Oh boy. Another anniversary is on the horizon—and another thirty-year marker. November 7, 1978 was election day in Connecticut, the conclusion of my breakthrough campaign for governor of that state—the most rock & roll campaign in state history.
I've previously mentioned the auspicious beginning of my candidacy. My independent campaign had picked up speed later that summer when I encouraged David Sewall to run with me for Attorney General.
We had crossed paths in college a dozen years earlier (in Astronomy class to be exact) and knew immediately that we were destined for greatness together. I was an Ancient Greek major and he a Music Theory major, so it was obvious even then that we could be a powerful political team with a practical grasp of the burning issues of the day.
As it turned out, the campaign was a huge success in nearly every way. With David's support I took on the controversial topic of driving safety—a third rail issue that most candidates wouldn't touch—along with a pledge to lower the drinking age. My support for these issues together was considered groundbreaking—if not confusing—to a sleepy electorate, slowly waking up to a new force in local politics.
Now I should point out I didn't technically win the election. The incumbent, Ella Grasso, somehow managed to pull it out by a mere 189,000 votes, but I nevertheless finished a surprisingly strong fourth, from write-in votes alone. (For years many of my bar-dwelling constituents assumed I had won so I never had to pay for a drink in New Haven for a decade.)
The campaign proved to be an important source of entertainment that season, especially for the Connecticut news media which had endured insufferable boredom covering local politics up until then. It marked the end of an era when Connecticut candidates had to be informed about issues, including boring statistics and numbers.
I exemplified a new breed of candidate, one who transcended knowledge, information, and—some would say—character, in order to demonstrate a more detached, what-me-worry approach to campaigning. I was proud to be a candidate whose mind remained uncluttered and unbiased by facts.
Since then, of course, there have been many political aspirants—including one I can think of who's currently in the national headlines—who have meticulously copied my blueprint for success.
The most memorable highlight of the campaign was election night itself.
It was the thrill of a lifetime to watch election returns at my makeshift campaign headquarters in the New Haven Diner, where I staked-out a booth and set up my portable tv.
All my campaign workers were there giving me encouragement and support, and I returned the favor (and zeroed-out the campaign budget) by buying drinks for both of them.
After it became obvious that I would not be unseating the incumbent governor, I headed to the local nightclub, Toad's Place, to celebrate my moral victory in the most moral environment I could find.
I was soon joined by Brian May and Roger Taylor of the rock band Queen, who no doubt were looking for some uplifting political dialogue at Toad's Place after their sold-out concert at the New Haven Coliseum that night. (This is quite common for bands on road, who are often on the prowl for late-night intellectual stimulation.)
I don't remember much of that evening (don't draw the usual conclusions from that—it's been thirty years), but I do recall Brian and Roger being appropriately honored at the privilege of celebrating a major campaign triumph with a candidate for governor who also happened to be a veteran rock musician. (It's quite possible that given my ebullient spirits they had assumed I had won. I didn't dare dampen their enthusiasm by telling them otherwise.)
After that night I decided to go into political seclusion, only to emerge two years later as an independent candidate for US President—in a stunning political comeback that rivaled that of my hero—the late, great Richard Nixon. More on that rock & roll campaign in a later post.