Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Larry Kissell

Jim and I went out to see Larry Kissell take his oath of office in Montgomery County last week. There was a large group there, a mixed bag of Republicans (asking for money) and Democrats (asking for money) but most importantly, the people he grew up with were there. Many of them were as astonished as anyone that Kissell won the election against incumbent Robin Hayes.

This is one of those stories. If you made it up, an editor would say it was unrealistic. Kissell, a high school Social Studies teacher decided to run against millionaire Hayes because he wanted to go into public service. Underfunded and ignored by the Democrats who didn't think he had a chance in hell of winning against Hayes, Kissell came in only 300 votes shy of beating Hayes in 2005.

Many people would have given up at that point but Kissell continued. He ran again in 2008, this time with some Democratic money behind him. Despite Hayes' running a hard campaign against him, Kissell took the spot.

When I first met Kissell in 2005, I thought he could never win an election. He's not coy or fast talking. There's nothing sharp or salesmanlike about him. He's like a regular guy. Like a Social Studies teacher. Like someone you grew up with.

Now he's in Washington helping to shape policies that will affect us all. His friends and family are proud and amazed but they are still behind him, certain that he will do great things.

It's a Cinderella story for our times. A reminder that this really IS a land of opportunity where anyone can have a shot at making history. Even a Social Studies teacher from Biscoe, NC.

Joyce Lavene

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