Vote on street smarts

Expanded from the Sunday, 8-29-2004, Daily Sparks, Nev., Tribune
and the 9-3-2004 Comstock Chronicle

Someone who knows much more than me just published a book asserting that people elect the candidate telling the best story. Evan Cornog writes that it's the personal narrative— true or embellished — which sells a president to the people. ("The Power and the Story: How the Crafted Presidential Narrative Has Determined Success From George Washington to George W. Bush," Penguin Press)

Smart candidates try to sell an authentic story. It's perhaps the best way to cut through the cacophonous clutter calling itself a campaign these days.

In all the flotsam and jetsam floating by as election day approaches, I've been struck by the stories of two very different candidates, neither of whom I've ever met.

One is a young single mother on welfare. The other is a teacher and attorney. In many respects, they couldn't be more different. But they share one thing: hard lessons learned in the school of hard knocks.

I strongly doubt that Michelle Buck and Lori Lipman Brown have ever heard of each other. Buck, 26, filed for the downtown area Reno city council seat being vacated by Toni Harsh. Her opponents are three guys all spending substantial sums of money to get their names out there.

Ron Dreher, Zak Gilbert and Dan Gustin all have much to recommend them, but Ms. Buck seems in tune with what's going down with the average folks. I've known Gustin and Dreher for years, never have met Mr. Gilbert. Let's say that all the info available on the candidates was contained on page 6C of last Sunday's Reno Gazette-Journal.

Reporter Ben Kieckhefer noted that businessman Gilbert wants a safer downtown, media executive Gustin wants architectural design standards (the Mapes Graveyard would be a good place to start), and retired cop Dreher sees himself as able to bring warring parties together, a not inconsiderable skill in city politics.

Compared to the guys, Ms. Buck truly has no peer. Bush and Kerry will win or lose depending on what this year's key swing voters decide and Michelle Buck is a member of that key demographic: younger women.

"I'm a big, big percentage of people," Buck says.

"All the people who are in office are well-to-do. Why are they making decisions for people who are not well-to-do? They don't have any idea of what they're talking about when it comes to that. I'm just running because I'm underrepresented," Buck says.

In addition to caring for her seven year-old son, Buck attends Truckee Meadows Community College working toward a degree in substance abuse counseling. She wants to develop a needle exchange program for drug addicts and has worked with Cures Not Wars, an organization pointing out the failures of that government price support system known as The War On Drugs.

Ms. Buck told the RGJ she would like to see better public transportation in Reno. "I have no idea how to plan a transit system, but I know ours is not very good…I want to help a lot of people, but I can't if I don't finish school. I can't help anyone if I'm not taking care of my own son," she says.

A responsible welfare mother? Ronald Reagan, call your office. If she gets through the September 7 primary, perhaps Buck will melt in the hot light of increased scrutiny. But for now, hers is one personal narrative which stands out among all Nevada candidates in 2004. She's down there on the ground, articulating concern for the issues which touch people's lives.

Just as I am taken with the life experience which Michelle Buck would bring to the council, I am impressed with Lori Lipman Brown. The former Las Vegas Democratic state senator is likewise up against three very well-moneyed guys in her underdog campaign for Nevada Supreme Court.

Ms. Lipman Brown has lived through substantial disappointment and adversity. She knows how to fight back, something I can't say for some higher profile candidates like, er…John Kerry.

In 1994, Senator Lori was the victim of a vicious, anti-Semitic smear campaign engineered by Sen. Bill Raggio, R-Reno. She was defeated for re-election by now-disgraced State Controller Kathy Augustine, who has conclusively proven why she was totally unqualified for office.

Raggio and his minions painted Sen. Brown as unpatriotic, alleging she would not recite the pledge of allegiance before each morning's senate session. Reality proved otherwise.

Like Jesus of Nazareth, Ms. Lipman Brown is a Jew. She did not feel comfortable in the senate during Christian prayer which on many days preceded the pledge. She would leave during such prostrations and return to recite the pledge from the back of the chamber. Didn't matter to the GOP who smeared her as some kinda un-American traitor.

Such bogus tactics worked for Bush Sr. in 1988, Augustine in 1994, and more recently against Sens. McCain, Cleland and Kerry.

Lipman Brown is not bitter. "I really have gotten past what they did to me. It eats away at the angry person to be angry more than the one who caused the harm…It took a few years to let it go, even after I received the admissions (she sued the smearmongers and won), but I really have, and that feels good."

She's a lawyer who looked beyond the law for job satisfaction, turning to teaching at the secondary and university levels. She will accept no contribution over $100, so you won't see her among the guys on TV.

"I found my idealistic hopes of changing the world for the better through lawyering wasn't happening. So I took a 50 percent pay cut and became a teacher. For about 15 years, I've been having a positive impact on students which does my soul well — if not my pocketbook. Throughout that time, I have worked behind the scenes to advocate for civil liberties and social justice."

Her tenure in the state senate was likewise marked by advocacy for the least among us, something Jesus of Nazareth once advised his followers to do.

You can decide for yourself whom to support. But at minimum, view the life stories of these two women as examples of what to seek – people whose experience will make them good public servants. Their narratives are compelling, the two best I've seen this year.

That's my story and I'm stickin' to it.

Be well. Raise hell.



Lori Lipman Brown's website

UPDATE 12-5-2004
Kathy Augustine gets 20 lashes with wet noodle

I warned you about Augustine in 1998

LV Review-Journal columnist Jane-Ann Morrison:
After winning with racism and anti-Semitism, Augustine gets her comeuppance

Controller accused of harassing worker
CARSON CITY -- Nevada Controller Kathy Augustine, already facing an ethics complaint for allegedly making her office staffers do campaign work, also has been accused of sexual harassment in a federal court complaint filed by a former chief deputy...

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Copyright © 1982-2004 Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a 35-year Nevadan, a member Communications Workers of America Local 9413 and editor of and Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune since 1988.

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