Tuesday, November 07, 2000

Pair's hobby: Following campaign trail

By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        ERLANGER — Bill Scheyer and Bob Schrage didn't merely follow this year's presidential election. They lived it.

        Imagine a couple of Forrest Gumps with brains, a pair of Northern Kentucky political junkies who pressed the flesh with Al Gore in Iowa, finagled floor passes for the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia, hung out with President Carter in Georgia and slipped into the media center at the vice presidential debate in Danville, Ky.

        Today they'll head to Nashville, Tenn., for an evening party at Gore headquarters — where either celebration or condolences will be in order — and in January they plan to be at the presidential inauguration in Washington.

        “The only way to witness history is to be part of it,” said Mr. Schrage, 40, a Rabbit Hash resident and the assistant director of the Northern Kentucky Area Development District in Florence.

        Which is exactly what Mr. Schrage and Mr. Scheyer, 51, the city administrator of Erlanger, have done over the past year, indulging in a hobby that is more like an obsession.

        “Bob and I have been friends for years,” Mr. Scheyer explained. “We've also worked together on various projects, but most of all we share some common interests — government, history, politics, travel.

        “We wanted to do something that capture our whole range of interests,” he said. “We settled on the first presidential election of the new century, and we figured the best way to track that was to really go to a lot of events.”

        So with vacation time and their own money, Mr. Schrage and Mr. Scheyer logged about 8,000 miles since January, traveling by car and plane in search of history.

        And they found plenty. Maybe not the kind that will land in a school textbook, but definitely fodder for tales to tell friends, co-workers and family.

        Such as when they made their first trip in January to the Iowa caucuses.

        They were in a union hall in Newton, Iowa, waiting for Mr. Gore to arrive, when the vice president entered the room and walked right up to shake their hands.

        They had their picture taken with Mr. Gore and during his speech the vice president mentioned his supporters from Kentucky.

        “It was funny because we weren't there to support Al Gore, just to see him and be a part of the event,” Mr. Scheyer said.

        Though both are Republican, they don't let partisan politics enter into their travel plans.

        “The only reason we are going to Gore's campaign headquarters tomorrow is because it's closer than Austin, Texas, where Bush is going to be,” Mr. Schrage said.

        Mr. Schrage does admit that being on the floor of the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia when Mr. Bush was “put over the top” during the roll call vote of states was one of the most historic moments of their odyssey.

        “It just sent chills up my spine,” he said. “It was a very special event to witness.”


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