While others dissect the big winners, disappointed losers and future policy implications of yesterday’s elections, I will simply offer the following analysis:
The Hammer endures.
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It was 1992, in Boston, and I was sharing a dorm room with a guy named Matt — a scion of the quiet farm country of central New York.
1992 was an election year, too. And one day a letter arrived for Matt, from a guy he’d never heard of.
The guy’s name was Mike Nozzolio. He was running for state Senate in the 54th District back home in New York. He’d mailed a form letter and flyer, hoping to attract Matt’s vote from afar.
We greeted the campaign missive — the flyer, particularly — with the irreverence we thought it deserved.
Nozzolio’s portrait was promptly decorated with warts, handlebar mustachios and worse. We gave him a new nickname that made us laugh: “The Hammer.”
And his campaign slogan — something innocuous about leadership or new vision or something — was slightly altered to become, “GUESS WHAT? MY BUTT!”
Matt and I posted the defaced flyer on our door, and the buzz from it continued to make us chortle every time we came back from class.
But Matt was a more thoughtful sort than his shaggy appearance suggested; and two or three days later, he began to have other ideas.
“You know what?” he said (and of course I’m paraphrasing here, as the hidden tape machines that record my every interaction with others were not installed until three years later). “I’m kinda honored that Mike Nozzolio went out of his way to write me and ask me personally for my vote. Dammit, I’m voting for Mike Nozzolio!”
Matt voted for Mike Nozzolio via absentee ballot. And Mike Nozzolio won — buoyed to victory, no doubt, by his unexpectedly strong performance in Suffolk County, Massachusetts.
It was a veritable feel-good story, a young man’s first participation in the political process, and I’m sure we toasted the news with one of the Domino’s pizzas we ate incessantly that year.
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Time’s path led me away from Matt (and central New York), and I didn’t think much about the Hammer for almost 15 years.
Then, in the summer of 2006, I went to a summer-league ballgame for college-age players in a funky old stadium in Geneva, N.Y. (I wrote about the place a year or two ago.)
And what should greet me like a long-lost friend, out in right-center field, but a billboard for State Senator Mike Nozzolio?
I was back at McDonough Park in Geneva in the summer of 2012. And so was The Hammer.
And only a month ago, I was in Seneca Falls, N.Y., to run a 5K road race, as briefly referenced in this recent post.
The course ended in a public park with several Little League fields. And there, on the outfield fence of one of the Little League fields, was a State Senator Mike Nozzolio sign. I didn’t get a pic, ’cause my phone was back in the car and I didn’t want to go get it, but I promise you it was there.
I’m a big baseball fan — as was Matt, who’d played first base for his high school team back in Phelps, N.Y. Nozzolio’s apparent fondness for baseball diamonds makes me more convinced than ever that Matt chose the right horse to back.
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Anyway, Mike Nozzolio ran for re-election this year in the 54th District. No longer the eager up-and-comer of 1992, he’s now so entrenched that he didn’t even have an opponent. Of course, he won handily.
Although an unopposed candidate doesn’t need to strain himself, Nozzolio is apparently still savvy enough to court distant voters. He logged 230 absentee ballot votes in Monroe County alone.
(I can’t tell you what those 230 people did with, or to, their Mike Nozzolio campaign flyers … only that they put his name on their ballots, which is what counts.)
I know nothing about the senator’s political stances, or about his performance in office. He could be taking envelopes with one hand and picking his nose with the other, for all I know.
It doesn’t matter. I think fondly of him anyway — both as a connection to my college years (and those connections are dwindling), and as a person who has dedicated a whole lot of years to public service.
There’s not a lot of glamour in the 54th District, which makes me imagine that Mike Nozzolio is most likely one of those career politicians who’s still in it for the right reasons.
A post-election toast, then, to the Hammer.
Long may he legislate.