June 6, 2008

Mudcat Speaks

The Mudcat is surely a close cousin of the He-Coon.

He's making waves of late in the news clips on Obama's visit to Bristol, Virginia--the heart of Appalachia.

In the spirit of "Walkin' Lawton," let's throw the spotlight on a forgotten small town and its vibrant politics.

Reedville, Virginia in the Northern Neck, on the opposite side of the state from Bristol. Here it's the three F's the drive life: fishing, farming, forestry. Or, looking at it another way, it's all some type of farming. It is unincorporated I believe, and I think it claims about a thousand residents.

Reedville prides itself on being the nation's headquarters for the menhaden fishery. Its maritime museum brings visitors, too.

The beach at Reedville is a lovely spot for a backyard fundraiser or party. You're at the mouth of the Potomac River, close enough to feel the Atlantic Ocean winds whip at your back.

June 4, 2008

Philosophy and Biography

"He was the children's governor."

"He had a common touch."

"He had a legendary sense of humor."

Almost a year after my first interview, it's still tough to coax good details out of the simplest subjects. Platitudes come easy. Which would be fine for a philosophical tract, but not for a vignette-and-anecdote biography.

Usually, the best anecdotes just come spontaneously--not because of some savvy question I asked. It just arrives and I'm never sure of the cause.

Kingfish Vs. He-Coon: Encore

Again, I've gotten a wry reaction from comparing Lawton Chiles to Huey Long. Don't misunderstand, I'm not talking about honesty, integrity, and ethics in government. I'm comparing legacies and personalities in order of magnitude, not quality.

The simple fact is that most Americans cannot pick their own governor out of a police line-up, much less recall former governors.

What governor from days past stands out even today for larger-than-life gun-toting spunk? The "Kingfish," Huey Long. Heck, they just made a remake of All The King's Men a few years back starring Sean Penn. Few remember much that Long did other than cause trouble and rule with an iron fist, but he is remembered. And he is connected to his state in way that's unique and colorful. I know that when I think about Louisiana, in my mind's eye I see Huey up on the stump, shaking his fist at the free press, flanked by glowering state troopers. That's Louisiana politics in a moment. People still tell stories about Long's glory days.

Does Massachusetts evoke any single politician in your mind? Maybe Teddy Kennedy. But certainly not a governor I'd wager. William Weld? Don't think so. Michael Dukakis. Nope.

How about Maryland...nobody comes to mind as someone whose roots in the state are legendary.

For Florida, both Lawton Chiles and Bob Graham come to my mind actually.

For Georgia, Sam Nunn comes to mind as representing the best in peach politics.

For Mississippi, nobody is conjured up.

For South Carolina, I think of John C. Calhoun and Strom Thurmond. Not governors.

Which brings me back to Lawton Chiles and Huey Long.

June 3, 2008

More Press Clips

Sifting through press clips of the 1990-1991 gubernatorial transition today...interview tomorrow.

Found a couple of items, including a potential chapter title/theme for the section on the first budget. Also some details on the first inaugural festivities. Don't know that I'll use them though. I'll probably spotlight the second inaugural party as the one to remember. Since it featured a coonskin jacket and a potato gun, there isn't much that can top that. It's about style.

June 2, 2008

On Tape

Another big interview in the can...another that clocked in at over an hour and half, easily.

Porkchopper legislator L.K. Edwards used to down a dozen eggs and a chocolate sundae for breakfast, so it's said. Now that's character.

June 1, 2008

Hail to the Chief

A question about the chief of staff post:

Does the chief's personal relationship to the governor matter all that much in getting things done for the state?

For example, compare Maryland under current governor Martin O'Malley (D) with Florida under Lawton Chiles (D). O'M Chief of Staff Michael Enright has known the governor since high school and served him in much the same capacity when his boss was mayor of Baltimore. Who knows what the future holds, but I'd expect Enright to work right on through the whole of the four-year term.

In contrast, three chiefs of staff worked for Chiles--none of whom went farther back than 1970 in terms of friendship, if you count Jim Krog working as a young man on his first Senate campaign. Certainly, none of them were old childhood buddies. Another detail of note: all three chiefs brought prior gubernatorial service to the table when they joined the Chiles/MacKay administration. Enright of course does not.

I suspect scholars will weigh in on this question at length when Governor O'Malley completes his term...whether the "Enright model" works.

I don't know that much has been said about whether the Chiles model worked, even though it's been a decade. In all my research, I've only found academic scholarship on Chiles' confrontation with the 1991 recession and budget crunch.