Wednesday, October 24, 2001

Cause unites their hearts


Granny D finds friend on road for campaign reform

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        BELLEVUE — Theirs is a friendship built on plotting.

        They want to oust a Kentucky senator, clean up the campaign system and restore American voters to power.

        But first they need an attention-grabber.

        “You need to get out and maybe have some sort of sex affair,” says Elizabeth Lemlich, 73, to her 91-year-old comrade. “How have you been getting along with Clinton?”

        At this, the women crack up. They are rabble-rousers with a lot in common: a cause, a streak of mischief, an ironic sense of humor.

        Also a touch of arthritis in their hands.
       

Slept on the ground

        Two years ago, at the age of 89, Doris Haddock walked across the country to promote campaign-finance reform. Known as “Granny D” to her fans, she slept on the ground, skied across part of Colorado and trudged through West Virginia with its secretary of state tagging along.

[photo] Elizabeth Lemlich (left) and Doris “Granny D” Haddock, who walked across the country for campaign reform, began a friendship over political causes.
(Patrick Reddy photo)
| ZOOM |
        The reform, a consuming cause for Sen. John McCain, was finally passed in the Senate but is now hung up in the House. Still, Granny D's trek put a human face on a complicated issue.

        Somewhere in those 3,200 miles, she also marched into the imagination of Elizabeth Lemlich.

        The retired schoolteacher from Bellevue began a correspondence with Ms. Haddock, who lives in New Hampshire. Over the last year, they have exchanged a dozen letters, always signing off with “hugs.”

        This week, Ms. Haddock flew into Northern Kentucky for a speaking engagement and book signings arranged by her friend. It was their first meeting face-to-face.
       

Hats cocked left

        “I thought, "My God, she's smaller than I am ... a tiny bit of a thing!'” Ms. Haddock says.

        Neither woman stands more than 5 feet tall. At the airport, both were wearing straw hats over salt-and-pepper hair.

        They soon discovered more similarities: Both subscribe to The Progressive magazine, among other left-leaning obscurities, and both married men who were engineers.

        Ms. Lemlich self-published a book about her year of teaching in Appalachia. Ms. Haddock just came out with Granny D: Walking Across America in my 90th year.

        Ms. Lemlich has picketed against animal testing and American business practices in Central America. Ms. Haddock has fought everything from canal-blasting in Alaska to a four-lane highway in her hometown.

        They are each other's biggest boosters.

        “How can she do all these things — walk around America, do all this speaking, write a book? I have a hard enough time walking up Bonnie Leslie,” Ms. Lemlich says, referring to her street.

        “Elizabeth, I think you could,” Ms. Haddock insists. “You are a person who never stops trying. A persistent doer.”
       

Like "static cling'

        Today, they are teaming up on campaign-finance reform, which Ms. Haddock sees as the antidote to a “bought” government. As long as candidates and political parties need so much cash to win, they will put the big donors' interests ahead of ordinary people's concerns, she says.

        In their correspondence, the women often discuss their biggest obstacle: Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Louisville.

        He equates campaign donations to speech, a way of expressing a point of view. So, he argues, donations are protected by the First Amendment. Reform matters as much to Americans as “static cling,” he once said.

        The women like to repeat this phrase. It gets them fired up.

        “Whether he is (up for re-election) or not,” wrote Ms. Haddock in one letter to her friend, “I think it does no harm to rail at him and make him get off the mind-set he has adopted. Him and that Trent Lott!”
       

A full scrapbook

        To keep up the pressure, Ms. Lemlich writes letters to the editor, sometimes incorporating quotes she has heard on the news and recorded on strips of paper.

        She also is talking to Common Cause of Kentucky about arranging a statewide walking tour for Ms. Haddock. And before the older woman's visit this week, she dropped off fliers and reviews at the bookstores where she would be appearing.

        In an upstairs bedroom, Ms. Lemlich keeps a scrapbook of people whose ideas she admires.

        Granny D has a whole page. There is also Jesus and Buddha, Woody Harrelson and Mother Jones, Mark Twain and Rachel Carson, whose book Silent Spring sparked the environmental movement.

        There are also quotes like this one, from the abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison: “I cannot do everything, but I can do something. That which I can do, I must do.”

        Ms. Lemlich says the scrapbook helps her failing memory, but I don't believe her. She and Ms. Haddock haven't forgotten a word.

       Karen Samples is the Enquirer's Kentucky columnist. She can be reached at (859) 578-5584 or at ksamples@enquirer.com.
       

       



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