Wayne Briscoe, prospective candidate for Dennis Moore's third-district congressional seat, has a problem: getting 5,000 signatures to the Kansas Secretary of State by early August to ensure himself a place on the November ballot.
To solve this, he headed yesterday to Johnson County Community College, which is the perfect place since it was designed to help hardworking Kansans like Briscoe find a way to their dreams.
In a busy hallway Wednesday, Briscoe set up a table with a giant photo
of himself and called out "Are you a registered voter?" to the summer
students passing by.
Some stared at their feet. Others cowered beneath iPods. Some bright
kids got off the hook by calling back, "Yeah, but in Missouri!"
Briscoe found international students tricky. One tall student appeared to hail from the subcontinent, but he was registered in Kansas, and he did agree to sign. The short woman in a sari accompanying him, however, was a more difficult case.
"Are you registered in Kansas?"
"I'm an alien!" she piped.
"An alien," said Briscoe. "I see."
She and her friend headed off. Briscoe hollered after: "Hopefully not illegal!"
Occasionally, someone would linger long enough for Briscoe to talk politics. A tall, spiky-haired guy toting a laptop asked, "What are your positions?"
"Positions?" Briscoe said. He dug through the material on his table: fliers, business cards and stacks of those yellow "NEED CASH?" fliers that often end up under windshield wipers in the junior college parking lot. "Ah! Here's a brief overview," Briscoe said, brandishing a copy of this print-out:
"Why are you running as an independent?" the student asked.
"It's about positioning. The way the race looks to be set up, it will be Dennis Moore's wife --" he paused, and then interrupted himself. "Dennis Moore said he was retiring to spend more time with his family, but now she's running, so that's disingenuous."
The student nodded.
"And the Republican nominee will probably be Kevin Yoder, who was president of the college Democrats and moved to Overland Park to take a Republican seat. He's a career politician while I've been in business 22 years."
The implication: Neither candidate is conservative enough. Briscoe then explained how, as an independent, he would wield great power. "I will get to legislate to the legislature! I'll be able to say, 'The people of the third will go for this, but not for that! Take that out of the bill!'"
"What do you do?" the student asked.
"Right now I work at Sprint."
The student waited.
"I'm in wireless. Sales."
The student signed. Next, a young African-American man breezed by. Briscoe asked, "You registered to vote?"
"No," said the student, without slowing.
"Too bad," said Briscoe. Inspiration struck, and he grabbed a yellow flier. "You looking for work?"
The more questions people asked him, the more uncomfortable things got.
"What is your position on abortion?" demanded a fortyish woman with a professor's bearing.
"I favor the right to life," Briscoe said, weighing his words carefully. She had gray hair, no make-up. Could she be a liberal? "What I mean by that practically is the Supreme Court has ruled and left it to the states to tweak ..."
"That's not strong enough!" she proclaimed, storming away.
Briscoe leapt from his chair to plead with her.
"As a congressman, the best I could offer is a constitutional amendment!" he said, but she was already gone. He slumped down, waited a moment, and then stood again. He announced, to nobody in particular, that he needed to get a sandwich.
In 30 minutes, Briscoe collected five signatures. By my count, that means he only has 500 more hours of this agony to go.