KNOCKIN’ ON HEAVEN’S DOOR
Nancy Achin’s Survival Story
by Joshua M. Sklare
Nancy Achin’s story is not just about battling cancer and surviving a stroke and open-heart surgery. After a challenging childhood, she attended a prestigious college, then went on to her career, to politics, to service, to love, and to loss. There is enough substance in nearly six decades of living to last a few lifetimes.
Comebacks are famous in politics, but some things are tough to come back from. Paul Sheehy made his by working in the congressional offices. In 1984, he ran for state senate. He won and won again, and then won yet again when 1990 rolled around. But now he faced a thirty-one-year-old challenger, Nancy Achin, and was none too thrilled. Perhaps it was mere hubris, perhaps it had something to do with his comeback, but he did not take the challenge seriously at first. Facing off against a tall blonde woman, twenty-five years his junior, he referred to her appearance in less than flattering terms. The whole idea of running against Nancy was simply beneath him.
As she assembled her staff of volunteers, Nancy made one demand that was not up for negotiation. No one would mention Senator Sheehy’s felony conviction, not even in passing. She explained that Sheehy had paid his debt to society. Having served his time, he deserved a second chance. And he had a family to boot. Nancy did not want to put them through the pain of a public airing of his past indiscretions. Her emphasis would be on the issues.
Though certainly high-minded, Nancy would not have hesitated to fight back if Sheehy decided to take on her character. Having volunteered on many campaigns, she knew from experience how deadly such personal attacks can be. She wanted to run on the issues but, if Sheehy were going to get dirty and attack her, she would fight back—and she had plenty of ammunition to get the job done.