Authors: Howard; Foster
“Some of those 474 voted for Rokeby. Pick up the pace, my friend,” she said and hung up. The Governor was on line three.
“Good morning, Governor. I'm sorry to disturb you but I'm concerned. And if I'm concerned, then you should be concerned.”
She told him about the numbers.
“Impressive show they're putting on. Has he got anyone in the rest of the district?”
“Only in Wellesley. Everything else looks as it should.”
“They've got something going in Wellesley?”
“Very high turnout, and 80% voting Republican.”
“Maybe they're your folks?”
“They're not, Governor. It's not in my Senate district, and honestly, I didn't put my resources there. Maybe I should have.”
“Wellesley leans Republican, rich, preppy. Why didn't you work it?”
“That's why. We just assumed it would fall into line. I'm the establishment, the office holder.”
“And if this was an ordinary election, you'd be right.”
“Half the town voted by 9:00.”
“Wellesley is surrounded by Sherborn and Dover. It's like a cancer metastasizing! Help me!”
“Calm down, Ann. He's been off the air for the last week.”
“Tell me what to do.”
“Do you have poll watchers in every town?” he asked.
“Move them to your base. Every one.I'd do that.”
“Governor, his people are zombies. They show up, get coffee and
The Wall Street Journal
from those food trucks. They don't talk, don't make eye contact with my pamphleteers and after they vote they walk right to their cars. It's like a scene out of
The Stepford Wives
“I understand, Ann. We're experiencing a WASP revolution.”
“Can you call out the National Guard?”
“Please. I'd bring in TV cameras to every polling place. They hate publicity.”
“Get some TV cameras to Wellesley,” she barked to an aide.
“And I'll talk to Jim Estefan and see if we can discreetly gin up some turnout for you from independents on our list in the Third District.”
“Thanks, Governor. Publicity. I like it.”
The Governor pulled out the textbook he had written on quantum physics and read a chapter. He leaned back in his chair with a pad and made a sketch of a big old house on a big lot with a stream running by and then a narrow country road and put himself in it. Then he asked his secretary to get Stephen Rokeby on the phone.
Rokeby returned the call within minutes, figuring something big must be happening. The Governor hated having to do it.
“Well it seems you've got those six towns wrapped up, my friend. I don't know if you're going to win, but you know how to mobilize your base. And I'll say this, you've got one. I didn't think you did.”
“Thanks, Governor. I've got a base. And you're paying attention.”
“So come back in and let's talk about this, just the two of us.”
“Miranda should be there.”
“I don't know her well enough. This will be confidential.”
“I'll get back to you, Governor,” he said crisply and ended the call.
The Governor was stunned. Rokeby had never shown such independence with him.
“I want a full report on this race by 5:00,” the Governor said to Jim Estefan. “That means Internet posts, chatrooms, talk radio, everything.” Then he called his Secretary of Finance and told him to watch the bond market very closely for the rest of the day.
At 5:30 p.m., the evening voting rush began. The catering trucks, which had left after the morning rush, were back. Now they dispensed cups of lobster bisque and reprints of a
article about the theory of group dynamics. Nearly every voter stopped by as they went to the lines snaking out the doors of public buildings, around corners and promising at least a half-hour wait to vote. Foreboding clouds gathered. At 6:00 thunder and lightning filled the skies and heavy rain poured down. Those who didn't have umbrellas abandoned their bisque and fled, gathering on the perimeter of the buildings for shelter. Some sat in their cars. But they didn't drive away.
Ann Cronin-Reynolds juggled calls coming in on all four lines as well as her cell. The rain was depressing the already pathetic turnout in Framingham and Natick. They could only round up two TV cameras and Rokeby's people were threatening to call the police if they were turned on within five hundred feet of the polling places in Wellesley. She demanded more emails and text messages be sent to their supporters. But she was told they were furiously calling thousands of identified supporters already. She asked how many volunteers were making the calls and found out the number was twenty-seven. The get-out-the-vote operation was understaffed and dispersed throughout the district. Town coordinators were supposed to have received the list of supporters who had failed to vote two hours ago so they could be called. In some precincts of Natick and Southborough, the lists were never compiled. They were too shorthanded to cover all precincts all morning. In theory, there were no gaps; in reality the machinery was untested. She had never before run in a Congressional district, a sprawling group of twenty-four towns and three cities, some where she had no organization. She knew her four-town Senate district street by street. But this was being fought in a neutral zone. And then there were the snob-zoning towns where she was facing an open revolt. Her aides told her about the lobster bisque, which they believed was made with sherry, thereby violating a state law against possessing alcohol at polling places.
“Bisque!” she screamed while throwing a paperweight at the wall. “What is this, a tailgate party?”
Nobody had the nerve to answer her directly. Now, for the first time, she contemplated losing. What would she say? This was some sort of modern-day American Revolution of the top 1%? In liberal Massachusetts?
“They could never pull this off in the general. But in a primary with 20,000 voters.â¦”
Her voice trailed off, then snapped back.
“Get me the Governor again.”
He called her back a few minutes later, clearly obsessed with the race, hanging on every bit of news.
“What's the latest, Ann?”
“They're serving lobster bisque at the polls!”
“I thought it was scones and coffee.”
“No, it's dinnertime. We have a new menuâand it's from Legal Sea Foods.”
“Expensive. I love that bisque.”
“I'm serious, Governor.”
“We've send out some text messages to independents asking them to vote for moderation and experience in the primaries. People will know who that means.”
“You didn't mention me by name?”
“If I had it to do over, I'd have challenged Rokeby on this, called him a snob, an elitist, everything. He flew in under the radar. Unfuckingbelievable!”
“Not so easy to say when we need them to buy our bonds.”
“Fuck the bonds. And fuck you for not endorsing me.”
