Chris Bell’s “Bell onWheels” Bus tour through Texas was coming to Rosenberg and we had a party to prepare.
Things were being hauled out and set up. I came in early because I had a nagging feeling that I had left something out in the poll site sign bundles that I had prepared with lots of help. I kept checking areas that I thought I had forgotten, and kept locating the sign bundles that I thought I had failed to assemble. So I gave up and did some running and fetching of my own.
The Bell advance worker appeared and exercised her skills in campaign headquarters interior design, and things moved around. I lent a hand because she seemed earnest. I have to admit that, despite what Don claimed, the HQ did look a lot more like a reception area than a work area after she got through.
One of my students, Honjie, showed up in her newly acquired Nick Lampson T-Shirt. She earned the shirt on Thursday when she helped me assemble sign bundles. I think she was very excited and impressed at the operation that was running before her.
Then Nick Lampson showed up and worked through the three television crews who came to cover the event for local TV. Then he came in and worked the crowd. My friend Mark has become pretty upset with some of the things his campaign is doing, and it didn’t look like he was very happy to see Nick. But politics, as they say, make strange bedfellows. Nick gave me his usual vice-like handshake. I introduced Nick to my student, Honjie.
The hamburgers (and the Democratic Party brought hot dogs) were ready and everyone was ready to eat, but the Bell on Wheels bus was running late. We had members outside with Bell signs holding them out to passing traffic, and members inside holding their Bell signs waiting expectantly.
I saw it first. A big black bus came into view coming from Richmond. It turned in and then maneuvered around to stop in front of the headquarters. Hank Gilbert came in first and he got a rousing applause. Moments later Chris Bell came in and the roof nearly blew off.
My friend Don spoke first with a booming voice. He spoke of Chris Bell’s service to us in Congress and as a council member in Houston. He spoke of Chris Bell’s seminal work in the long and tortuous road to Tom DeLay’s downfall.
Don then introduced “our friend Nick Lampson”. Nick spoke in that I-don’t-know-what-you-call-it, I’ll just call it his “campaign voice”. He really has it down. I’ll give you a clue, it’s along the same vein as the one that got Howard Dean in trouble, but much toned down. Nick does it just right.
Nick talked about his campaign and about bringing integrity back to Washington. He stumped for the Fort Bend countywide candidates, all of whom were present: Neeta Sane, Veronica Torres, Rudy Velasquez, Albert Hollan and Farhan Shamsi. Then he introduced Hank Gilbert, who introduced Chris Bell who was then also introduced by Nick Lampson (I don’t know how they work these things out). And Chris Bell, standing 6’4” withstood another barrage of shouts and “Chris!” “Chris!” “Chris!” “Chris!” “Chris!”.
Chris didn’t apologize for his serious demeanor, even though also acknowledging his superior sense of humor. He spoke to the crowd from the center of the room, turning to all points of the room. A neat trick.
He addressed the two independents that are serving to split vote the anti-Perry vote. A split vote that could help to re-elect the most unpopular Texas governor in recent memory. He said it this way:
“I know there's been a lot of fascination with the independent candidates for governor. But there's just one difference between me and them. They can't win. I will win.”Then Don got up and auctioned off an autographed Chris Bell T-shirt. He started the bidding at $50 and ended with a final bid of $125. Ellen Hunt bought it. I heard her remarking to a reporter that it cost more than her wedding dress.
Then the food line formed, but people started coming at me asking for sign bundles for their precincts so I got busy handing them out and checking them off my list. When I finally got free I went over to where muse was standing. muse brought the muse daughter who came because she has become interested in politics this year. She seemed thrilled because she got to shake the big man’s hand and get a personally autographed Chris Bell campaign board.
The crowd finally petered out and we cleared and cleaned, restoring the headquarters to its work room environment. Then work commenced anew. Veronica Torres’ father came in to work the phones, door hanger bags were being stuffed, muse returned after taking the muse daughter home to work on voter lists in the muse precinct. I set out to generate Google maps of polling sites for our midnight lawn sign missions on Election Day Eve.
Then Farhan Shamsi returned with fire in his eyes. “I was almost arrested,” he raged. “I was out in Meadows Place putting out my signs and ‘WOO’ ‘WOO’ a Meadows Place Police car AND a 3rd Precinct Constable car sound their sirens and lights and pulled up.”
Farhan had his car on the road’s shoulder and was putting a sign on a grassy field that was not in the off limits right-of-way. He had stopped to put one there specifically because there was a Sekula-Gibbs sign posted illegally in the road median.
The police: “What are you doing sir?”
Farhan: “I’m putting my signs up.”
The police: “Do you know that is illegal?”
Farhan indicated to them the legal and illegal way to put up a sign, showing them Sekula-Gibbs’ illegal sign. Pointing, he said “THAT’s illegal”
The police: “It doesn’t matter, you’re still doing something illegal.”
Farhan: “I’m putting it on private property.”
The police: “Do you have the permission of the owner?”
Farhan: “That’s between me and the owner, not between you and me and the owner.”
The police: “It’s still illegal. I’m writing you up.”
Farhan: “You can ticket for parking on the right-of-way, but you can’t ticket me for putting a sign on private property. What you can then do is talk to Andy Meyers about me being a terrorist.”
Then he put the sign on the property, went back to his SUV and slammed shut the back door. Getting into the car, he rolled down the window and asked them if they were going to give him a ticket for parking on the right-of-way.
The police: “Just get out of here.”
Farhan was right, the police were absolutely wrong. Farhan knows the law and he defended himself.
This is what Democrats, and minority Democrats at that, are experiencing in this election cycle. Blatant use of the color of office to deny Democrats the right to campaign for office. But this is The South, this is Texas, but most importantly, it’s still DeLay Land here even if the man has scurried off to Virginia.
Finally Farhan settled down and we started making jokes about the incident. And the story got told and retold as Democrats came back from wherever they were at.
Then Veronica Torres came in absolutely aglow with the news that the Rosenberg Herald Coaster had endorsed her as their preference for Fort Bend County District Clerk (Fort Bend Star, you screwed up and missed this one – Vickie indeed). Mark made an absolutely hilarious comment about her opponent that you can now read on his blog.
Jesse celebrated by buying spicy chicken dinners for everyone.
The day turned to night and I sat with muse taking in the day. We decided to leave, but I called Bryan to find out if we should keep letting Bill Clinton make his calls to Fort Bend County Democrats and he said he’d take care of it.
So we left. I pointed out to muse my bumper sticker reassignments and received the muse approval. On comparison of lawn signs, muse wondered at how one could have 9 signs on one’s front lawn, and I ticked them off on my fingers. Then the muse expressed great distaste for one of them, not a nice person in the muse’s opinion. I thought about it on the drive home.
It’s off, muse.
And one other thing. We Democrats here in Fort Bend County have a County Commissioner, Andy Meyers, who is single-handedly putting out trashy 4 X 8 signs that are very inflammatory to minorities, chiefly Hispanics and South Asians. See Mark's blog for photos of them, then go to the Fort Bend Democrats website and support us in our efforts to fight off this neocon racist attempt to intimidate voters with the politics of hate and fear.