It's endorsement time — ballots for the primary election here in Oregon get mailed tomorrow — and newspapers are putting out their endorsements, as well as printing page after page of stories, interviews and viewpoints on who's running and what we think of them. Sometimes the backstory is more fun than the endorsements.
Like when a karaoke-singing climate change denying Senate candidate calls out a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist for writing "blah blah blah in his notebook." (And yes, good reporters still take notes).
EW's recs on who you should cast your ballot for will come out in next week's paper, but Portland's Willamette Week published its endorsements yesterday. Today, media blogger Jim Romenesko calls attention to what some might call a gaffe by Pulitzer Prize-winner Nigel Jaquiss during a lengthy endorsement interview.
I don't call it a gaffe, I call it what we all want to write when a politician drones on and on and on.
Blah, blah, blah, blah.
Republican Senate candidate Jo Rae Perkins was on the phone rambling on (you can watch the whole thing here, or just start at around 1 hour and 6 minutes in, aka the fun part). Perennial candidate Mark Callahan was sitting across the table from Jaquiss and angrily pointed out that he could see what Jaquiss was doing:
"I see what you’re writing down there. You just wrote down 'blah blah blah blah' for everything that Jo Rae said. Jo Rae is a respectful woman. Why are you not respecting her by writing 'blah blah blah blah' in your notepad?"
Callahan, still grumbling about Jaquiss' notes settles down enough to move on to the next question, which was about climate change. “It’s a myth,” he says.
Jaquiss, who was already winning with the blah blah thing, then mildly asks, "Where are you on the Easter Bunny?"
Callahan, who had previously been called out for his behavior earlier in the interview, then begins to angrily object to the question and to what he calls a lack of respect. The moderator then tells him he has had two strikes and will be asked to leave. "Who do you think you are?" he asks Willamette Week.
"This is neither a fair nor balanced meeting," he's told, as it's pointed out to him this is an endorsement interview. Callahan calls WW disrepectful thin-skinned liberals before announcing he has better things to do with his time and leaving.
Willamette Week did not endorse Callahan in the Republican primary, instead the Portland alt weekly endorsed Oregon Right-to-Life candidate Jason Conger, which as they say, is a whole 'nother issue. Conger tells Willy Week that he doesn't really have a firm conviction either way on the "climate change debate." He calls both sides "incredible."
EW hasn't covered Callahan's many campaigns very much (and I'm pretty sure we won't be endorsing any climate change deniers) but we did cover his karaoke singing in some detail back in 2010 in a story by Rick Levin when Callahan was running for Lane County Commissioner.
At the more uplifting end of the karaoke spectrum is the story of Eugene native Mark Callahan, who sang Billy Idol’s “White Wedding” the same night I butchered Tom Petty. Callahan, a graduate of Sheldon High School and OSU, is in his early 30s, married, with two young daughters. What makes him remarkable, and perhaps unique, as a karaoke singer is that he flies completely solo — meaning that, instead of making karaoke a social outing, Callahan chooses to go to the bar alone, stay sober as a jaybird and sing as many songs as he can get in.
Callahan says he was introverted as a kid, and though he outgrew his shyness in college, he doesn’t consider himself an exhibitionist. In fact, his Saturday night outings provide him with a means of overcoming, via karaoke, any lingering social anxieties. “This has actually really helped me to build up my confidence. I actually used to have a kind of nervousness talking in front of people,” he says.
“I think I just want to be more open,” says Callahan, noting that he usually feels pretty good upon finishing a song. “It’s almost like coming down off some kind of high. It’s almost like pure joy.”
And here’s the corker: Callahan recently tossed his hat in the ring for Lane County Commissioner, vying in the District 2 slot being vacated in November by Bill Dwyer. Callahan considers entering politics to be a natural evolution of his upbringing in the Boy Scouts, an organization that acted “like a surrogate father” after his parents divorced. The Scouts, he says, proved that making a difference in people’s lives is both desirable and possible.
Is it too much of a stretch to conclude that, for Callahan, the challenge of singing karaoke gave rise to a desire for political office? Why not? Just as Kennedy’s cathode-charismatic crushing of a perplexed, pasty-faced Nixon during the 1960 presidential debate ushered in the era of televised politics, could Callahan be a harbinger — our first karaoke commissioner?
“The main reason I do [karaoke] is to be up in front of people,” Callahan says. “If I can combine that confidence with my desire to help people, I think that’s going to work out good for me.”