How the votes of 14 people (maybe) made a difference


February 23, 2021...Ellen Duffy-Gough and her husband had just voted. Yes, her husband's hat is crooked.

One year ago today, I spent most of the day in the basement of Tower Pizza and Mexican.

For the record, I waited until Happy Hour to begin imbibing. Also, for the record, I imbibed heavily later on.

That basement is also a room where private parties are held and it was where I was helping a group of dedicated friends and volunteers on Paul Havermale’s mayoral campaign in the city’s Republican primary. I had been checking polling places, making calls, doing what you do when you are helping run a campaign.

As night fell in Quincy, I didn’t really have a feel for it. I was confident in the last campaign I had helped on a year earlier, the March 17, 2020 primary that went on just as the pandemic began.

But this one…no gut feeling at all.

As returns came in, certain precincts looked good and some others seemed to fall short. We knew we would be getting a strong crossover vote from Democrats who had worked with and supported Paul previously, but didn’t know if that would be enough.

We also knew our opponent had outspent our campaign by nearly a 4-to-1 margin. Now, I had been on the other end of the money tree in previous campaigns, so I really couldn’t complain about that.

I did the math (which I shouldn’t do) and it looked like a win. Then I redid it. A loss. Then I had someone who was much more proficient in math do it again.

The difference: 26 votes.

Then we waited for the official tally from the County Clerk. It didn’t change.

Mike Troup won that race with 1,708 votes while Havermale came away with 1,682. Add in the roughly 1,000 people who pulled Democrat ballots that day and you had 4,470 people who took the time to vote on a cool, sunny February day for Quincy’s mayor.

And while we can bemoan horrible turnouts until we’re blue in the face, a razor thin margin is what it is regardless of turnout.

Then, on April 6, 2021, nearly 61 percent of the barely more than 6,000 people who voted chose Troup to be Quincy’s next mayor over Nora Baldner.

If 14 more people had chosen Havermale instead of Troup one year ago today, there’s a chance I’m not sitting in this room, typing this piece and running Muddy River News. Maybe, I’m running for office. Maybe, I’m working for the city. Maybe, I’m running political campaigns on a regular basis. Maybe, I’m back in Springfield.

But about a month before the primary, Jim Rapp had asked me if I had given any thought about getting back into the news business. I had been approached in Fall 2020 by another party on the same topic, but Jim was very interested and I just wanted to wait and see how the mayoral campaign shook out.

And the morning after a gut-wrenching defeat, Jim Rapp called and asked if I was ready to go to work.

I said I needed time.

A few days later, he and Mike Kinscherff made the offer to fully back the startup of a new online news outlet.

So we needed a name. We didn’t want to use “Hannibal” or “Quincy”. We wanted to appeal to the region as a whole. Mike came up with Muddy River News.

I went domain name shopping and 10 months later, here we are.

And here to stay.

J. Robert Gough is the publisher/general manager of Muddy River News

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