|Austin Petersen and Aya Katz in Licking, MO|
April 21, 2018
Photo Credit: Marie Lasater
This was not my first Lincoln Day event. In years past, my friend Marie Lasater invited me to attend and introduced me to Sheriff Mack, who was the keynote speaker that year.
|Brad North, Marie Lasater. Sheriff Mack, another lady and myself.|
April 14, 2014
At the time, back in 2014, I was a volunteer for the Sheriff Mack team, and I received a free ticket to the Lincoln Day event. This time I was going there on my own, and I was not even sure I would be able to catch up to Austin before he had to leave for his other event scheduled for that evening, Lincoln Day in Wright County.
Feeling that the odds were against me, on my way to Licking I sang part of Filk of Felix to myself.
I had written the lyrics to this filk song back in 1984 soon after the publication of John Steakley's Armor. I had had to crash a party at a science fiction con to show it to him. But Steakley is dead now. He passed away in 2010. And the fight continues. And luckily, I could tell right away when I arrived at the Licking High School parking lot that Austin Petersen was still there.
In fact, while most of the people were sitting at tables in the high school gymnasium and waiting for the ceremonies to begin, I spotted Austin on the sidelines, standing by bleachers. He recognized me at once as I approached. "Oh, hi, Aya!" I let him know that I had just now arrived, and he led me to one of the tables and said: "Let's sit here." And he sat right beside me, introducing me to Matthew Mahler, who was serving as his driver this week. Mahler offered me an Austin Petersen shirt, which I gladly accepted.
Austin and I talked a little about the current situation. Governor Eric Greitens was slated to make an appearance at this event, but would be leaving for Wright County as soon as his speech was over. As long as all the speeches proceeded either right before or right after the Governor's speech, each of the candidates could afford to stay and make them. They were all going to be late for the Wright County event, but if they kept the same schedule as the Governor, they could all be able to make both events.
"We're all going to be late to the Wright County Lincoln Day, but it's okay, as long as we arrive at the same time."
|Clipping from the Licking News|
About then, Marie Lasater came by our table and offered to take our picture together. She was working the room with a big, professional camera. I introduced Marie to Austin as our County Coroner and the Editor-in-Chief of the Licking News. Austin thanked her publishing that piece the I wrote endorsing him. Marie said she was glad to, and that he had her support. Then we reminisced about the campaign of 2012 when both Marie and I were fighting for Ron Paul's candidacy at the County Convention.
Marie noted that the other candidate hoping for the Senate nomination, Attorney General Josh Hawley, was not there at our event.
"Oh, he can't come," Austin said with a smile. "Greitens has a restraining order against him. So as long as the Governor attends this event, Hawley can't."
The Missouri Republican Party is embroiled in a number of bizarre scandals at the moment, and even though the Attorney General and the Governor are both Republican, you would not know that they were allies from the current situation.
Then came the pledge and the invocation and the singing of the National Anthem, and we were told in what order we should go and claim our dinner At this Austin go up and hurried to stand in the reception line. All the candidates who there stood en route to the food, and they shook the hands of each person passing through, engaging them in a cursory political pitch. Those candidates who could not be there -- say, because there was a restraining order keeping them away -- were represented by an attractive proxy. The governor had not yet arrived, but was expected later.
When my turn came to go through the reception line, I was a little oblivious to what the goal was. I told the pretty lady canvassing for another senate candidate that I was voting for Austin Petersen, and she smiled and nodded. I was expecting to see Jason Smith, our congressman, but he did not seem to be there at the moment. There were a number of people who were running for state offices. One of them was very enthusiastic and wanted to talk.
"Hi, my name is Paul Curtman, I am running for Missouri State Auditor. Can I count on yout vote?" He shook my hand.
"Well, what does a state auditor do?"
"We just go through the books of every state agency, and if we find any discrepancies, then we will try to get new laws passed to correct the problem."
"You mean, every time you find that somebody has made an error in arithmetic, you'll pass a new law?
