The Democratic Party meeting was being held in the Bartlette County courthouse and Yusif was amazed at the sheer amount of hatefulness in the room.
Two days after the debate, Sheriff Minton had suffered a massive heart attack while asleep. Rather than calling dispatch, his wife called his chief deputy, Greg Harvey, who took the Sheriff to the hospital in his personal car. Mount View Hospital got him on a chopper as quick as they could, heading for one of the better equipped hospitals in Tennessee, but it was no use. The Sheriff was dead before the helicopter got half way there.
Major Harvey immediately fired Bo. That was Thursday morning. The Sheriff’s wake was Friday and Saturday and his burial was on Sunday. On Monday an emergency meeting of the Republican Party announced that Major Harvey was now the Republican candidate for sheriff. On Wednesday the weekly county newspaper, the Star Sentinel, published letters to the editor from Greg Harvey and three other deputies blaming Bo for Sheriff Minton’s death. No one at the paper even called Bo to get a rebuttal letter or a reaction.
Now, on Thursday the Democrats were meeting to figure out a response. Everyone in the room knew that substituting Greg Harvey this late in the race was illegal. Nevertheless, Clyde was trying to get them to leave it alone.
And the party faithful were going nuts. For an hour people spat vitriol at Clyde. Then Mansford Sifford stood. Mansford was Clyde’s friend and staunchest ally in the party, which was why it was shocking when he joined the dissenters.
“We cannot allow this to stand. This is not just about this election. If we don’t stop this now, the next time we shan’t be able to because we will have established a precedent. We need to file a cease and desist order in this matter immediately.”
Oh my God, Yusif thought to himself, How does that guy make a living as a lawyer? Everything Mansford just said sounded legalish, but none of it actually made sense if you understood anything about how the law worked.
As Mansford droned on, Yusif looked around the room. The numbers were against Clyde, but looking up at the party chairman, Yusif wasn’t sure he knew it. Clyde looked angry. It was pretty clear that as soon as Mansford yielded the floor Clyde was going to rip into him and probably lose even more of the crowd.
Yusif looked over at Bo, who was sitting in the second row with his wife. The man had become taciturn over the last week. Greg Harvey’s attempts to blame Bo for the Sheriff’s death shocked him and put a massive amount of guilt on his shoulders. Worse, word around town was that when he called the Sheriff’s wife to offer his sympathies she had cursed him and told him he was not welcome at the funeral. This was the first time Yusif had seen Bo outside his house in days and he looked unkempt and unfocused. Unfortunately, Yusif was going to have to use this man to stop all the stupidity in this room.
Mansford was winding down. “. . . and in conclusion, I must, with great sadness in my heart, oppose the Chair’s motion for inactivity and conclude that the Democratic Party of Bartlette County must immediately file an action of determent to stop this illegal candidacy.”
Yusif saw Clyde draw in a breath to spit something back at Mansford and jumped up before those words came out.
“Sorry, Mister Chairman, but as the man running for commonwealth attorney I thought I ought to address some of the legal points raised by Mister Sifford.”
Without waiting for a reply, he walked to the center of the front row of seats and drove on.
“Yes, the Republicans are cheating. And, yes, they are doing everything they can to ruin Bo’s reputation. I take it nobody in this room will disagree with me when I say that’s pretty much the normal way they do things?”
Sullen faces looked back at him.
“There are three reasons we can’t file a writ of prohibition even though we are absolutely right. First, we are better than they are. We don’t cheat. We don’t do lowlife stuff like this. And, we don’t have to. Bo’s going to win. Maybe not quite as big as before, but it’s not going to be anywhere near close. Greg Harvey won’t get a single vote for himself. Nobody likes Greg. He’s hateful. The only way he gets any votes is the way he’s trying now. He has to lie about Bo. It ain’t gonna work.”
“If we file to keep Harvey off the ballot we look as petty as him and his party. It’ll make Bo look petty too and start his time as sheriff on a sour note. He doesn’t need that.”
“Second, we can’t get the writ filed in time. We’d file the papers tomorrow and schedule a hearing on Monday. None of the local judges will agree to hear something this political, so a substitute judge will have to be appointed by the Virginia Supreme Court. I’d say the earliest that happens is Monday afternoon and there’s no way that judge can be here before Tuesday. And, Tuesday’s the election. Can’t stop that once it’s started. It’ll be too late.”
“Third, the Party can’t file for a writ of prohibition in this matter. Technically, the Party does not have standing. The only person who could file this would be the person in the election and I’m pretty sure that Bo doesn’t want this lawsuit.”
Every eye in the place turned to Bo. It was a gamble throwing this on him without speaking to him first, but Yusif had not realized beforehand how out of control things would get in the meeting.
Bo stood. “No. If I lose ‘cuz the Sheriff died, I lose. If I can’t get the job from the people, I don’t want it from the court.” With that, he turned and walked out of the meeting.