Eydie Sacramento dipped her toe in deep water, dove in headfirst, and made a splash that sent ripples around the world.
Eydie and I are best friends. We met in high school: 1970. You can do the math, but I’ll save you some time. We’re both sixty-four now.
A couple of years back Eydie left me a voice message on my birthday, “Hi Betty, you’re probably in the bathroom plucking your chin hairs or dying your graysies, but I still love you old lady – have a happy birthday and let’s share that social security check soon.”
That’s the kind of friends we are. BS-ing and insulting each other is how we roll. That’s why I thought she was joking when I listened to another voice mail from Edye, two weeks later.
“Hey babe, I want to let you know before you read it in the papers, I’m running in the primaries for the U.S. Senate.”
Huh? HUH? Did I hear her say what I think she said? Eydie involved in politics? That’s a good one! I laughed it off and resolved to call her back when I got the chance.
The next day it was splashed all over the news. Eydie Sacramento threw her hat in the ring for the Senate Primary race as a new and different breed of Republican.
The Eydie I have known and loved for the last fifty years is a good-time gal. Fun, funny, nice, but definitely not a public service kind of gal.
Yet, there she was in my news feed, twitter feed, and on the front page of the Washington Post: “Republicans Fighting Back with a New Breed of Primary Contenders.”
Standing in a group picture with (very) young men and women is my barely 5′ short, gray-haired best friend, Eydie Sacramento.
The seventies Eydie was a hippie girl. She dropped out of college, followed the Grateful Dead, made tie-dyed t-shirts, and sold them at concerts for ten bucks apiece. One raucous night in Atlanta, she was arrested for possession of marijuana. Her Dad sent a lawyer to bail her out, with the condition she would give up the tour and go back to school. Like a petulant child, she grudgingly agreed.
The eighties Eydie shaved her armpits. With a liberal arts degree in hand, the former love child got a job at an insurance company. She met Howard, a nice guy, and they got married. Three kids later, with a house in the suburbs, you’d barely recognize the free spirit she once was.
The nineties was Eydie’s entrepreneurial phase. She started a gourmet potato chip business. It failed. She bought into a multi-level marketing business and sold laundry detergent, vitamins, and assorted other products for profit. She lost her money and some friends because of it. She tried a career as a life coach, the bottom rung of the “corporate ladder,” but it’s hard to get clients when you are struggling to achieve your own goals.
For two decades, Eydie lived a pattern of screwing up and starting over. It wasn’t easy to watch Eydie’s failures.
9-11 was her wake up call. She was in Manhattan on the day the twin towers fell. Life is short. Stability matters. It’s time to do something important. She thanked God for sparing her and vowed to turn her life around.
Eydie Sacramento spent the next fifteen years partially fulfilling her vow. She got a job with a social service agency and worked her way through the ranks to become its director and an advocate for her clients. She was a devoted mother, and soon grandmother, a loving wife to Howard. Her faith sustained her, and passion drove her.
“It’s time for me to step it up,” Eydie explained when I caught her on her cell phone the day the news broke.
“I felt called to a higher purpose, but I didn’t know what God intended for me. I prayed for guidance.
Two days later, I got a call from a political organization called the ‘Republican New Breed.’ My brother Joey sent a letter of recommendation to the nominating committee months before. I had no idea. He always told me I should run for office, but I always told him he was nuts. I had a past.
But Joey insisted my past made me stronger and smarter; my present made me qualified. I thought about it. ‘Could I make a difference in the world through politics?’ I dismissed it as ridiculous.
And then, I went through a cycle of interviews with committee members of the RNB. I was shocked they were considering me. I am the polar opposite of the other applicants.”
But they saw what Joey had seen, something uniquely special in Eydie. They offered her the chance to make history. The next thing we knew, Eydie was off and running, literally.
The Eydie Sacramento for Senate campaign caught fire. Her wit and grit came through with stunning simplicity in her stump speeches. She is so darn likable; people flocked to her. Her volunteer pool grew, and so did campaign donations.
She handily won the primary. It was time to take on the establishment.
The polls had the incumbent with a significant lead. Eydie’s opponent didn’t take his challenger seriously. He dismissed the rising star’s increasing popularity. The press barely covered it.
Election night: 2018. Eydie was nervous. Though she ran to win, she did not expect that she could get the number of votes needed to oust the three-term sitting senator.
She held Howard’s hand as they sat in the hotel room while waiting for the results. Her children and grandkids were there too. A handful of staffers were hanging around with phones glued to ears. The atmosphere was hopeful but tense.
The polling places had been closed for two hours when the numbers began to reveal the story.
Eydie Sacramento was leading her opponent, with 35% of the vote counted.
The group cautiously cheered.
At 48% of the vote in, Eydie clung to a diminishing lead.
The room fell silent. Two of the grandkids were sleeping.
64%, Eydie ahead and surging.
Eydie began pacing the suite. The staffer’s phones were blowing up.
86% of the votes counted, Eydie thanked God for answered prayers and Divine guidance; she had clinched the race; it was statistically impossible for her opponent to catch up.
The senator made his concession speech. The room rang with shock and disbelief. He promised to work with Eydie for a smooth transition. Our good government at work.
Eydie stood at the podium with camera lights blazing. Cell phones from the crowd were held high in the air capturing history. She delivered her acceptance speech. It was magnificent, humble, and purpose-driven. I was there, and I cried like a baby. A twenty-something campaign worker handed me a tissue; she was crying too. We celebrated the modern-day miracle there in a hotel ballroom with people from all walks of life yearning for change. My friend Eydie was going to give it to them.
The next day I got a quick phone call from Eydie. “Hey gurl, that was some dream last night – wasn’t it? I woke up this morning, turned to Howard and said, ‘Sh#t. Did that really happen?’ Well, Betty, it did happen, and this old granny is going to Washington. It’s never too late to rise to a higher calling. God love ya, thanks for your friendship. TTYL.”
About This Story, by the author: I recently watched the fascinating 2019 documentary, Knock Down The House. It’s the story of how four female candidates – each driven by personal experience and hardship – enter the 2018 race for Congress, challenging powerful incumbents for a spot at the table and a voice in government. I imagined what it would be like if one of my amazing friends entered politics later in life. I believe it’s possible for all of us, no matter our age or circumstance, to rise to a higher calling. I hope Eydie’s tale inspires you to action. – Susan