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When everything isn't relative

October 26, 1998

One more week until the election. One more week until whether we know whether it will be the same old politicians carrying on business as usual, or a group of fresh new politicians carrying on business as usual.

Obviously, I am excited and can hardly wait.

Each election season has its memorable moments, and to me Election '98's crystallizing moment came last week in the form of a letter to the editor from the father of state delegate candidate Chris Shank, who wrote to deny any relation between his son and county commissioner John Shank.

Ouch.

I know Chris to be a fine person, so maybe he's just doing this in the interest of fairness - you know, doesn't want to be seen as taking unfair advantage by riding the incumbent's coattails to victory. That, or the question he was being asked when he went door to door was not "What is your position on gun control?" or "How would you balance high taxes against the needs of education?" but "Are you related to John Shank, because if you are, pigs will design atomic superconductors before you get my vote."

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John Shank, we remember, hasn't been the same since his development company took out the unfortunate advertisement bragging that homeowners could avoid the county's terrible water and sewer situation by locating in its subdivision.

The ad neglected to mention that as commissioner, J. Shank may have been partly responsible for that terrible sewer and water situation.

He's no more responsible for the mess than any other commissioner, so it's probably unfair that he has become the lightning rod for sewer malaise among the public. And do we really want to go the extent of such public distancing? Well, maybe we do. Shortly after the letter ran, I got a call from a friend who also wanted it to be known that he was not related to John Shank.

"But your last name is ..."

"Doesn't matter," he said. "People might think I'm an in-law."

Perhaps he is right, but this worries me that we may see a line of people waiting to proclaim they are no relation to John Shank. It will be like that night at the Suns game where you got in cheap if you said you weren't running for county commissioner. Bat night, fireworks night and not-related-to-John-Shank night.

We may have political campaign ads: "If elected I will cut taxes, improve education and eliminate crime. Oh, and I am no relation to John Shank."

"The only thing we have to fear are people who are related to John Shank."

"Ich bin ein Berliner, nein John Shank."

For the, uh, record, I am no relation to John Shank. I also am not a godparent of Alex Mooney; I am not a poker buddy of Ron Bowers, nor have I attended a Led Zeppelin concert with Marie Byers.

Hey wait, Bowers/Byers - you don't suppose... no, what ever am I thinking.

But we do have other complications this election. Who will be the first to write in, Mary Kline or Robert Kline?

Will F. Lee Bailey weigh in to assure us that he is no relation to Paul?

What's even more odd about this is that it is such burdensome, tar-and-gravel work to find two people in Washington County who aren't related. Toss out anyone's name and you're bound to hear those three little words that make this county so warm and endearing: "He's my cousin."

And if he's not - well, he just "ought to go back to (fill in the location) where he came from."

In Washington County anyone can be Rain Man and memorize the phone book. You only have to burden yourself with remembering about eight names.

Heck, there are about two pages of Rowlands alone. Of course, I'm not related to any of them.




Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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