Robin McMillan on why ne nominated his late mum from Kirkcaldy to run the Big Apple
On November 5, my adopted hometown of New York City held its mayoral election. Quite a big deal, but not the biggest deal on that day. November 5 was also my mother’s birthday.
Or, rather, it would have been.
Susie McMillan had passed away on Christmas morning in 2012. She was 95. She took her last breath in a care home in Aberdeen, having moved there just more than a year earlier.
But from 1965 until 2011, she lived in Kirkcaldy, first on Ben Nevis Place and then, as her health deteriorated, in a flat just off Nicol Street. She also was for many years one of our town’s health visitors and school nurse, and I think she ran a weekly family planning clinic at Forth Park. People knew her. Her husband Tim, aka “Dad,” had passed away four years earlier.
At this point you may be wondering what her demise has to do with the race for Mayor across the pond in New York City. I can explain.
This year’s Mayoral race sort of distilled what has been going on around a lot of the globe. The billionaire Michael Bloomberg was stepping down after a 12-year stint in his bully pulpit, and the runaway favorite to succeed him was a liberal democrat from Brooklyn by the name of Bill de Blasio, whose platform promise was to narrow the gap between the city’s haves and have-nots.
I didn’t vote for de Blasio in the Democratic primary. I went for an all-female slate, but I didn’t have a distaff option in this term’s final race for New York Mayor. All the official candidates were blokes.
No problem, I thought. I’ll just “write in” my mum!
Writing-in a name not already on the official ballot is quite common in these parts. Some write in as a form of political objection. Others do it for fun - Mickey Mouse nearly always shows up. Others probably just stumble out some Hell’s Kitchen hostelry around 5.00 p.m. after watching Galatasaray-Juventus and pencil in a few old girlfriends.
Whatever. I wrote in my vote for New York City Mayor as a birthday present for my late mother. By law, the city must publish its election results, and write-ins count as much as any other votes. As long as the city’s Board of Elections could read my handwriting, she’d be official, on the record, never to be erased, her name in plain view for anyone who cared to look.
Some would consider this form of write-in a trivialisation of the democratic process. Contemptuous, even.
But although I grew up in Kirkcaldy - my first job was reporting for this very newspaper - I’ve lived in New York since 1979 and always have faithfully and honestly paid my annual taxes, but because for many of those years I was not a US citizen I did not have a vote so I figured they owe me at least one.
And besides, every poll had de Blasio winning in a landslide. My vote would be equal to everyone else’s but wouldn’t count for much in the big picture. That afternoon, I strolled over to the polling booth in a high school on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, received my ballot, closed the curtain at the front of the booth,and wrote in “Susie McMillan.”
I did wonder if I was spelling “Susie” correctly, because it seldom ever was written. It’s a nickname. Her actual name was Catherine Lewis McMillan.
All that was left was to wait for the results to be tabulated by the Board of Elections and published. Given the enormity of a New York City election, the need for reruns and recounts, this tends to take time, but I stayed patient and then looked online just the other day.
And there she was!
Of course, the write-in list covered votes for dozens of others, including Bill and Hillary Clinton, Ronald Reagan, Fiorello LaGuardia (NYC mayor from 1934-45; deceased), Ed Koch (NYC Mayor from 1978-89; deceased), Derek Jeter (New York Yankees captain and shortstop, soon to retire), Lou Reed (recently deceased), Alice Cooper, Mariah Carey, Jon Stewart (comedian), Al Gore (he invented the internet), Sarah Palin (hockey mom), Patrick Stewart (Star Trek), and even Ted Cruz, the Republican Senator from Texas who recently led the shutdown of the entire U.S. Federal Government. His name was two spots below my mother’s. He drew three write-in votes, no doubt each from one not-so-happy camper.
Mum, poor dear, was stuck with one vote—although a few of my NYC friends noted that they would have voted for her, too, if only I’d said something. Several other friends noted that mum probably would have done a damned good job.
At the end of the day, DeBlasio outran her by a paltry 753,039 votes.
But at least, on what would have been her 96th birthday, Susie McMillan of Kirkcaldy (deceased) was in the running for the office of Mayor of New York. My dad really would have been proud of her.