The Elbert Files: Thunderbolt, Cubs & Gartner
Friday, June 13, 2014 6:00 AM
It was the day after the election. The sun was out, cicadas were chirping and I had won my bet on Joni Ernst when she crushed her opponents in the Republican Senate primary by a bigger margin than anyone expected.
I was on my way to the mailbox on 39th Street, just north of Grand Avenue, when I heard his voice.
“Did you see the story this morning about Governor Thunderbolt?” my old friend K.C. called out as he approached. (Thunderbolt is K.C.’s new name for Gov. Terry Branstad. I’m not sure why; something about all the commotion at the Statehouse.)
“I saw that the governor got 83 percent in a primary against a total unknown who had no money, if that’s what you mean,” I said.
K.C. responded with a smile. “The other guy got 17 percent with no name, no money and no publicity. I wonder if Jack Hatch will do that well.”
Then he added: “No, that wasn’t the story I had in mind. I meant the one on the sports page where Thunderbolt said he switched from being a Chicago Cubs fan to a St. Louis Cardinals fan.”
“No,” I said. “I didn’t see that. Is that even news?”
“It must be,” K.C. said. “It was top of the page on the sports cover. And a lot of words, too. Longer than one of your columns.”
“Now I know you’re pulling my leg,” I said. “Nobody would give that much space to what any governor thinks about a baseball team. Not this early in the season.”
“It’s true,” he said. “You can look it up.
“What’s really weird,” he added, “is that the story never really said why Thunderbolt switched, just some mumbo jumbo about being tired of the Cubs losing. Who isn’t? But that’s no reason for a real fan to abandon the Cubbies.”
“I know why,” I said.
“Bull,” K.C. said. “You’re not even a baseball fan.”
“No, but I know the governor, and I also know who owns the Iowa Cubs,” I said.
“You mean Mike Gartner,” K.C. said.
“Sure,” I said. “Mike owns the Iowa Cubs, and they’re the minor league franchise of the Chicago Cubs.”
“What does that have to do with the price of eggs?” K.C. asked.
“Mike also writes the Civic Skinny column in Cityview,” I said. “And Civic Skinny keeps needling the governor about when he’s going to create all the jobs he promised four years ago.
“Plus, Mike’s a shrewd observer. He probably knows more about the inner workings of state government than anyone, including the governor,” I said.
“I’m sure Branstad is tired of Civic Skinny telling him things he didn’t know,” I said. “Just like he wasn’t happy when his former chief of staff Doug Gross said he was losing control of state government.”
“Well,” said K.C., “if that’s true, why didn’t the newspaper just come out and say Thunderbolt quit the Cubs because he’s got a beef with Gartner?”
“Because that would break the unwritten rule,” I said, suddenly feeling very smart.
“The what?” K.C. said.
“The unwritten rule,” I repeated. “The newspaper has an unwritten policy against giving Cityview or Gartner credit for any of the stories they break, and Mike breaks a lot of political stories.”
“Name one,” K.C. said.
“Didn’t you wonder,” I asked, “about the guy who virtually tied Tony Bisignano for the Democratic nomination for Jack Hatch’s seat in the Iowa Senate? You thought it was going to be Ned Chiodo. But it was Nathan Blake, a previously unknown assistant attorney general. And if you only read the newspaper you never would have seen that coming.”
“Yeah, sure. And Gartner did?” K.C. said.
“He did indeed,” I said. “You can look it up.”
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