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Copping a rival group's endorsements to make yourself look legit is dirty politics. Making endorsements is a tedious process that involves tracking all the candidates, badgering them with questionnaires and sitting through long meetings with them. "I don't think the community at large has any idea of the amount of work that is involved," says the group's Tim Degnon.
Norman's handlers seem eager to seize pockets of gay gullibility. For instance, Flo, the city's most famous drag queen, who has raised tons of money for charities during beer busts at the Cabaret, says Norman's her man. In doing so, she unwittingly disses the people who helped put her on her throne.
"It's amazing that for the past two rounds of people being elected, [now-Mayor] Kay Barnes and [now-city-council members] Troy Nash and Bonnie Sue Cooper -- and all of them -- they come to the Cabaret now," she says. Why is the Cabaret such a critical campaign stop? "That has a lot to do with Four Freedoms," Flo says. "They get candidates here by saying, 'You know what? You need this huge population of people to vote.' That's why they come here and give their message."
Norman's message is a seductive one. His literature says he "has spent much of his adult life courageously advocating for social justice." Oddly, though, he hasn't used democracy's basic tool for doing that. Norman moved to Kansas City in 1990 after retiring from his ministry in Jeff City; records show that he didn't register to vote until 2000 and has bothered to make his voice heard in two elections. (Though he had registered by November 2000, he skipped the presidential contest.) Norman says that after 25 years of living in Jeff City, he had grown disgusted watching the legislature and chose not to vote for a decade. That explanation might fly with anti-politics types, but it doesn't exactly scream "courageous fighter for social justice."
Norman's blue fliers recap his education and his religious affiliations -- and his hetero-sounding divorce. ("Terry and his former wife have two adult sons, a daughter and an eighteen-month-old granddaughter.") Norman says it's common knowledge that he's gay, that he's been open about it in media interviews and when going door-to-door. But the decision not to mention it in campaign literature is a conscious one. And a disturbing one, considering that Norman is trying to win over the gay-pride crowd.
The unions, however, love him -- but that's because they hate Campbell. She secured labor's wrath by opposing collective bargaining for public employees; she says local governments, not the state, should make that call because it affects local budgets. And she and Van Zandt both freaked out the teachers' union in the winter of 2001, when they called for a state takeover of the Kansas City school district. (Hey, something had to be done.) Campbell can hardly be called an enemy of the common people, having fought, for example, to make sure no child-care money was cut during the last session's fierce budget debates. But on July 11, labor heavyweights gathered at the Beaumont Club to offer free food and booze to everyone who wrote Norman a check. And while the giddy members of the nascent KC Pride Democratic Club posed on the dance floor for group pictures and talked about endorsing not just gay candidates but gay-friendly straight candidates (Marsha Campbell, anyone?), they missed a perfect chance to reach out to the firefighters and builders who were drinking at the bar.