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Kevin's Column

It's October in Ohio.

This means crisp leaves underfoot, fresh apple cider, first frosts, and last baseball games. Bright orange pumpkins glow like lanterns in the unfolding fields and kids dream of Halloween candy. It's a time of change, of reflection. October is the final third of the year, we can look at our long-forgotten resolutions of last January and, before it's too late, try to achieve some of them. Unfortunately, autumn also means elections.

What a way to spoil an otherwise splendid season. It's not that I'm against this important, vital function of democracy, but why put it in autumn? As I drive down a quiet country road seeking solace and unspoiled scenery, who really wants to see a "Rick Carne for Congress" sign or a "vote for Corky Combs Commissioner" billboard? These colorful campaign signs might actually be visually pleasing on a drab, gray January day when the leaves are bare and the ground is brown, but in the middle of October, they detract from the natural hues and splendor. Why can't we put elections in January? Or even August? Nothing exciting ever happens in August.

I once ran for office. It was the autumn of 2000 and I had a quirky notion that I could run for and win a state assembly seat in my corner of Ohio. After an autumn of endless fire department fish frys, VFW pork chop suppers, and Friday night football games, the November election finally arrived. With all the festivals and food, I gained 15 pounds and got clobbered by my opponent.

I thought that if I didn't win, I would at least come away with a new understanding of what drives people to run for political office. Such an understanding has eluded me, though. I love my "free time," time that I just putter around my apartment or get in my car and drive to destination unknown. If you're in politics whether it's the local school board or the state assembly or President your free time fizzles. I've seen township trustees with stacks of paper to pore through that would rival most Nobel scholars. And I doubt George W. Bush can ever just hop in his car, crank up the stereo and drive where he feels like. I'm glad we have people willing to forgo their freedom to enter politics. Still, I'm suspicious that legions of high quality candidates aren't willing to sacrifice their family and free-time for the endless hours of meetings, campaigning, and fund-raising needed to be a public servant. Not that there aren't some sterling representatives serving, but I think the current system keeps many of the best at home.

I'm not sure what came over me when I ran for office. Perhaps it was a spasm of altruism and activism that made me think I could make a difference in shaping society. But now as I pass the endless kaleidoscope of colorful campaign signs on county roads, I think I'm glad I lost the election. I can savor my free time, sip some cold autumn apple cider, enjoy the crunch of leaves under feet. No more hand-shaking and baby-kissing for me. Now if we can just get these elections moved to another month, we could all enjoy the unspoiled colors of autumn.

Kevin Williams is the editor of Oasis Newsfeatures. He knows better than to reveal what political party he was affiliated with in the 2000 election!