Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Coincidental deaths as the Democratic convention nears

For part of the day, Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones was reported dead. She was then reported to be in critical condition after suffering a burst brain aneurysm while driving her car last night. Her death has now been confirmed by the Hospital where she fought for her life for the past 24 hours. Jones was a Democratic member of Congress from Ohio, the pivotal state in George Bush’s 2004 Electoral College victory. She was one of the few members of congress to vote against the certification of the electoral college results. She also happened to be the co-chair of the Democratic National Committee. Her disappearance from public life five days before the Democratic convention will no doubt make life much more difficult for the party.

On August 14th, Chair of the Arkansas Democratic Party Bill Gwatney was shot and killed by an assailant at his party headquarters in Little Rock. Fifty year old Timothy Dale, who had just lost his job as a shelver at a Target store, walked into the party office, asked to see Gwatney to discuss volunteering for the campaign, pulled out a pistol, and shot him three times in the chest. Dale then led police on a 50 km highway chase before being killed in a shootout.

Arkansas is of course noted as the home of the political machine that generated the Clinton presidency and era. It was recently governed by Republican presidential candidate and McCain VP short-lister Mike Huckabee. Just like the near-death of Tubbs Jones, Gwatney’s tragically violent end will certainly affect the convention. With rumors of a surprise Clinton move growing, many will miss the Arkansas Chair, who, like Tubbs Jones, and in his capacity as a superdelegate, had recently endorsed Senator Obama after supporting Clinton throughout the campaign. The disappearance of both a co-chair of the DNC and the Chair of the Arkansas Democrats within days of the national convention certainly leaves a disorganising gap that will be hard to fill.

After these quite momentous events, the death of 26 year old Congressional Aid Frederick Hutchins on July 29th now seems a distant memory. Hutchins was found dead of a gunshot wound to the head next to his car on a Virginia road. A handgun was found under his body. He was a rising star of Virginia Democratic politics, predicted by his boss, Senator Jim Webb, to have been in Congress within ten years. Coincidentally, Webb was an early front runner for the VP slot on the Obama ticket. Early in July, he emphatically stated that "under no circumstances" would he accept the nomination, and apparently sent the Obama campaign a note to that effect.

At least there haven’t been any small plane crashes. yet.

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