Candidates’ Night in Cooperstown is one of my favorite events. I’ve run for office four times, winning thrice, and nothing is better than fielding questions from concerned and interested residents of the Village and the surrounding area. In the last two years, the event has taken place in the magnificent Otsego County Courthouse, a beautifully crafted relic of a bygone era. The courtroom is high-ceiling with giant beams crisscrossing overhead. The judge’s bench stands regally high and the hard backed pews are behind a short barrier. The candidates sit at the lawyer tables, with chairs turned to face their inquisitors.
When I ran for Mayor in 2010 (and lost), the whole family came to watch. That was rare. Usually Karen would attend, and once Robbie did too. But running for Mayor was different from running for Village Trustee and they all wanted to be there to support me. Each nominee makes an opening statement. In 2010, there were two Mayoral candidates, four for Trustee and two for Village Justice. Each person said their piece in 3-5 minutes, but the Republican selection for Justice hadn’t arrived. Soon after this section of the program had ended, and right before question time, the GOP’er entered the room and was asked if he wanted to speak and, hurriedly, he made his way to where we all sat.
I didn’t realize Nate had left to go to the bathroom. I may have been speaking at the time and was distracted, because, to get to the Men’s Room, one has to cross along the side wall of the courtroom and pass through a door behind the judge’s station. I did notice when Nate returned.
Out of the corner of my left eye, I saw Nate walking slowly back. He was looking around, writing on his palm with his right index finger, scratching his chin and completely oblivious to what was happening around and in front of him. He cut a path by the table where the Republicans all sat, and passed in front of the justice candidate, inches from the man as he spoke.
The audience knew Nate; the speaker didn’t. He was taken aback, at a brief loss for words. Nate kept going and found his seat next to Karen.
I had to smile. It was a ridiculous moment, so serious for me and so meaningless for Nate. It gave me a great moment of pause. From the audience a friend said the expression on my face was an unforgettable mixture of bemusement and pride. No anger. No reason for it. It was Nate being Nate, regardless of the setting.