Chapter 4


Jon Sutton, Sparks' head campaign manager, is an Indiana University senior who took a semester off to focus on the campaign. His office in the Monroe County Democrats headquarters in Bloomington is cluttered with empty paper and coffee cups with a dried brown ring in the bottoms. Sutton and his co-manager often worked 10-hour days, six days a week. In the corner leaned a stale stack of pizza boxes. "The rewards points from that have been the highlight of my employment," Sutton said after the election. Nicole Robinson and Nicole Robinson

Friday before the election, Sparks is at the junior high.

He’s about worn out, he says. But he’s only taking Election Day off.

“I have a job.”

Students wearing white and red “Miner Pride” T-shirts, matching the one Sparks is wearing, herd down the hall to the cafeteria.

Sparks stands outside the school office to greet them while they walk past.

He high-fives one boy, claps another on the back with a rhetorical “how we doin’?” Puts his hand out, “whoa,” to get a speedwalker to slow down.

He’ll make about 50 calls tonight after school to absentee voters, reminding them to use the ballots they received by mail. Tomorrow he will visit a pancake breakfast at 6 a.m. and a handful of events after that, plus knocking on doors to remind people to vote.

But right now he can stand still while everyone else charges ahead, tipping his head to smile at the students rushing past.

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Chapter 6

A month later, Jeff Sparks is visibly more relaxed. He leans back in a diner booth at The Grill on Linton’s main street, wearing a well-loved black Purdue sweatshirt.

Chapter 5

Not all the educators running for office have Sparks’ chances this election, Sutton says. He names a couple local races, then closes his eyes and shakes his head, symbolically shutting them down. “Sometimes it’s just too hard to change the ideological slant of a district.” On Election Day, it turns out Sutton was right about two of the three races he predicted.

Chapter 3

Friday before the election, Sparks is at the junior high. He’s about worn out, he says.

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