Clint Eastwood's looking for a fistful of votes
WHEN Charlotte Townsend first ran for mayor of this tiny resort community four years ago, she did it the customary Carmel way: She devised a campaign strategy at the kitchen table and passed out a few handbills at the post office. This time around, things have been different. From the moment she arises in the morning, and sometimes before, she is importuned by reporters, often from as far away as France and Australia.Skip to next paragraph
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In recent weeks, Mrs. Townsend has appeared, or been asked to appear, on national television with a frequency that would titillate George Bush.
``This whole thing is out of kilter,'' says the former librarian, sitting on a bench overlooking a frothy Carmel Bay at sunset. ``A Canadian television crew recently wanted to live with me for a week!''
Such are the perils of running for office when your chief opponent is actor Clint Eastwood.
As a tourist mecca, Carmel, a piney post-card community perched on the Monterey Peninsula 120 miles south of San Francisco, is used to outside visitors. But ever since Mr. Eastwood threw his cowboy hat into the ring last January, the village has come in for more than its share of klieg-light attention.
On any given day, reporters and TV crews are often stacked up three deep to see any of the three candidates running in the race. Cartoonist Garry Trudeau recently devoted a week of his ``Doonesbury'' comic strip to the election. Even tourists are finding politics in Carmel more captivating than the scenery.
At a local restaurant, one visitor recently leaned over to ask a resident: ``Well, is Clint going to win or not?'' Necks craned from surrounding tables to hear the answer, which was inaudible.
When Eastwood recently showed up at his campaign headquarters for an interview with a local TV station, a group of passers-by instantly huddled out front and began to chant ``Clint, Clint.'' A campaign worker politely shooed them away.
There are persistent rumors that tour-bus companies are selling tickets to future City Council meetings, under the presumption, of course, that the actor will be presiding over them.
``This is probably the biggest thing to ever happen to Carmel,'' says Michael Gardner, a columnist with the local newspaper, the weekly Pine Cone.
The level of commotion in town is partly what the election, set for tomorrow, is all about. Even though it is a favorite way-stop for tourists, Carmel (pop. 4,700) has managed to remain obdurately quaint.
There are no neon signs, parking meters, streetlights, or numbered addresses here (residents pick up their mail at the post office). The one-square-mile community is bespeckled with some 13,000 trees on public land, tended by a municipal ``forester'' and all cataloged by computer.
Many residents like things this way and are backing Townsend, who has been particularly vigorous in trying to preserve Carmel's hamlet character and limit tourist-oriented businesses.
Eastwood, a 14-year resident, is not for turning Carmel into Cleveland. But he decries the ``kill-joy mentality'' of the current mayor and City Council toward tourists and local businesses and contends that it's time for Carmel to shed its ``Scrooge'' image. ``What we have seen here is keeping the voter in a state of fear,'' he said in a recent televised debate.