I was in seclusion when I got the call. (Online) classes had just ended for the (digital) semester, and I wasn’t sure where my burgeoning (if stalled) career might be headed. A couple of weeks earlier, I had put out some feelers in the form of queries regarding various angles on the upcoming governor’s race. It was an election year and Gonzo journalism was in the air. My last published piece, a gripping exposé on our state’s new Revenge Porn law, had been received with near universal acclaim.
I was certain that it was no coincidence that I’d completed my studies just as our state was about to engage in an epic gubernatorial election, the likes of which had not been seen in decades. It was destiny calling on the telephone and its voice was deep and surly.
“Ringo, this is Tokars, you still interested in doing something on the governor’s race?” he asked, the once familiar sound of barroom gaiety in the background. Engrossed in higher learning, I hadn’t been to a tavern in months.
Mike Tokars, the editor of The Local ARTery and I haven’t always seen eye to eye. Nevertheless, I knew I’d have to pile up some more serious clips before I could hope to climb the ladder from A&E staff reporter to political pundit, and this mag had been talking about doing some Rock the Vote sort of election coverage geared toward the millennial crowd.
“Definitely!” I almost screamed, before dialing it down, as not to seem too desperate. “I haven’t heard back yet about getting added to the press pool for the Scott or Crist campaigns, but properly credentialed, I’m sure it won’t be a problem.”
“Yea, that’s not exactly what I had in mind buddy,” he said hesitantly, as chuckles seemed to come from those around him. “We’ve been tasked with profiling the, um … lower tier candidates for the upcoming primaries. You know, equal time sort of thing.”
That’s right! Nan Rich, a plucky former state legislator with serious liberal bona fides was going to be on the ballot against Crist in the Democratic primary. Crist, a former Republican governor, had been ducking her in every proposed debate. She was in a position to dampen the enthusiasm of her party’s base and as such, they weren’t letting her anywhere near good old Chain Gang Charlie. Democrats have notoriously bad mid-term turnout and Crist was facing a hefty fundraising deficit to boot. His campaign couldn’t afford questions about the conservative bills he’d signed into law as governor. Did they need Dr. Khan to shine a light on the hypocrisy of it all?
“I’ve already started putting a dossier together on Nan Rich,” I said confidently. “I could have 2,300 words ready by noon tomorrow.”
He paused as if to consider my new-found fortitude.
Yinka Adeshina (we think)
“Right, yea that’s not exactly what I had in mind either. We’ve got someone on Rich and even the lady from Sarasota who’s running against Scott, but there’s another Republican candidate, and she’s raised some serious dough. We wanna know more about her. Her name is Yinka Adeshina.”
“Of course, I … a … figured as much,” I stammered, trying to hide the embarrassment I felt by not knowing that. “I’m on it.”
“Good, I need it by noon Monday. That gonna be a problem?”
“Of course not,” I assured him. “In terms of my rate though, I think I mentioned in my query that I’ve completed some advanced education and thought perhaps a bump of …”
“Right,” he said with a sigh. “Look Doctor, it’s gonna have to be the standard freelance rate. There’s nothing in the budget for um … bumps.”
“Very well,” I said with confidence. “I’m sure the piece will speak for itself and then we can talk about sweetening the pot next time out.”
The phone clicked and I pulled up the browser on it to Google Yinka. She was running alright, and she’d somehow managed to raise some serious cash for the cause. According to the state election supervisor’s site, she’d taken in $182,000 in contributions and while that was less than half of what Rich had brought in, the only other primary candidate, former Sarasota School board candidate Elizabeth Cuevas-Neunder, had only raked in a little over a thousand clams. Considering she faced an incumbent governor from her own party, Yinka’s haul seemed nothing short of miraculous.
Who was this mystery woman with the exotic name and big bank account? I had to put a face to the name and a story to the face. It was the sort of assignment a young-ish, up and coming political journalist hungers for and a long one-on-one interview seemed just what the situation called for, though I had little confidence that the Fiero could manage the trip north, its new water pump and left front rotor notwithstanding.
Yinka’s filing info said she lived in Tallahassee but best I could tell, she had virtually no campaign apparatus. How was she getting so much dough? I wondered. I figured I’d start with her donor list. As someone once told me, “If you want to know what a politician stands for, find out who’s signing their campaign checks.”
I didn’t recognize any of the names, so I began checking the addresses on Google Maps. Some of the addresses didn’t even exist, others were for big block stores; one was even a cemetary. The candidate grew more interesting by the moment. She didn’t seem to be getting much media attention, despite her impressive campaign war chest, but I wasn’t ready to write her off just yet. Remember, it was only six years prior that another unlikely candidate with an uncommon name who’d been given no chance at winning shocked the world and took the White House. Surely more than a few political journalists had made their electoral bones on that bandwagon. Yinka could be my ticket to the top.
