It was Friday, May 12 - four days before the election. The Cutler campaign was holding its last town hall meeting before the primary. We were in Conestoga and spirits were high. Little were we to know that a bomb was about to be dropped, and it would land squarely on our heads.
Bryan followed his usual format, starting with a short speech and then taking questions from the audience. After a few minutes, he called on a woman who sat unobtrusively in the second row. Up until now, she had not done anything out of the ordinary, but when called upon she stood up demanding to know about the staff who worked on Bryan's campaign.
The woman specifically mentioned me, my fellow columnist Bill Rudick and our newspaper -- none of it complimentary. I had been working on the inside of the campaign as press secretary. Bill, an avowed Democrat, took pictures for the campaign. He knew the pictures needed, but was not even involved in where they would be used. Bill didn't attend meetings and wasn't involved in decision-making. Still he was an important and valued part of the campaign.
Realizing I was there, the woman quickly focused on the absent Bill Rudick. After declaring our newspaper part of the "liberal" press (despite columns by Rep. Gib Armstrong, and Dr. James Dobson), she brought up one of Bill's columns about Terri Schiavo. The column had actually focused on the importance of having a living will. Our questioner said that Bill's column and involvement in the campaign showed the kinds of individuals Bryan chose to "hang around" and that they must mirror his beliefs. These people were a reflection, she stated, on Bryan's character. For his part, Bryan calmly said he intended to represent everyone. After more scattered accusations, our mystery woman suddenly left.
I followed the woman out the door and tried to find out who she was and why she had said anything negative about me, but I got nowhere. The woman said that she represented several churches and concerned individuals. She randomly said the name of one or two churches but nothing definitive. Finally she left, leaving me more confused than ever.
But that wasn't the end of our mystery woman. The next day, a reporter from a large Sunday paper contacted Bryan to address accusations that were being leveled at him that he was not really a pro-life candidate. It turns out our mystery woman had called the reporter implying Bryan had admitted this. In fact, it became personal, when the deaths of his parents were derogatorily dragged into the fray.
To say we were all stunned was an understatement. The campaign had become entangled in the oldest political trick in the book - the last-minute, no-time-to-respond attack. On Sunday the accusations were prominently featured in the paper, and on Monday a radio ad ran, again outlining the accusations.
By Monday afternoon we had found out that the woman was not what she seemed. She had worked for our opponent getting signatures, had worked the polls for him, and now even works in his office.
We knew that any response from us could be potentially disastrous, and so we put our faith in the hands of the voters and hoped they would see the truth.
Next Week: The Primary, a true leap of faith.
Shelley Castetter lives in Bart Township. Her email address is email@example.com.