"Well, no. Not every time. I mean, if it was a genuine mistake, and, yes, sometimes people make honest mistakes, then no. But if we find it was part of a scheme to commit fraud..."
"But aren't there enough laws about fraud?"
Curtman started to answer, but just then Austin swooped in and gave me a big hug, so big that I could see nothing more, I was so engulfed in his embrace. "Aya, you're great! You're the best," he said and gently moved me along down the chow line.
Apparently, we had been holding up the reception line, and Austin very tactfully repaired that. He did this so gently that nobody's feelings were hurt. I was glad to be out of that discussion, anyway. The only reason I was talking to Curtman was that he was talking to me, but I just did not know how to stop. Reception lines confuse me at weddings and funerals, too.
After I finished eating, I noticed that all the important people were leaving the gymnasium and going out into the parking lot, as were some obvious plain clothes security, who had earphones connected to wires that led into their suits.
I saw Austin standing with Matt by their bus, but just then Marie came out and engaged me in conversation. "Everyone is waiting for the governor to arrive," she said. "Don't worry, we won't miss anything, because nothing is going to happen until he gets here. And we'll see him when he comes in." So we kept talking about county politics and local gossip, until I started to notice that all the other people who had been standing in the parking lot weren't there, anymore. There was an unusual hush in the air. It was like that moment in the forest when all the birds stop chirping.
"Marie, are you sure the governor doesn't have some other way into the building? Because I have a feeling he's already here."
"Let me check," she said and asked a couple of police officers who were still out there. "Yeah, he's inside," she confirmed.
So in we went. I took out my phone and asked Austin if he would like me to livestream his talk. He said "yes, but wait," because the governor would be talking first. So I kept it on standby. The governor's speech was very upbeat. It was mostly about how the economy of Missouri had improved since regulations had been cut down. He barely mentioned anything at all about the controversy surrounding him, except to say he had to remain strong despite any attacks that may come. He received great applause and a standing ovation.
And then one by one, other people spoke. Our state representative Robert Ross gave a talk. Another candidate for State Auditor, Saundra McDowell, said she was the right person for the job because she was better than the Democratic incumbent, Nicole Galloway, in every way: by her auditing experience working in the Attorney General's Office, by her military service as a medic, and by the fact that she had five children, while her Democratic opponent only had three. Whatever her opponent did, McDowell could do better, including producing children faster -- two sets of twins in three pregnancies. She said that since the incumbent was a woman, it would be good to run another woman against her who could best her at everything. I was trying to wrap my mind around this argument.
"What time is it, Aya?" Austin, sitting beside me asked. I flicked on my cell phone so he could see. It was around 6:30. The event was supposed to be over at seven,
One by one, various candidates, some of them quite local, were asked to speak, but not Austin Petersen. And then there was going to be some entertainment.
"Let's go!" Austin said, and he and Matt bounded off toward the exit. They went out into the parking lot. I followed them at a run.
"Austin! Aren't you going to speak?'
"Not this time," he said. "But it doesn't matter. We've accomplished the greater goal."
I was disappointed and upset, but I asked if I could take a picture with him by the bus. Even though he was obviously in a rush to get to Wright County, he graciously took the time to pose with me.
I watched the freedom bus pull away, and I wondered whether I should just go home, but I decided to stick it out. I went back inside, and there was a ballet in progress. And then there was some singing. And after that the political speeches resumed. They even called Austin up to speak, mispronouncing his name, and when I told them he had left, the announcer said: "Austin has left the building."
If they had only been willing to schedule Austin's speech before the ballet, he could have addressed the Republican Party of Texas County. But somebody thought the ballet should come first -- somebody high up in the local party.
|Marie Lasater with Governor Eric Greitens|
|Greitens posing for photos|
I picked up my mail, bought groceries, and all the way home, I sang Filk of Felix.
If you would like to learn more about Austin Petersen and contribute to his campaign, check out this link: