I was a seventeen-year-old, trombone-playing band geek when George H. W. Bush was elected president of the United States in 1988. In the eight previous years, the benefits of Ronald Reagan’s “trickle-down economics” never managed to trickle-down to the Naughton family of Hannibal, Missouri, so I was less than enthusiastic about the prospect of entering adulthood with the Gipper’s vice-president continuing the failed policies of his predecessor. That’s when I decided to run for president.
The first order of business, naturally, was to design a campaign button and affix it to my band letter jacket, which was adorned with dozens of medals and ribbons that I had earned for my various music-related accomplishments. The button’s message was simple and to the point: “Naughton for President in 2008”. And it looked awesome perched opposite of the “You’ve got something stuck between your teeth” button also pinned to my jacket’s lapel.
The 2008 presidential election would be the first in which I would be old enough to run. In the interim, I planned to serve in a few lesser offices until I met the age requirement threshold of 35 years. I won my first election handily, in 1989, when I successfully campaigned to become president of the Hannibal High School student council.
My one-year term as president was a memorable one. I had delivered on all my campaign promises: Preferred parking for seniors, soda machines in study hall, and a jukebox in the cafeteria. Oh, and I also staged a mock assassination attempt while introducing the student council officer candidates for the following year. Long before anyone had ever conceived of the horrors of school shootings, I enlisted a few close friends to pose as my secret service detail who exchanged fire (using cap guns) with another friend who “shot” at me from his seat in the auditorium. The gunfire was fake, but the screams coming from the hundreds of terrified students and teachers was very real. The principal later congratulated me for a good show. It was a different world back then.
I enrolled at the University of Missouri as a political science major, but my interest in inebriation superseded my interest in politics. The last office I held was rush chairman for the fraternity I co-founded. I fashioned myself after the character “Otter” from the movie “Animal House.” Unsurprisingly, our Theta Xi house and the fictional “Delta House” suffered an eerily similar demise.
Regular readers of this column will note that my interest in politics is still strong despite the long and winding detour I have been on for the last few decades. Nevertheless, I have never been able to convince myself to run for office. Obviously, I have made some questionable choices over the years, many of which should disqualify me from holding a public post. Then again, if serial misogynists like Donald Trump and Klansmen like David Duke can get elected to high office, then surely a family man/ jug band instrument maker/ substitute teacher/ ordained minister/ high school football announcer/ small town newspaper columnist who made a few bad decisions in the first half of his life can, too.
I think I have found the perfect opportunity to throw my hat in the political ring. It has been discovered only recently that the state of Kansas has no laws on the books regarding the eligibility of candidates seeking the office of governor. There are no stated requirements written anywhere that forbid anyone or anything from becoming governor of the Sunflower State. In fact, several teenagers who are still too young to vote have formally entered the 2018 gubernatorial race, much to the chagrin of the grownups currently in charge. It is surmised that even dogs and cats would be eligible to run, if they could somehow submit the proper paperwork.
To the embarrassment of every Jayhawker, there is also no provision in place requiring candidates to reside in the state. Yes, even Missouri’s border warrior William Quantrill, the man who burned Lawrence to the ground, could run for governor of Kansas if he were alive today.
In light of these revelations, there exists an opportunity for yours truly to run for governor of Kansas. Should I decide to enter the race, I will make only two campaign promises: If elected, I will immediately sign an executive order renaming the state “God-Forsaken.” Then I will dissolve the men’s basketball program at KU and rename Allen Fieldhouse “Norm Stewart Indoor Stadium.”
Stewart Stadium. Governor Naughton. Maybe it’s time to make a new campaign button.