Joe Miller: Knocking One Out of the Park; The Highs and Lows of Politics

I’ve done a lot of drugs in my life, but I’ve rarely been as high as I was on Election Night in late March 2007.

I had volunteered for a campaign on a whim, and I wound up my masterminding an impossible upset of a popular politician who was the odds on favorite at the beginning of the race. I got a little help from the Star, of course, but they can’t take credit for it, so the victory was mine as much as any other’s.

So when the results came in and we learned that we’d won by the narrowest of margins, I felt a rush beyond compare.

And that moment is preserved forever in a photograph that ran on the front page of the paper the next day, with the new mayor elect smiling and me standing right behind him, my fist thrust in the air and my face stretched out in a full-throated holler.

I was riding on clouds for several weeks, with longtime political heavy hitters like James Nutter, Steve Glorioso and Terry Riley telling me my work was “masterful,” “a hell of a campaign,” and “the best I’ve ever seen. 

It’s pretty funny now, looking back on it, now that the whole story’s been told.

Still, I clung for a long time to the belief that I might have a place in the corridors of power. But those beliefs were smashed by the last campaign I worked on, the push to build a light rail line from Brookside to Downtown.

At first, the Mayor’s Office had been excluded from the campaign. The people on the campaign committee didn’t say no one from the office could attend the meetings; they just didn’t tell us about them.

When we found out was going on, Funk ordered me to crash the meetings and work on the campaign full time. And when I showed up, most of the campaign workers acted like I was a welcome addition.

I was pretty full of myself when I started going to those first meetings. Funk and Gloria had both been pumping up my ego, saying I was a genius of 21st Century campaigning, and that none of the people who had been running the campaign knew how to run a modern bid for election.

Their theory was that this campaign would be won by appealing to young voters. It was a November election, same day that people would be voting for a new president, and the whole city and country was caught up in Obama-mania. We figured that if we could just do some publicity stunts and get the issue on the evening news, all those people who would come out to the polls to vote for Barack would also pull the lever for a state-of-the-art transportation system.

But my considerable skills as a campaign mastermind were soon put to the test when Gloria insisted that we do a publicity stunt everyday for two or three weeks leading up to the election 

I knew this was a bad idea. The press would tire of our antics, and likely turn against us, thus having the opposite effect.

But my skills as a lackey were sharper than my political skills, and I acquiesced to their stupid plan, and it went down exactly as I predicted – especially after we brought in the cow.

Somewhere along the way, I got this idea of staging a fake protest with a bunch of actors playing rubes who had organized themselves as a group called Citizens Against Workable Solutions, or COWS. The plan was to have them crash one of the Mayor’s press conferences with a cow in tow. (It was also a nod to the old Cowtown theme, get it?) 

I spent the better part of a week trying to find a cow – all on the city payroll, mind you. Another campaign worker, Phil Scaglia, who work for many years for Emanual Cleaver, came through at the last minute by finding one that could be delivered for a mere $100. (It was a steer, actually.)

As you might imagine, the stunt didn’t go over to well with the press. A couple of reporters from Tom Bogdon’s online venture started crying “fraud,” and Mike Mahoney was so insulted by it he somehow arranged it so Channel 9, the most popular news station in town, wouldn’t come to anymore of our publicity events.

Which all goes a long way to proving my political ineptitude, but not as emphatically as the fact that everyone else on the campaign knew the light rail measure was going to fail, and they collectively decided not to tell me. 

Jeff Roe had conducted a poll that showed the plan was going to go down in flames, with an overwhelming margin of respondents saying they were planning to vote it down.

But instead of letting the Mayor’s Office in on this little secret, they let us continue making fools of ourselves with our full-court press.

Not that it mattered to me anyway. During the last week of the campaign, I had decided I was going to quit. 

Looking back, it’s clear that I wasn’t made for politics, and I could probably go on and on making fun of myself. But on the other hand, I had cavalierly joined a campaign and managed to play a big role in pulling off an unlikely win. 

I don’t know a lot of people who’ve naively jumped into something that’s huge and way out of their league and still managed to come out on top. 

A lot of people fantasize about accomplishing something like that. 

But I fucking did it.

And that’s something no one can ever take away from me.

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15 Responses to Joe Miller: Knocking One Out of the Park; The Highs and Lows of Politics

  1. chuck says:

    “And thats something no one can ever take away from me.”
    Sure “they” can.

    That

  2. Orphan of the Road says:

    A legend in his own mind
    On top? More like a bottom according to your own words.

    You remind me of the protagonist in Last Exit To Brooklyn, so happy to be a part of the in-crowd he started to love taking it up the Hershey highway.

    Sad because you probably have some real stories about what went on behind the scenes. But you keep trying to be king of the dipshits.

  3. smartman says:

    All Hail Yael
    Without Yael and the Star on the bandwagon Roger Ailes couldn’t have gotten Funk elected.
    At best you’re like the kid that went and fetched the kicking tee the year the Chiefs won the Superbowl.

    One win like yours with Funk can easily be chalked up to luck. Since you never had a repeat performance we can assume that your campaign directing skills are not what you perceive them to be.

    For thine is the kingdom and the power and the Gloria. Forever and ever Amen.

  4. Hearne says:

    Here’a another view…
    and I think a valid one. Along with Yael, I too wrote extensively – and very positively – about Funk during the election. And trust me, I had a far better read column. So in a narrowly won race like that, almost any halfway major contributor can probably accurately say, Funk would not have won w/o their contribution.

    And following the race very closely, I can tell you Joe was huge. The Orange Revolution campaign color scheme. The “We got the Funk” music theme. The Maria the Poodle video spots. All Joe.

    And lots more.

