Joanna Domingues was nearly late for her meeting in midtown with Simon Dalhousie, focused as she was on glad-handing at Zero’s. Her term as councillor was almost up but the folks at the diner were still her constituents, and she liked to feel that she gave each voter a little piece of herself – some snapshot memory to take with them to the ballot box. This sort of engagement took time. When the selfies had finished flashing and her EA had pulled the car right up to the door of the diner, she raced to the meeting.
Dalhousie’s office was in a professional and anonymous-looking building on an oak-lined street. Each building stood a good distance away from the next, and there was nobody on the sidewalks. Joanna’s EA opened the car door for her and she stepped into the sun, shielding her Blackberry from its rays with an outstretched hand. She noticed a flash of purple in her peripherals: a sign in a bold sans-serif read “CY PERSA FOR MAYOR.”
Dalhousie himself was a short man, with a long, stretched-out bald head. He greeted Joanna with a smile full of teeth and she shook his hand with a practised firmness. “A pleasure to meet you, Ms. Domingues,” he said.
Her EA beamed, clutching his clipboard to his chest as one would a favourite family pet.
“And you, Mr. Dalhousie,” she said, still holding his hand. “I’ve watched your incredible work. The comptroller race last year, of course, and Karen Whittaker in ’09. Did you really pull a straight sweep through the inside line on a forty-forty ward?”
He flushed. “Guilty. And it’s Simon, please.”
“Brilliance.” She pumped his hand once or twice more. “Call me Joanna.”
“Well Joanna, you’re a candidate who knows her history. You’ll find that I know mine as well. Oncology at St. Hofsta’s, trustee, councillor, all your charity work. It’s impressive.”
“I try to keep busy,” she said, and smiled.
Dalhousie invited them to sit and together they discussed the mayoral race: demographics, visions for the future, tax policy, fundraising. Joanna asked a series of probing questions while her EA made assiduous notes. At last they came around to the topic of Cy Persa.
“The opposition,” said the EA. He underlined the word on his notepad.
“You’ve worked with him,” Joanna said. “In ’05?”
Dalhousie glanced at a wall of framed photographs and florid certificates. “Once upon a time,” he said.
A moment of silence ticked by and the EA cleared his throat.
“So do I have a chance?”
Dalhousie sipped at a narrow, perfectly clean glass of water. The level of liquid in the glass didn’t change. “If you run,” he said, “you’ll end a long career.”
Joanna grinned. For the rest of the hour they hammered out a contract for Dalhousie. He would manage the campaign full-time ’til E-Day.
Joanna spent most of the campaign on the phone seeking donors. Social media coordinators, voter outreach technicians, and a million other polysyllabic positions that were suddenly indispensable at the mayoral level – each had to be hired, and each earned a pay cheque. Dalhousie’s fee was highest of all. She rarely conferred with him directly, and when she did, he would offer smiling platitudes but little by way of concrete advice. Stuck on the phone pleading for contributions, Joanna came to miss her meetings with constituents, and visited their doorsteps with young volunteers when she could.
The campaign was long and Persa was a strong candidate. Stronger even than Joanna had expected, and so when the returns came in on a grey and sombre E-Day, her EA and Dalhousie each assured her in turn, with their eyes on the floor, that everyone had done the best they could, and, hey, we’ll get him next time.