Taking a serious thing seriously

by John Pixley

Excuse me.

Where are the jumbo chocolate chip cookies and the cheese dip? Where are the endless cups of coffee?

Why haven’t the Seaver House, San Jose Place and the Garner House been booked?

Where are the debates? Where are the yard signs? Where are the campaign event listings in the COURIER?

Excuse me. I thought there was an election going on.

Actually, I have seen yard signs. I just saw 2 of them. It was a few days ago, in the last week of January as I begin to write this.

Usually, I don’t like seeing yard signs. I get to despise them, the way they clutter the streets. But I was glad to see these 2.(I have seen a few more since then.) I knew I wasn’t going crazy.

For a while there, I was wondering if I was going crazy. Or if I was dreaming. I was wondering if I made a complete fool of myself when I wrote this in December:


Assuming we get through 12/21/12 and make it into the new year, we’ll be smack dab in a political campaign, complete with yard signs, coffees and debates, with Michael Keenan signing up at literally the last hour to run in the March 5 city council election.

For a few days, it looked like there wouldn’t be more than the 2 incumbents, Larry Schroeder and Corey Calaycay, in the 2-seat race, and, with the 2 simply being reappointed, we would have had a breather after the marathon of campaigning last year.


That was the last time I had seen or heard anything, including in these pages, about a city council election coming up. Did I make it up?

Excuse me, but there is indeed an election here in Claremont on March 5 that is now less than a month away.

A campaign season lasting a month or less would be a blessing, a sweet mercy. But this isn’t England, with its short, if not sweet, parliamentary elections. This is America, where months-long and even years-long campaign seasons are now the norm.

Although a weeks-long election campaign could well be the norm in a small town like Claremont, it is usually the case that we’re “smack dab in a political campaign, complete with yard signs, coffees and debates” by mid-January and certainly by now when there is a March election. Usually, there are campaign kick-off parties, each in a nicer venue—the Seaver House at Pomona College is a favorite—and with fancier snacks, shortly after New Year’s.

Yes, sometimes it looks like the Claremont campaigns are a joke. I remember one year the big draw to a campaign kick-off was homemade posole. Another time, I got an invitation to an exclusive meet-and-greet with a candidate for permanent absentee voters.

I couldn’t help but wonder: Does the candidate with the biggest chocolate chip cookies win?

But, again, excuse me. This is serious. This is an election.

Which is why I’m wondering if this city council election, which is on March 5, less than a month away, really is a joke. I’m wondering if it is being taken seriously.

I’m wondering if Michael Keenan is taking it seriously. As I write this at the end of January, none of the yard signs I’ve seen has had his name. He’s very recently announced a kick-off party, but not much else. And he is the only reason why this election is taking place.

For a while in December, it looked like there might not be an election. It looked like Larry Schroeder and Corey Calaycay would just keep their seats on the city council for another term, because no one else was filing papers to run in the 2-seat election. Then, not at the last minute but certainly with minutes to go before the deadline, Mr. Keenan, who has trailed far behind in 2 previous races for city council, signed up.

If I were Mr. Keenan, I’d be raising a public stink about Active Claremont not holding a candidates’ forum in January as the group always does when there is a March election. Without the debate going on as usual, it looks like the election, not to mention Mr. Keenan, is being written off, not being taken seriously.

But, again, as of this writing, I, for one, haven’t heard anything from Mr. Keenan about his running (including on yard signs). It makes it hard not to think that he’s not taking his candidacy seriously. Or that he’s not serious, if not a joke.

I understand that Mr. Keenan doesn’t take much stock in yard signs, mailers and get-togethers featuring fancy canapes. I more than understand. If it isn’t obvious, I heartily agree and don’t take much stock in it either. I’m sure he would agree that such campaign spending seems, if anything, all the more ridiculous in a small town.

But unfortunately, and as Mr. Keenen knows, such trappings are part of the game, and one has to play the game as it is played to be taken seriously. If Mr. Keenan is out to try to change the game, not to mention win it, I say go for it, but I also say it’s even more critical for him to make sure that he’s taken seriously.

Meanwhile, I hope this election is taken seriously and not seen as a joke. If nothing else, elections cost a lot of money, and that’s not funny.


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