  5. JenB says:

    Is there one person in this town that has ever wanted
    to associate Kansas City with being a cow town? It is embarrassing. That stunt was embarrassing. The dumb cow town t-shirts and hoodies at the airport are beyond embarrassing. I sometimes wonder if they’ve ever sold even one of those things.

    People desperately want light rail in this town. They did then and they do now. They just didn’t want the Funk plan. No publicity stunts were going to change that fact.

  6. Orphan of the Road says:

    More than one have embraced the Cowtown moniker
    Danny Cox, Stan Plesser, amongst others. Van Morrison was so impressed with the Kansas City he saw via Cowtown Ballroom he wrote a song about us.

    Kansas City built it’s reputation on being a cowtown. When Capone’s boys in Chicago wanted a job done right they sent word to Kansas City to come help. You can’t make a silk purse out of a pig’s snout.

    It’s this city’s history. To not know history is to be doomed to repeat it. Maybe that is the problem here, no knowledge of what built this town and what caused it’s downfall.

    I will agree THAT PARTICULAR Cowtown stunt seemed to be put together after smoking a pound of weed and running with the idea.

    We’ve gone from the Paris of the Plains to Killa City because everybody seems to want to be something they are not today.

    Why be ashamed of the past when there isn’t any future the way this town is headed.

  7. . says:

    1 + 2 = .
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  8. Hearne Christopher says:

    Oh yeah, I I wrote my column in the Star for several years under the name, “Cowtown Confidential”

    Which then Star publisher Art Brisbane – now a bigshot with the New York Times – personally gave his approval to

  9. smartman says:

    Let Us Pray
    The Funks and gone and Joe Miller will be gone soon. Watch over and protect them Lord so they may do no further harm to others, particularly Joe since he is now a “professor” with a critically acclaimed, but not best selling book and marriage. Let not his copulated thinking influence those that he will be teaching.

    We ask this in your name Almighty Father.

    Amen

  10. JenB says:

    Just my opinion.
    I’m familiar with our bovine past, but what does that do for our image today? Our slogan might as well be – Kansas City – we were once kind of a big deal. We even have/had the mob!

    I’m a native and I generally love this town. But I have always disliked that image. Other than enjoying burgers and BBQ, I’ve never had a thing to do with cows or cow tipping….and neither has the vast majority of the KC population.

  11. Craig Glazer says:

    Joe You Are Doing Great
    Hey now Hearne and I have a number 3 guy who gets read and has lots of comments, great job Joe.

  12. % says:

    COWS
    “I got this idea of staging a fake protest with a bunch of actors playing rubes who had organized themselves as a group called Citizens Against Workable Solutions, or COWS.”

    Man, you guys didn’t even get the acronym right. Citizens Against Workable Solutions comes out to CAWS. Unless you’re doing the old Citizens Against wOrkable Solutions trick. I’m not sure which is worse.

  13. bottom of the tops says:

    You tucked tail and ran
    when shit hit the fan, that aint winning. Since you take so much credit for getting Funk elected, you also share a big chink O credit for all of the money those 2 whack jobs cost this city. You claim to love this town, yet you helped “Fuck It Up”, and that’s not winning. You didnt come out on top of anything except Glorias balls. You were their bitch, flunky, and fall guy. How the fuck is that coming out on top?

  14. Tracy says:

    It was all Yael’s fault.
    Gotta love the egos of both Joe AND Hearne, giving themselves credit for Funk’s election. It was ALL Yael and the $1 million of free editorial coverage he bestowed on Funk. That’s what actual VOTERS read.

    Yael was repaying Funk for years of inside facts shared with him, when Funk was a sassy auditor, his true calling. Yael dined off those bits of research for years of columns. He now admits what a huge mistake he made by endorsing Funk and ignoring Gloria.

    Both Hearne and Joe were mesmerized by Gloria the mentally ill midwife. They ignored her batshit crazy beliefs, including that she was Mary Todd Lincoln in a past life, and Funk was Abe f’in Lincoln.

    They ignored her actions as well, excusing what is clinical agoraphobia, the need to be barefoot in the mayor’s office to quell her massive anxiety attacks. They pretended it was just eccentricity. When really, she needed mental health treatment. Oh well, they don’t care that she cost the taxpayers half a million bucks in mistakes and lawsuits.

    This is what true political novices and outsiders do–they don’t take responsibility for guarding the taxpayer’s dollars. They are so glad to be invited to the inner circle, they refuse to tell the truth, the emperor had no clothes. And Funk and Gloria were having sex in the mayor’s bathroom and on that sofa in his office. They think it’s just “cute”, a good story, oh ICK. It’s disgusting. It’s abuse of power. But since you two boys, Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer go to City Hall, are outsiders, with no respect for the process of governing, you don’t do the right thing.

    Hearne loves the limelight and to infer that he was instrumental. This is a man who does not know the name of his Congressman, “I think it starts with a Y”, he says without blushing and probably without voting. (I will check soon. It’s public record with JoCoElection.org, IF someone went to the polls, for a particular election, not HOW they voted.

    Hearne and Joe are party boys rather than party insiders. So distant from the real fixers, like Pat Gray and Steve Glorioso and Jeff Roe.

    This has been a good read, if you want to observe the DELUSIONAL thinking that led to KC falling into the pits of no longer having a chance to be a great city. These four years will go down as the time when Omaha beat our asses into the ground.

  15. Orphan of the Road says:

    A breath of fresh air
    More insight in a few paragraphs from Tracy than years of Cowtown Confidential or the raving banality of Joe.

    Since I voted for Rob Collins for student council in hs, I’m the one who put him into the city manager’s office.

    “Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn go to City Hall”, ROFLMAO

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