Remembering Running for Office at Age 23

Jason Blumenthal, a 23-year old is running for State Representative.

Boy, did that bring back memories from 52 years ago.

I was the same age when I stood outside in the really, really cold weather on the steps of the old Courthouse across from the Woodstock Square.

There was no random drawing.

It was first come, first serve.

When I got inside, I saw that opponent Gene Brewer was standing next to me in front of McHenry County Clerk Vernon Kays.

He could have taken Brewer’s petition or mine.

He took mine, putting me on the ballot first.

(Since I won by 72 votes, ballot position was probably crucial.)

The Republican Primary Election was sensibly held in June.

That allowed me to knock on a lot of doors.

As a young man, I could approach people’s houses late into the long summer nights.

I doubt if an older man could have gotten residents to open their doors as twilight deepened.

I got the feeling that a lot of what then seemed to be “older women” thought of me the way they thought of their grandsons.

Knocking on about 4,000 doors, I got about one vote per house.

Unlike today, I did not have lists which showed me where those who had voted Republican before.

I knocked on every door in the neighborhoods I covered, passing out a mimeographed leaflet.

Besides approaching people at their homes, I went through all the business districts, including inside grocery stores.

I didn’t ask permission and rarely was told I was not welcome.

The low budget campaign for County Treasurer featured this Memiographed pole signs.

The other way to gain name identification was stapling small signs on telephone and electric poles around the county.

There was just me, although feedback indicated opponents thought there must have been at least six people were putting them up.

I remember walking into bars where everyone was older than I was.

In Hebron, one of the men at the bar asked if I were going to buy a round of drinks.

“What do you think I’m running for, Sheriff?” I asked.

At a tavern in Marengo, there was money on the bar and it was not to pay for drinks.

There were two candidates running for the GOP nomination for Sheriff–John Carroll and Ray Chirempes.

Chirempes asked me to come to his headquarters across from where the Crystal Lake Brewery now located.

He explained that he was in a coalition with Harvard Police Chief Gene Brewer, who was running for County Treasurer and wanted me to run for State Representative instead.

George Lindberg from Crystal Lake and son of a prominent physician was making his first run.

I told Chirempes that I felt more qualified to run for Treasurer, having been a Budget Examiner for the United States Bureau of the Budget.

There was one other thing I picked up that readers might find of interest.

Chirempes told me that each candidate for Sheriff had been given $10,000 by gravel pit interests.

This was over a decade before campaign reporting became law in Illinois.

On another topic, there were newspapers in pretty much every town:

  • Marengo Republican
  • Harvard Herald
  • Woodstock Sentinel (the only daily)
  • Crystal Lake Herald
  • McHenry Plain Dealer
  • Fox Lake Press
  • Nu-View News
  • River Valley Clarion (Cary & Fox River Grove)
  • Crystal Lake News
  • Huntley Farmside
  • Barrington Courier-Review
  • Richardson Publications in Wonder Lake, Cary-Fox River Grove, Algonquin

Each had a continued need for copy and were willing to publish press releases from candidates and public officials.

In a way, McHenry County Blog is an attempt to recreate the ability of politicians to communicate directly with constituents and potential constituents.

That’s why I publish press releases from candidates and public officials.

Consider that candidates are likely to receive no more than three mentions in McHenry County’s newspaper of record, the Northwest Herald, before an election:

  1. the candidacy announcement
  2. a questionnaire response
  3. a pre-election couple of sentences in a story about the race

Another local politician, Sandra Salgado won election to the McHenry County Board in her mid-twenties.

She was 23 when she ran for the County Board; 25 when elected.


Comments

Remembering Running for Office at Age 23 — 1 Comment

  1. Telephone polls were the yard signs of that age.

    In your spare time you put them up and over the night the opponent took them down and put theirs up. A nightly cycle much like yard sign wars of today.

    McHenry was the seat of Democrat activity then, very hard to go door to door there.

    Ah the good old days.

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