Blinking, he looked past the front row of folding chairs at the rest of the crowd in the firehouse. As the purple spots slowly faded from his vision he saw that every single chair was filled and even more people crowded in around the sides and in back. Despite the fact that it was mid-October, both of the firehouse’s big doors were open to allow more people to see and to let the heat generated by the crowd to escape. The trucks normally in the bay were parked out on the street.
The firehouse was the only available place large enough to for everyone to come see the debate. It was too cold to use the park and the minister had flatly refused to let them use the Methodist church. Looking out at the crowd, Yusif was pretty sure the minister made the right call.
Nothing productive was going to come out of this debate. In fact, the only reason Yusif allowed himself to be talked into it was that every single candidate for every county election was going to be there. Skipping would have made him stand out like a sore thumb and made him look scared.
All the candidates were sitting on folding chairs along the back wall. The first hour or so had been all the unopposed candidates, mostly Republicans, standing up and giving five minute speeches. Then the two guys running against each other for a spot on the school board gave dueling speeches. Currently, the second man running for Yared's spot on the county board of supervisors was giving the world's most bland speech.
Next up came Brad and Yusif and then the speeches would end with Sheriff Minton and Bo. After that would come one question to each of the candidates in a contested election from Jacob Newberry, the head of the local Chamber of Commerce.
Yusif came out of his thoughts as the speaker finished and Brad rose from three chairs to his left and walked to the podium. Brad carried no papers and skipped right over any niceties.
“Loyalty. Serving as a commonwealth attorney is about loyalty to the community. I was born here. I was raised here. I joined the Army from the recruiting office just down the street. And I came back here, got married to my beautiful wife, bought a house, and started serving as your commonwealth attorney after Ned Begley retired. I'm loyal to this community. This job isn't just a stepping stone for me on the way to a bigger political office. I live in Bartlette County. I serve Bartlette County. I am loyal to Bartlette County.”
As Brad turned and walked back to his seat he glared at Yusif. There was no doubt what the actual point of that speech was and there was no way Yusif could let it stand. Yusif walked to the podium stuffing the index cards with his prepared words into his pocket. Then he let months of frustration speak.
“Justice. Being the commonwealth attorney is about law and order – justice – doing the right thing. You'll notice my opponent didn't say a single word about that.” Yusif paused and gave the crowd a serious look. “A commonwealth attorney can't go after one person who is innocent because he is obsessed with vengeance. A commonwealth attorney can't let others get away with it because he has a bloody single-minded obsession with vengeance. If you can’t see past vegeance you cannot be trusted to be commonwealth attorney. Bartlette County deserves a commonwealth attorney who will do the right thing - who it can trust. I will do the right thing. I can be trusted.”
As he walked back to his seat, Yusif focused a glare of his own on his former boss.