She hung up and ranted on to her aides about Rokeby forcing the Wellesley police to get the cameras out of the parking lots at the polling places.
“They really backed down! My people are total wimps!”
Ted McFarland made it back to Wellesley at 6:50, ten minutes before the polls closed. There were three people holding Rokeby signs in the parking lot of the junior high school. As he walked by he recognized one, Tim Delany, a man he actually respected, a partner in another major law firm.
“Tim, how long have you been out here?
“I didn't know you were a big Republican.”
“I'm an independent and I heard about this zoning bill. The real estate group at my firm sent out a memo to the partners. I'm sure you've heard about it.”
“I've heard, but it's not serious, is it?”
“It could happen. We know Rokeby. He's wired to the Governor.”
Ted was an independent who usually voted for the Democrats. But when the polling clerk asked which primary he wished to vote in, he looked around to make sure none of his friends were in the vicinity, and said “R.” Archer Dalton had told him a week ago he was voting for Rokeby because of the threat Miranda had whipped up. It just had to be done. He agreed. She would face her comeuppance very soon.
He went in and voted for Rokeby. There were a few other names on the ballot for other offices, none that he recognized, and he was back outside a minute later.
Minutes after the polls closed at 8:00, Ann Cronin Reynolds was handed the first results, from Framingham. She had beaten Rokeby by 3-1 but the turnout was only 1,500. That lead vaporized minutes later when Sherborn reported. He had beaten her there 2,610-322.
“Three thousand voted in Sherborn?” she asked incredulously. “How many voted there in the last presidential election?”
Her manager clicked his mouse.
“Two thousand eight hundred thirteen,” he said sheepishly.
“Oh my God, how does something like this happen? When have more people voted in a primary than a general?”
Miranda and Stephen sat side by side at her desk in his campaign office. When the Sherborn results came in he made a triumphant fist but did not utter a sound. That would have been unsportsmanlike.
“Very nice,” she said, “but I was hoping for 3,200.”
And then Dover and the rest came in by text messages from their coordinators, spectacularly, producing a 10,000-vote margin for him, exactly what he needed to winâif her turnout model was right. Turnout had to be light in the rest of the district for it to be enough. But then Wellesley came in with a 3,400-vote margin, 50% above her estimate. Yet as every other town reported, the margin fell and fell. At 9:30 it was down to 8,430. At 10:00 it was 7,100. At 10:20 with the working-class towns in eastern Worcester County, it was 6,160. When every precinct was counted, except for the absentee ballots, his lead was down to 3,130.
“Can we lose it?” he asked on a conference call with Julia Nickerson and their other town coordinators.
“Julia, what have you heard on the number of absentees in the rest of the district?” asked Miranda.
“There's just an average number. We're going to lose them 2â1.”
“Bottom line, she's got to get 90% of the absentees to win,” said Miranda. “We racked up enough to hang on. We won.”
“Time to declare victory?” asked Julia.
“We can declare victory,” said Miranda.
“Protocol says Ann is supposed to call and concede,” said Stephen.
“Let's give her an hour. Meanwhile, I've written a short statement,” Miranda said and swung around her computer screen so he could read it.
“The Republican primary voters have chosen me to represent them because I believe in property rights, one of the most basic freedoms we have in this country. Governmentâlocal, state and federalâneeds to be kept in check. I look forward to the general election campaign.”
Miranda thought that was non-controversial, reasonable, and might even sound like the typical political fluff that people tune out. Stephen had other ideas.
“That sounds like I'm going to keep on with the zoning fight. We both know it was meant to win the primary. Time to move on.”
“I can't believe you're saying this. You just pulled off an upset. You thank your base, for God's sake.”
“I'm not going out there and promise more class warfare. No way, Miranda. It's out of your hands now. Thanks for the strategy. Very ingenious.”
“I spoke to the Governor today. He's watching. I want to reach him with this message. Invite him to settle the zoning fight.”
“With you or with me?”
He didn't answer.
“You want to take control of this,” she said. “You want to freeze me out after using me.”
“Is this how you want to celebrate our victory? How crass, very un-Lincoln.”
“It's not your victory. It's mine. We both know that.”
She looked directly into his eyes for an acknowledgement, but he didn't flinch. After a moment she saw Ted's face and felt an overwhelming rage.
“I can't stand to be here anymore! You ingrate, you pathetic excuse for a leader!”
She gathered her things and left.
He was alone in his office. The staff was down the hall, their cheers overwhelming, almost deafening, the first moments of celebration in the entire campaign. They were told not to disturb him when Miranda was with him. But now she was gone, and he was disturbable, malleable and completely unsure of what to say or do with his victory.
Miranda crouched by the passenger side of Justin's Jeep and drew her Swiss Army knife. Justin was inside the office. She opened it and slashed the front passenger tire, heard the air escaping and hurried to her Range Rover.
Stephen and Justin entered the Jeep forty-five minutes later on their way to the victory party in Sherborn. Within seconds of putting the vehicle in reverse, Justin felt the thudding of the rolling flat. They got out and looked at it.
“You've got an enemy,” said Justin.
“Every politician does.”
He was too focused on the victory to give it further thought.
“I'll drive your car,” said Justin.
“Slowly,” said Stephen, “no tickets. We're not in a rush.”
“It's your party. People are there.”
“I need time.”
He called his father and told him he had won the primary.
“Oh Christ, you did?”
“It worked. The six towns turned out in record numbers. More people voted in Sherborn than the presidential election. Can you believe it?”
Harold wanted every scrap of information, the turnout, the raw numbers by precinct, the names of the reporters who were covering the campaign. When he had all the facts that Stephen had at his fingertips, he laughed, he cried and they reminisced about the time he was Attorney General.