Welcome! If you’re following along with the Decades series, and I really hope you are, then you’re in for a treat! Today we welcome author Keith Thomas Walker and an exclusive excerpt from the eighth book in the series, bringing us into the 1970s. I’ve really been enjoying this series and have found not only some amazing stories that I treasure, but some new-to-me authors who I plan to follow for some time to come. I hope you’ve been just as taken by this series as well.
Note: Election Day by Keith Thomas Walker is the eighth book in the Decades: A Journey of African American Romance series. This series consists of 12 books, each set in one of 12 decades between 1900 and 2010. Each story focuses on the romance between African American protagonists, but also embraces the African American experience within that decade. Join the journey on our Facebook page.
Election Day by Keith Thomas Walker
Despite legal efforts to integrate schools, black students continue to struggle with separate and unequal environments in 1970. Leo Davis, an ambitious mayoral candidate, seeks to close a dark chapter in Overbrook Meadows’ history, but the opposition is fierce. Falling for his campaign manager was never part of the plan. Leo and Carla must fight for their love, their safety, and the future of their beloved city.
They were quiet for a few minutes as they dug into their meals. After a while, Leo brought up something that had been on his mind since the meeting.
“It seems like everyone is against the idea of Mario running for mayor…”
Carla’s features immediately filled with disdain. “We’re better off with Holloway. At least with him, we know what we’re getting. A snake like Mario, he’ll support whatever cause is paying him the most. That Negro is the definition of a corrupt politician.”
Leo chuckled. “Let him tell it, you’re the one responsible for getting him elected.”
“One of my biggest regrets. We finally get a couple of our people on the city council, and one of them cares more about his pockets than the color of his skin. I’m surprised he came to the meeting. Can’t trust that man no further than I can throw him. Wouldn’t be surprised if he was spying on us.”
Leo shook his head, grinning. “So, what you’re telling me is, you don’t care for Mr. Pratt,” he joked.
“Yes, that’s what I’m telling you,” she replied, cracking a smile. “So much time and energy wasted on that man. He wouldn’t have made it anywhere near the city council, if it wasn’t for me.”
This was the first time Leo heard her take credit for her hard work.
“What qualifications do you have to be a campaign manager?” he wondered.
He thought he asked the question innocently, but he noticed her blush, despite her skin tone. She shook her head.
“I don’t have any qualifications to be a campaign manager, his or yours, except from what I know about city government from my teaching job. I learned a lot more while working on Mario’s campaign. But to be clear, ‘Campaign Manager’ is not something I could list on my resume.”
“Now I think you’re the one being modest,” Leo said. “If you did it before, I’m sure you can do it again. How many people do you have to get elected before you can list it on your resume.”
She noticed him smiling, and she smiled too.
“I guess if I can help get you elected, that would solidify it.”
“I agree. So, tell me how we’d go about it.”
“Well, to simplify, you should try to get some experience first…”
“Really? Now you say this, after I tried to tell everyone at the meeting how unqualified I was?”
She giggled. Her expression was usually serious. Her amusement warmed Leo’s insides.
“There’s more than one way to gain experience,” she explained. “You could get involved in community activities, which I believe you already do with your legal work. You should build relationships with local businesses. Again, I think you’ve already got that covered.”
Leo nodded. He couldn’t deny that he had.
“Ideally you should run for a lower office. But,” she said, before he could protest, “we already agreed that’s not a prerequisite. You need to start attending city council meetings. You need to create a committee that will be your campaign team. I think everyone at the church agreed to participate in that. You’ll have to fill out some forms downtown and start a petition to formally run for mayor. You’ll need signatures. I’ll check to see how many.”
Leo blinked quickly, trying to keep up with her. She said she wasn’t a campaign manager by trade, but he couldn’t tell. He grew more impressed with her by the second.
“Once you get all of your paperwork submitted, you’ll officially be on the ballot. After that, you have to campaign. You already have your platform.”
“Integration,” he said.
“Right. Vote for Leo to End Segregated Schools.”
“That doesn’t even sound like a lofty ambition, hearing you say it.”
“It’s not. It’s very serious, and very important.”
“Yes, of course you’re right.”
“While you’re running for mayor, you’ll need lots of donations,” she continued. “The campaign trail is very expensive. You’ll have to advertise and meet with a lot of businesses and organizations. You’ll have to do a lot of public speaking. I know that’s not something you’ll shy away from.”
“And what are you basing that on?”
“Your meeting today,” she said, “the way you carried yourself. You come off as very approachable and determined. You know how to hold an audience’s attention.”
“I sounded determined at the church?”
“You did until they talked you into running,” she said with a smirk.
“To be honest, this all sounds like a mountain of work.”
“It is. That’s why you have your campaign team behind you. And that’s why you have me.”
He knew what she meant by that statement, but he couldn’t stop his mind from hearing it differently.
That’s why you have me.
Leo couldn’t remember the last time he was this taken by someone he’d just met.
“Do you really think I can win?” he asked.
“It’s an uphill battle,” she conceded. “Mario’s right about the support Holloway has. He’s heavily favored to win another term. Plus you’re black, and this isn’t exactly New York City. Heck, I don’t even think New York is ready for a black mayor. And you’ve only got two months to campaign.
“The only reason I’d say you’ve got any shot at pulling this off is your platform. It will sway a lot of white voters. Recent polls have found that 65% of Americans believe schools should be integrated.”
“I think I heard about that poll,” Leo said, his eyes narrowing. “Didn’t they break it down, though, with the opinion of northerners versus southerners?”
Carla looked away for a moment, as if she’d been caught cheating. “Yes,” she admitted. “Seventy-six percent of northerners are in favor of integration, but only thirty-three percent of southerners feel the same way. But we’re gonna win this thing,” she said, her eyes bright again.
Leo nodded and smiled politely. It was clear he was not convinced.
Bio: Keith Thomas Walker, known as the Master of Romantic Suspense and Urban Fiction, is the author of nearly two dozen novels, including Life After, The Realest Ever, the Brick House seriesand the Finley High series. Keith’s books transcend all genres. He has published romance, urban fiction, mystery/thriller, teen/young adult, Christian, poetry and erotica. Originally from Fort Worth, he is a graduate of Texas Wesleyan University. Keith has won or been nominated for numerous awards in the categories of “Best Male Author,” “Best Romance,” “Best Urban Fiction,” and “Author of the Year,” from several book clubs and organizations.
You can preorder Election Day here.