COLUMBUS, Ohio ( Associated Press) — Adam Headley enjoys his political memorabilia. Already 25 years old, the legislative aide has filled his office in Ohio’s capital with collectible conversation pieces: campaign buttons, historical photographs, displays of Founding Fathers bobbleheads.
So when Headley learned that the State Chamber of Commerce had produced a deck of business cards featuring the names and faces of every sitting MP in the state, his collector’s instincts dwindled.
“When I found some members I knew well enough to sign their cards, I thought, I wonder how many I can get?” They said. “Can I have 10? Can I have 20? Can I have 30?”
Ultimately, Headley fielded John Hancock from all 99 members of the Ohio House. He was pleasantly surprised that the MPs from both the sides played together and seemed to be enjoying it.
“As silly as it may sound, there is a very subtle lesson in unity in all of this, because everyone thought their trading card was good,” he said. “Starting out, I thought, statistically speaking, at least one in 99 would tell me to go pound salt and not sign my card. But, the closer I got, everyone had a good sense of it. It was a game.”
Headley made some rules for himself when it came to signing. Notably, he will not obstruct legislators as they perform official work in the committee or on the floor of the House.
He noticed that at first he met many of the same kind of lawmakers again and again, because he shared something—party, geography, a policy interest—with his boss, State Representative Adam Byrd, a Republican from the village of New Richmond.
Headley easily collected his first 60 signatures. He would hold people in the halls or in the streets around Columbus’ Capitol Square. Many delegates didn’t even know the cards existed.
“There were so many members that I don’t think they realized they would have a baseball card,” he said. “I always loved to see a smile on a member’s face when I had to explain where they came from.”
The Ohio Chamber produces the cards once per decade and distributes them to its annual policy convention, said spokeswoman Courtney Whetstone.
He said this September attendees received a rubber-banded packet of about 20 cards upon arrival, then received more cards when they attended additional events.
“They were random, and some packs were held back for another day, so you had to be there both days to get them all,” she said. “They were trading really aggressively.”
Headley pulled a string with a friend to get a full deck, he said, which includes cards for 33 state senators from Ohio, one for Republican Gov. Mike Devin, and a bunch of cards showing current members. as he saw in 2001.
He began carrying his cards everywhere, tucked into his jacket pocket with an official house signing pen. They thought it was a nice touch, but sometimes the pens are smeared on the shiny cardstock.
Representative Kent Smith, a suburban Cleveland Democrat, offered a lesson when Hadley tracks him down at an old baseball game on Statehouse grounds: use a Sharpie. Smith had been signing trading cards for fans for years as a veteran announcer for Burning River and Chicago outfit Roller Derby League. Permanent markers, he told Headley, were the way to go.
One lawmaker, a Democrat, asked to sign in blue. Some have dated their cards. One legislator, one minister, added “God bless you”. Another, hoping to confuse historians, wrote “drink more Scotch”. Rape. Latina Humphrey, a new-seat Columbus Democrat, happily signed her district’s blank card, right above “To Be Demercial.”
As Headley’s pile of unsigned cards dwindled, the ally had to be more deliberate. He asked mutual acquaintances for key introductions, pigeonholed members after committee hearings, or called their offices for appointments.
Finally, on Thursday, Headley got his 99th signature before lawmakers went on holiday. It belonged to House Democratic Leader Emilia Sykes, whose frenzied program during the past two months included a role in the high-profile, deadline-driven redeployment process.
“She’s obviously very busy,” he said. “I was thinking maybe it’s a bridge too far, maybe I didn’t get the chance.”
But a member who had already signed his card informed Sykes about Headley’s project and arranged for them to meet.
When Headley signed off with a kind smile, he said it reinforced his hopes for the future of politics in these tumultuous days. “For someone who cared enough about my little project to do this, I was so grateful.”