In her 1994 campaign for governor, the late Dawn Clark Netsch had one of the all-time great campaign slogans: “Not Just Another Pretty Face.”
It wasn’t just a reference to the fact that she herself was not much more than plain. It was a dig at her opponent, Gov. Jim Edgar, for being kind of a vain guy.
“What do looks have to do with anything?” an exasperated Edgar complained to a TV reporter during the campaign.
Come on. I once saw Edgar get out a helicopter and meticulously smooth his full head of white hair. As if any helicopter backwash could ruffle that mane, which had been styled and sprayed to withstand a Category 4 hurricane. After his appendicitis surgery, he bragged to his staff that the doctors had trouble inserting a needle because his belly was so hard for working out. Even when he wore jeans at the State Fair, they were never rumpled or creased.
Edgar and I are both passionate fans of horse racing, but I was still shocked to walk into the grandstand of Hawthorne Race Course -- which was then a miasma of cigarette smoke -- and see Edgar holding a racing program. Most horseplayers wear jeans. He was, of course, attired in a suit.
Netsch lost that election, badly. It was a Republican year, and during the campaign, she proposed raising taxes. But just for a moment, she pricked the bubble of smugness that has surrounded Jim Edgar his entire life.