Former Minnesota Gov. Arne Carlson's foray into condo politics failed miserably, several members of a Florida community told me.
Carlson wasn't interested in commenting to me Thursday about the campaign loss in a condo community in the city of Punta Gorda.
"Oh, the gossip columnist?" Carlson said the first time I called. "Forget it." Click.
When I re-dialed, expecting to get a voice mail so I could state my questions, Carlson again answered. I blurted my need to discuss the Emerald Pointe Condominium situation. "You and I: Forget about it," Carlson said. Click.
Same ol' alluring Arne.
On Friday, he e-mailed that he was ill and would talk later. Maybe.
Arne and Susan Carlson reportedly no longer live at Emerald Pointe, where four different neighbors told me the former First Couple of Minnesota made lasting, ah, impressions. Condo residents, however, had the last political laugh when they successfully campaigned, in what sounds like a highly contentious election, against the ex-guv's bid to join the condo board.
It sounds as if the neighbors' chief beef with Arne was not so much his stance on the issues as it was his personal style -- that special ex-governor's touch, you might say. "What was his slogan? It was pretty much not a vision for the future other than, 'Trust me, I was a governor, and you are fortunate to have me lead you,'" said condo resident Jack Boyle.
Boyle is still tickled over the results of the election this month that turned out a stunning 85 percent of neighbors. "Carlson got 78 votes out of 269 votes -- that's 29 percent. The first election since he's no longer governor, and his own homeowner's community turns him down," said Boyle, with whom I communicated via phone interviews and e-mails.
Backing up a bit, Boyle set the scene:
"Our 313-unit condominium association just had the most contentious board election imaginably, even by Florida's renown standard. Arne Carlson, the former governor of the state of Minnesota, led a dissident slate of four candidates who ran on a platform of almost complete opposition to the present board's conduct over the past several years. Mr. Carlson is a non-resident property owner who lives in another development in Punta Gorda and rents out his unit here. The election was so contested that the present board petitioned the state of Florida to assign an election overseer to conduct the vote tabulation."
The election monitor cost the association $800, said Marcia Schneider, another resident. "We had a very peaceful community here. We have a board of directors of seven people and up until the time Arne moved in, we have had wonderful governance," she said. "When he moved in, he decided we needed his governance, and so ever since he has been making an effort to put his oars into the political waters." A writer, Schneider has been tinkering with a parable about the Carlsons' time at Emerald Pointe.
Another resident, Barry Geoghegan, was absolutely bursting with pride that his wife "organized the campaign to knock off that S-O-you-know-what who lived across the street from us."
Recalling what was considered the Carlson slate of candidates, Joan Geoghegan said: "It wasn't that we just beat them. We sort of crushed 'em.
Before the election, [the Carlsons] moved to another condo several miles from us, but he just wanted to keep his hand in. Some people just aren't happy unless they're stirring, and he's a guy like that."
One of Joan's most cherished encounters with Arne was over campaign literature placed on chairs before a meeting. "Kind of a no-no," Joan said. "You just don't do stuff like that. I went over to the clubhouse [and] picked up all the pieces of paper. I didn't throw them away. I put them in a stack and took them over to our office. When I got home, there was a message on my phone: Hi Joan, this is Arne Carlson. You were observed picking up our campaign literature this morning. That is illegal. That is beneath your dignity. I'll see you in court.
"Isn't that cute," Joan said. "So I didn't call him, I didn't say anything. I'm still waiting. What day are we going to court?"
Susan Carlson also made precious contributions to condo harmony during her tenure on the board, according to residents.
"Do you know her?" Boyle asked. "The world's smartest attorney, smarter than Hillary Clinton. That's what we say about her. At the board meetings, she's always got the last word -- over-talked everybody. People got so damned mad at her, she finally resigned."
Joan Geoghegan said Susan Carlson's resignation got helped along. "She really wasn't a good board member and so we worked on getting a petition together for her resignation. But I think she got wind of it, so she resigned prior to being embarrassed by that," Joan said. "You know how some attorneys and some judges are just a little too smart? You know, she knew everything, but she really didn't. And the governor decided to run when she resigned."
I told Joan that Arne hates me. He might still be angry about a column item regarding family skirmishes when his daughter got married, but who knows?
"He hates you?" Joan said brightly. "Oh, you can come visit with us. We'll have a little party and invite them over."
C.J. is at 612.332.TIPS or firstname.lastname@example.org. E-mailers, please state a subject -- "Hello" doesn't count. Attachments are not opened, so don't even try. More of her attitude can be seen on FOX 9 Thursday mornings.