If you elect John Wright, do you also get his mother?
COLUMBIA, 9/4/12 (Op Ed) --
So my wife is minding her own business the other day when she gets a phone call from a woman identifying herself as John Wright's mother, so and so.
Taken aback at first -- John Who?
-- it took her awhile to figure out the woman meant John Wright the Missouri statehouse candidate
The same John Wright I took to task for blowing nearly $200,000 in primary campaign donations to defeat fellow Democrat Nancy Copenhaver, much of it donated by out-of-state financiers and hedge fund types after Wright publicly condemned big donations.
Wright has been throwing a lot of money around mid-Missouri these days, and a lot of promises too, like the one about how a preschool he got a no-bid contract to operate for Columbia Public Schools will include at least 50% low income kids.
Among other problems: in writing, that promise was nowhere to be found when I interviewed Wright this spring. And he couldn't say when -- or if -- it would ever be documented. The only thing assured was that the other 50% of families would pay roughly $7,000 annually for their kids to attend.
Torturing little John?
On the phone with my wife, Wright's mother said that -- lo and behold -- they were family in some way my wife didn't entirely understand (neither of us had ever heard of Mother Wright outside her son's campaign ads). A mutual friend had made the connection, and boy was Mom upset that the husband of a family member -- moi -- was "maligning" and "torturing little John."
"Torturing little John" -- quote, unquote.
Mother Wright went on about who she's spoken to in my wife's family about all this; how close she lives to us (walks down our street, past our house); the damage my Heart Beat stories did to the preschool; assorted other complaints, conundrums, and connections.
"So and so at your church said you were a nice person," Mother Wright told my wife.
As she listened patiently, the conversation started to sound like words I've heard before: I know where you live; I know where you work; I know about your family; and I am very unhappy.
Did Mom Wright mean to drive some sort of wedge into the family dynamic? With muckraking Mike cast as dubious outsider vs. little John the consummate insider, "first in his class at Yale and Presidential Scholar" (qualifications she reiterated a few times)?
To level the playing field, would I have to break out my Presidential Scholar quals (like the autographed photo I got from the Governor calling me a "friend and a scholar.") Or my official Mensa membership card that I let lapse years ago?
"I even knew Donnie," Mom Wright said.
"Donnie Stamper?" the local politico, my wife wondered. Nope -- Donald, her father and my father-in-law. A former Boone County juvenile officer and long-time Missouri lawyer, Don died after a long battle with melanoma.
A Funny One
I emailed Candidate Wright, expressing how inappropriate -- professionally, personally, and politically -- I thought his mother's call. "I realize that family and friends want to help," I wrote. "But one of the best ways they can help is to have more faith in the candidate's ability to do for himself/herself, especially if -- as they say -- they believe so strongly in that candidate's character and capabilities."
I told him my wife's family "has struggled with some difficult issues of late, most notably the deaths of patriarchs and matriarchs, and serious illness."
"We are left asking how a person we've never met and don't know from the proverbial Adam could justify such an unusual and intrusive conversation."
He wrote back quickly.
"Hi Mike: That's a funny one. I obviously don't know anything about this. Pls feel free to reach out to my mother if you wish to speak with her or have any concerns -- I believe she and my Dad are both in the phone book. Warm Regards, John."
I thanked my new cuz-in-law, but told him we'd pass.