Thursday, April 06, 2006

Meet Norbert Denerll

Norbert Denerll, Jr., one of the eight vying for the Democratic nomination in Ohio 13, emailed me, then took up the invitation to call on my cell (while I was waiting for the Betty Sutton shoot, as it turns out.) So Redhorse and I met with him at Angel Falls today.

What's it like meeting Norbert Denerll? From Jill's post of the MTB session, I'd guess a lot like meeting John Wolfe. A wonderful gentleman from whatever school came before Old School. A member of the Greatest Generation (well, Korean War, maybe Greatest Generation T plus 5) still up and working it. Someone once defined conservatism as the belief that your grandfather is wiser than you. I can't honestly say that about either of my grandfathers -- maybe that's why I'm not conservative -- but the quote went through my head more than once in the hour-plus we spent with Denerll.

The absolute best insight I took away from the meeting: if Norbert was born thirty years later, he undoubtedly would be a blogger. In fact, I fully expect to see Norbertjuniordotblogspotdotcom go up once the election is over. Of all the candidates I've met, only Subodh Chandra showed a more detailed knowledge of the Akron Pages. He loves the internet; he couldn't say enough about his admiration for blogs.

But more than that, he was a blogger before there were computers. He told us stories of fighting with community newspapers, then setting up his own. Twice. He violated the first commandment in politics -- don't pick fights with people who buy ink by the barrel -- and survived. And on one occasion, won.

Stories, he had a million. Every subject we brought up was answered with two or three anecdotes.

So would he be a good Congressman? If he had been elected years ago, I would say he would still be an effective member, probably moreso than local octegenarian Ralph Regula. I'm a little more skeptical about someone in his seventies mastering the learning curve as a freshman Representative, but Denerll comes off as a guy who would give it a good run.

He dropped a couple error bombs when discussing policy -- the Federal judge who found Ohio school funding unconstitional (it was the State Supreme Court), a private school he started that was non-denominational unlike these charter schools today (charter schools have no religious affiliation.) But just pointing these out seems churlish and beside the point. We spent an hour with a wonderful guy who has seen much, done much and loves to tell the tales.

The prospects for his campaign, sad to say, are dim. No money, volunteer staff. Earning it the old fashioned way -- door to door -- stops working when the territory gets as big as a Congressional district. The winner of this contest won't necessarily be the winner of the air war, but her or she will have to participate in it. (Meanwhile, I got my OH-13 first robocall today -- EMILY's List affiliate Ohio Women Vote on behalf of Betty Sutton)

So why is he running? Because he's wanted to serve in Congress since he was 17. God bless him. Jill said she hopes to have John Wolfe's energy and mental acuity when she is 78. I hope when I'm 75, I pursue the dream I had when I was 17. People will probably be yearning for the World's Oldest Rock DJ about that time.

We're getting a little stacked up with MTB sessions, so I don't know if it can happen for him which is why Red and I took this meeting when we did. Meanwhile, I'm holding out hope for a debate in which Wolfe ribs Dennerll about his youth and inexperience.


Anonymous said...

FYI: Norbert Dennerll has a rep up to the north as a "perennial candidate"... he ran for the U.S. Senate as a Democrat vs. Fingerhut last time around, & his Web site says he's run for Congress once before, too. He also showed up to a Jerry Springer speech with a giant Springer mask on his head.

Pho said...

Yes, he told us he had run for Congress in the Sixties. He also ran against Howard Metzenbaum because he was pissed off about something one of Metzenbaum's papers printed about him.

His reputation is well-earned.