Nancy, in her retirement, looked around her and decided that, in the world of 1984, it was better to take an active role in the politics of her area than simply complain about them. So, after much thought and discussion with friends, Nancy filed papers to run for political office. She entered her name in the Democratic primary in Pennsylvania for the office of US representative. To her surprise, she ran unopposed and became the Democratic nominee.
Her opponent that year was an incumbent Republican in a district that was also heavily leaning towards that particular party. That’s why she ran unopposed; the election was going to be an uphill battle from the get go for any Democrat.
However, Nancy had a great attitude. She had made a living outside of politics, you see, and she pointed to other “outsiders” who had become successful in politics – even actors like the current president at the time, Ronald Reagan. Besides listing her years in military service before her career, Nancy felt strongly that listening and caring mattered more than resume. She made an effort to try to connect with voters in the district, and her strategy proved effective. In fact, Nancy polled far better than many people expected, at least at first.
Then, an outsider became involved in the race, much to Nancy surprise. A former coworker of hers, a man named Frank, a man who was well-known and well respected nationally, volunteered to make a free advertisement for her opponent.
Nancy was hurt deeply by this. The ad, which ran on radio, labeled Nancy as being way too liberal to represent Pennsylvania values. The ad proved effective, and her numbers tanked.
Why would this former coworker do this to her? The two had not had much contact in the previous almost 20 years or so. While their relationship when they worked together was not cordial by any means, it was certainly professional and, she thought, respectful. “He is not the kindly old man that everyone perceived him to be,“ Nancy said about him later
Was this unsolicited ad against her the decisive event of the election? No, probably not. Odds were that Nancy would have lost anyway. It was the fact, however, that this coworker from almost two decades before would offer himself, completely unsolicited, to her opponent and to say things that would hurt her publicly. That was a wound that cut Nancy deeper than the 2 to 1 margin of defeat she suffered at the ballot box.
To her family and friends, Nancy never allowed Frank’s name to be brought up in conversation. She died a few years later, still not quite sure why such an attack against her was warranted.
By the way, before her foray into politics, Nancy had also made her living the same way as Ronald Reagan. She was an actress who played minor and secondary roles for her entire career. Frank had been one of her costars in one particular show that you probably have seen or at least have heard of –The Beverly Hillbillies.
Nancy played the secretary of the bank president where those folks from the hills had their millions stashed. In reruns over several decades, Nancy Kulp’s Ms. Hathaway has almost become the prototypical secretary/fixer for executives or wealthy businessmen. She played the part for the entire run of the series.
Meanwhile, the costar and the man who voluntarily smeared her in her congressional campaign, the coworker who hurt her so badly￼, was Frank “Buddy” Ebsen, who played the starring role of Jed Clampett.