Committee/CART, the same people whose wisdom brought Wallace-Bajjali to Joplin, overplayed their hand.
Banwart, without saying it, echoed the words that Mike Landis spoke last year at an R-8 Board meeting. Elections don't matter. She showed the same disdain for the voters' choices that Landis did. It is true that Jeff Koch, Debbie Fort, and Jennifer Martucci are one shy of having a majority to bring about the changes that the voters clearly wanted- changes that they mistakenly thought Banwart would help bring about.
What Banwart, Mike Landis, Randy Steele, and the folks on the Joplin Progress Committee seem to forget is that the voters did not elect two candidates, Koch and Martucci, to the board; they elected three.
The people who cast their ballots were fully aware that Lane Roberts was not going to be able to serve, but they wanted nothing to do with Anne Sharp and business as usual. Roberts' decision, unfortunately, has allowed Landis, Banwart, and the C. J. Huff contingent to continue playing games with the school district and circumventing what the people want, because in their opinion people who are not with them have to be an unruly mob ignorantly standing in the way of progress.
As someone who had students write research papers each year on the civil rights movement, I am reminded of the way Southern politicians continued to fight to preserve segregation and the Jim Crow mentality, using every tactic at their disposal to delay the arrival of change.
One of the arguments seem to be nearly the same- these people do not know what is good for them and they need to stay in their place.
That kind of thinking is why not one board member is left from two years ago. Change is happening.. You can push it down the line for a few months, but the stall tactics and pious declarations that Koch, Fort, and Martucci are "too emotional" are not going to keep the change from taking place.
I prefer having board members who are "emotional" about providing a better education for the children and providing a much better deal than taxpayers have been receiving during the C. J. Huff era.
The last person I want to see controlling the fate of the board is an ice queen who said she was a leader and "a mediator" who can bring people together.
Instead of coming up with a solution, Banwart would rather pass the buck to the Jasper County Commission, with the thought that the commission will appoint three people who will restore the status quo and save the unruly mob, the voters, from themselves.
Lynda Banwart overplayed her hand.
The voters won't forget.