Decision time

I had a last-minute let’s-get-together-for-dinner party at my house last Saturday night.  (I made pork loin — buy the KSIB Creston Radio 50th anniversary cookbook to get my recipe).  As my college chum Jean sat perched on one of the bar stools along the kitchen counter, she said one of her friends had asked her for advice on who to vote for next Tuesday.  .

Jean wanted to know if I had any advice.  So, here’s my advice for those of you who haven’t seen a debate, haven’t met one of the candidates, and haven’t a clue about how you’re going to vote.  Go to an "opinion leader" in your life, in your neighborhood, in your community.  This could be a person you see tomorrow in church.  It could be the person you’re sitting beside at the high school play-off football game on Monday night.  It could be a co-worker, or a life-long friend or the owner of the hardware store.  Pick somebody whose opinion you respect (and who you suspect has been following the race) and ask them how they’re going to vote and why. 

I’ve heard these kind of conversations before.  I grew up in a small town in southwest Iowa and looking back on my childhood, I’m pretty sure my dad was one ot those opinion leaders. Guy Porter Henderson (1913-1994) was a politically active farmer.  He was 51 years old when I was born on Election Day 1964 and after my early morning arrival at the hospital in Creston, he drove back to Lenox to count the ballots being cast that day at the high school gym.  As a child I remember people starting sentences with something like "Guy, what do you think…" and they’d ask about a candidate, or some political happening.  I’m sure some of them talked politics with my dad because they knew it was a subject of great interest to him, but I suspect others were asking for his opinion, weighing it along with others, as they made their voting decision.

Former State Representative Horace Daggett attended my dad’s funeral in November of 1994 and spoke to me afterwards.  Daggett had served decades in the Iowa House and that day he wanted me to know my dad had been one of the main reasons he won election the very first time.  I expressed surprise, because my dad hadn’t been a Daggett campaign manager or anything like that.  I didn’t even remember Daggett signs in our yard during all the years that Daggett represented the area (although my dad did carry a red pocket comb with "Vote for Horace Daggett" in white lettering along the top).  Daggett explained that when he ran for the legislative seat for first time, very few people in Lenox knew him so my dad walked around town with the candidate, introducing Daggett to folks.  "I got all but two votes in Lenox that election," I remember Daggett telling me.  That margin, Daggett explained, had made the difference because in that first election Daggett had lost other towns and ran very even in other areas of the district.    

People often ask me who they should vote for, and I decline to offer that kind of advice.  Ask that opinion leader in your life instead.  And Jean, old college chum of mine, the reason that friend asked you who she should vote for is because you are the "opinion leader" she turned to when decision time drew near.

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.


  1. Todd Henderson says

    Kay, You hit the nail on the head. That is exactly the type of person to person retail politics that makes our First in the Nation Caucus so important. Not only is it an affordable campaign tactic, but it is also the most compelling reason to vote for someone you may not already know about. We all have peers that we trust (sometimes two) and when in doubt ask them what their take is on a particular issue or candidate. Remember, the only thing worse than a non-voter is an uniformed one.
    By the way, I still think its cool that you were born on election day.

  2. Todd,
    When my nieces and nephews were little, they were aghast that I had to work on my birthday, as every once in a while it falls again on Election Day. One niece even wrote an essay in elementary school about how her goal when she became an adult was to land a job in which she did not have to work on her birthday. Now that she’s an adult, I should check in March when her birthday rolls around to see if she’s at her work site, or galavanting around in celebration of her day.
    Also, just to be clear to everyone else reading this blog: Todd and I have know one another for years, we have the same last name, but we are not related.