Once there was a display of raw political power exercised on my behalf in Connecticut, the likes of which will never be seen again, except maybe on behalf of a TV reporter. Newspapers and wire services don’t matter this much any more.
In 1976, the Connecticut state house was a relatively small and close-knit community, and the wire service people (in the case of UPI, me, Juan Tamayo and Peter Brown) were important as conduits into the small-town papers that didn’t send reporters to Hartford, but mattered in local elections. All the politicians knew a lot about us and we knew a lot about them.
At the state house St. Patrick’s Day party, I had met and fallen madly in love with a suburban newspaper editor, an hour’s bus ride out of town. Everyone knew it and had seen my mad rush for the last bus, at 3 pm.
The reporters in the Connecticut House sat below and in front of the speaker, James J. Kennelly. One Friday afternoon, I saw my hopes of a lovely and loving weekend fading, as minority leader Gerald Stevens droned on and on about “quits and fires,” an obscure issue beloved of the GOP. I was literally squirming. Kennelly turned off his mic, leaned over, and asked, “What’s wrong Paul?” “I’m going to miss the last bus to Willimantic,” I whispered.
“No you’re not,” he said. He picked up his phone and called William O’Neill, the house majority leader, who stood, interrupted Stevens, and said “Point of order. There is a motion to adjourn before the house” (there was ALWAYS a motion to adjourn in the leadership’s back pocket). I’ll never forget the look of bafflement and surprise on Stevens’ face. Since the house was 2/3 Democratic, Kennelly said in one breath, “All those in favor, the Ayes have it,” and with that, the house was adjourned. I cranked out the story as fast as I could type, pushed send, and caught the bus with only seconds to spare. It was a lovely and loving weekend.