My weekly syndicated newspaper column is about an unpublicized European trip taken by Senate GOP Leader Frank Watson a few weeks before the election.
After losing five state Senate seats and ending up on the wrong end of a veto-proof majority, there’s bound to be a lot of second guessing and finger pointing. But Senate Republican Leader Frank Watson probably did himself no favors by going to Europe for 10 days just a month before the November election.
Watson’s spokesperson, Patti Schuh, did her level best to tamp down this story last week, and she made a few good points. Watson, she stressed, called in every day from Europe to check up on things, much as he would have done if he had been in his Decatur or Greenville district offices. “He was in constant communication by telephone, by e-mail.”
Watson was reportedly at an NCSL conference in Italy with Sen. Steve Rauschenberger in October.
Some lobbyists and former staff members have been quietly grumbling about the trip since they first heard about it, but most of them have conceded it probably didn’t make a lot of difference in the election’s outcome.
That’s an important point, by the way. Still….
I’ve talked to some of Watson’s members who are just furious about his trip. What bothers them the most is that they and their volunteers were in some of the more hotly contested districts walking precincts and doing other work while Watson was in Europe. Important meetings or not, a legislative leader’s top job — perhaps his only job — during campaign season is making sure his caucus does well at the polls.
So even if he ran all his traps before he left and checked in every day, Watson nevertheless left the field of battle, and that fact has most definitely rankled some of his members. If he was in one of his downstate offices and crisis struck, he could have been in Springfield or in the district in question within a few hours at most. He couldn’t have done that from Europe.
I kinda bet he won’t do that again.