As far as a website, all I could find was some sort of generic template that I thought couldn’t possibly be the official campaign site, so I started trying various social media networks. When I saw that she didn’t have a Facebook page or Twitter account I made plans to switch from Independent to Republican and give her my vote, as I found her refusal to digitally assimilate a very attractive leadership quality.
With precious few resources at my disposal (Tokars had explicitly warned that I would not be reimbursed for any accrued expenses), I had to get creative, so I called on some Tallahassee connections to start scouring their match.com accounts to see if they could match someone with the lone photo of her I could find. Again, no luck — as if a woman of Yinka’s ilk would all by her lonesome.
With nowhere left to turn, I went back to the website. On the surface, the little bit of text it contained seemed like gibberish, but perhaps I wasn’t seeing the forest for the trees. At second glance, it still seemed, at best, like bad poetry but at the same time, almost cryptic, and I thought perhaps there were some clues hidden within.
“We hope you can find everything you need.” Sarcasm?
“Yinka Adeshina for Governor 2014 is focused on providing high quality service and customer satisfaction - we will do everything we can to meet your expectations.” Tongue in cheek commentary on the corporate nature of our state government?
“With our compassion and dedication you will be happy you voted for us. Look around our website.” A biting comment on the empty rhetoric of her opponent’s campaign?
“Imagine a new world with no pain and anguish. Strong, yet tender. Friends, live long, but enemies die young.” Was this a death threat on Governor Scott, perhaps a nod toward a more dictatorial but just society? Yinka offers you her protection?
The bottom of the page had three windows which seemed to spell out the candidate’s personal creed:
Rays of hope and head coverings. Leading into the future with determination and accuracy.
Hand in hand we stand, with love that has no end. Brother and sister, joined together in love.
Carefree innocence. Light hug. Plentitude (sic) of meals and fellowship. Together in sisterhood.
The “blog” “photo album” and “merchandise” tabs were blank, but via her bio page I learned that Yinka is a pharmacist and believes, “The key is an informed adult, is a helpful Citizen.” I’m not sure what that means but it’s hard to argue against, if only for that reason.
She closes it out with an equally mysterious final statement: “With the highest levels of personal assistance, Yinka is making an impact in her satisfaction & we will do everything we can to meet your expectations.”
Suffice it to say that Yinka Abosede Adeshina is a riddle inside of an enigma wrapped up in a conundrum. Even my vast education in new age philosophy couldn’t prepare me to interpret her platform, yet promises of “carefree innocence”, “rays of hope” and “head coverings (fedoras anyone?)” seem to be much more than either Scott or Crist are offering.
I showed up at the office a full hour ahead of deadline, story in tow and a smile on my face. Tokars looked confused when I handed it to him.
“What is this Ringo?”
“The gubernatorial story,” I said with equal incertitude.
“What are you talking about, and Jesus, who files in hard copy, it’s 2014?”
“It’s my assignment, the story on that Yinka character who’s running for governor,” I said loudly.
“What the …? You wrote an actual piece on it? It was a joke Ringo? Me and the guys were at Motorworks when I called. We were blotto. Someone had seen something about her campaign, and we were wondering if it was like some sort of complex practical joke. I said it in jest.”
I was livid!
“WHAT???? Do you know how much work that constitutes,” I screamed, pointing to the handwritten pages of loose leaf paper on his desk.
“Khan …” he started.
“DOCTOR KHAN!” I corrected.
“Look, I can’t pay you for this Doc. I don’t have budget for freelance this week, but if you want the clip, I’ve got some room,” he said, palms up in a defensive and particularly weak posture, as he began fumbling through his top desk drawer. “Here, I’ve got this $25 gift card for Bonefish that someone dropped off and some free tickets for that circus in Palmetto … deal?”
It wasn’t fair. He knew that despite my aversion to chain restaurants, I’m a sucker for Bang Bang Shrimp and a good high-wire act. I still had a little dough left from a recent inheritance and my attorney thought my case against the city relating to injuries sustained at the hands of an improperly marked pothole while jogging was looking positive, provided I was willing to have some, shall we say, not-quite-necessary back surgery. I supposed I could do worse.
“Sure, whatever,” I mumbled, pocketing the swag and slinking away sans my dignity.
“Call me next week Ringo, for real, I might have something for you,” Tokars yelled as I left. “There’s a Libertarian in the general who …”
His voice trailed off as I slammed the lobby door and hit the parking lot, suddenly wrapped in a blanket of shamelessly-brutal August heat. I hadn’t come out on top, not by a long shot. But there was something in the air that smelled like … well, like carefree innocence, and it soothed me as I went off into this cruel and unforgiving world. Maybe I’d vote for Yinka after all.