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Kevin Frisch: The campaign that never was ...

Kevin Frisch

I saw a story last week about a film being made based on the late and still-lamented Chicago Tribune columnist Mike Royko. What with pages fast flying off the election calendar, the item couldn’t help but remind me of the presidential campaign of 1992.

Let me explain.

Though history books don’t reflect it, Mr. Royko and I were briefly running mates for the nation’s top elective offices in 1992. A local reader, Patricia Arthur of Gorham, was the campaign manager. In fact, the entire campaign was her idea.

Like many voters of that time, Mrs. Arthur, who has since gone to her reward, was unimpressed with the major party candidates. Unlike many voters, instead of hitching her political wagon to the populist shooting star known as Ross Perot, she decided to form her own ticket.

I was alerted, sometime in the fall of 1992, of cars sporting bumper stickers reading “Mike Royko for President, Kevin Frisch for Vice President.” Or maybe it was just Mrs. Arthur’s car; I don’t know how many stickers she had printed up.

In late October, Mrs. Arthur wrote me concerning the campaign, enclosing a pair of the bumper stickers and a poem urging, “Campaign hard with all your might/And Dan Quayle will have to go fly a kite.”

What to do? Time was short, but when a segment of the electorate puts its faith in you — even if that segment is fairly small; say, just one voter — it’s clear you must answer the call.

With the debates over and no war chest, I got our message out as quickly and cheaply as possible: via a column.

“As vice presidential nominee on the Last Minute Ticket,” I wrote on the Sunday before Election Day, 1992, “here is where I stand on the issues:

“The economy: If you vote Royko-Frisch, I promise your taxes won’t go up. That’s a pledge: No new taxes. How can we make such a promise? Simple. Once in the White House, we’ll tax only those people who didn’t vote for us. ...

“Crime and drugs: We’re against them. We’ve done our research: No candidate has ever won a major election on a pro-crime and drugs platform.”

Sure, it sounded like a winning agenda. But when the votes were tallied, Royko-Frisch finished behind Clinton-Gore, Bush-Quayle, Perot-Whatsizname; even the Socialists and John Hagelin of something called the Natural Law Party beat us. In fact, we ended up with a total of zero votes.

This perplexed our campaign manager, who went to great pains to write in our names at the ballot box. Mrs. Arthur sought an explanation from the county Board of Elections.

“Can you tell me what went wrong?” she wrote on Dec. 9, 1992. “I promised Kevin I’d vote for him and I am sure he is heartbroken.”

Actually, by December I was pretty much over it.

The elections commissioner wrote Mrs. Arthur that we were victimized by New York State Election Law article 6-153, which requires write-in candidates to file certificates of candidacy by the third Tuesday before the election. As if candidates running on the Last Minute Ticket could meet a deadline like that!

On the bright side, I did get write-in votes that year for both U.S. Senate and state Supreme Court, so the campaign wasn’t a total loss.

And on Election Day, Mrs. Arthur bequeathed me her “Mike Royko for President” sweatshirt. I still have it.

It seems like just last week this all happened, but two two-term administrations have all but come and gone since that fall day. Pat Arthur and Mike Royko are at that Great Convention in the Sky.

Hopefully, they’ll let me campaign with them again when I get there.

Messenger managing editor Kevin Frisch’s column, Funny Thing... appears each Sunday in the Daily Messenger. Contact him at (585) 394-0770, Ext. 257, or via e-mail at kfrisch@messengerpostmedia.com.