This past Monday evening, I was hanging out at the Index-Journal office building on Phoenix Street (aka "The Mothership" aka "The Ranch" aka "The Dust Palace"), dutifully churning out a Greenwood City Council story, when my thoughts drifted to the fall.
I thought about my daughter heading back for her last year of preschool. Of course, I thought about my beloved South Carolina Gamecocks and what type of football season they might have. (We're awfully thin at linebacker.)
I thought about that time I had to bail executive editor Richard Whiting out of jail in Birmingham, Ala.
(Just kidding, of course. It was actually a jail in Mobile, Ala.)
But, one of my prevailing thoughts as I plowed through a City Council story on a run-of-the-mill Monday night in August was how different this fall will be because it's NOT an election year.
At a newspaper, election years - particularly in the late summer and fall leading into the November general election - are incredibly busy.
Candidates stop by the office, email us, call us, write letters. There are debates and forums and stump meetings and "meet the candidate" gatherings. I make a lot of new friends during election years who are suddenly not my friends when the election passes.
Oh, and election years are filled with more than a little treachery. Lots of people lying, cheating, deceiving, manipulating and generally being awful to each other. It makes for some damn good stories.
During an election year, the comment section on political stories on indexjournal.com becomes a vicious, stinking, cesspool full of creeps. During a nonelection year, the comment section is just a regular cesspool full of creeps.
Alas, 2013 isn't a big election year. So, on Monday night, I turned to longtime Index-Journal copy editor Bob Simmonds and lamented that fact.
"Think about how different this fall will be for us without elections," I said. "I wish it was an election year."
Simmonds - a newspaper veteran of many election years - glared at me as if I had just said, "Bob, I'd like to punch your mother, Lynn Simmonds, in the face."
Little did I know we would get a little taste of the 2014 election year just less than 24 hours later.
WHEN I ARRIVED AT WORK Tuesday morning, I had an email from Whiting.
Well, actually I had two emails from him. In the first one he asked if I wanted to borrow anything from his vast collection of old Liberace LPs. I just deleted that one.
The second email from the editor - the subject line was simply "Vince" - informed me Democratic gubernatorial candidate Vincent Sheheen would be stopping by that afternoon for a chat.
Sheheen, an attorney and a state senator from District 27, announced he will once again be running for governor in 2014. He was defeated by Republican Nikki Haley in the 2010 gubernatorial race, falling by about 4 percentage points.
Haley has not yet formally announced she is going to seek re-election in 2014, though there have been strong indicators she will run.
Put it this way: If Nikki Haley doesn't run for governor in 2014, I will let Bob Simmonds' mother punch me in the face in the middle of Uptown Greenwood during next summer's Festival of Discovery.
Anyway, Sheheen was in Greenwood County on Tuesday to visit with some of the folks who were affected by the tuberculosis fiasco in Ninety Six. Following that, he took time to come by the Index-Journal and talk for more than an hour with Whiting, associate editor Scott J. Bryan and myself.
It wasn't the first time Sheheen has come by 610 Phoenix St. for a chat. He stopped in to talk on multiple occasions during the 2010 race.
On Tuesday - about 15 months ahead of the November 2014 general election - Sheheen was already in full campaign form, taking Haley to task on a number of issues during the course of the conversation. He was ready for a fight.
"Clearly, South Carolina is not on the right track," Sheheen said. "All the indicators show that we are not moving forward in pace with the rest of the country. We have these core, big challenges that are not being tackled. (Haley) has not come up with one public education improvement idea. She's not come up with any plan to pave roads and bridges and rehab our infrastructure like we need to. She's not proposed any comprehensive tax reform."
When reps in the governor's office learned we chatted with Sheheen and were prepping a story - quite possibly because Bryan and I each tweeted we chatted with Sheheen and were prepping a story - they were itching to join the fray.
Godfrey aggressively denied Sheheen's claims.
"Under Governor Haley's conservative leadership, South Carolina is on the move," Godfrey said. "We signed a billion dollar infrastructure bill into law that gives business another reason to celebrate, we have one of the fastest growing economies on the east coast and have seen the lowest unemployment rate in five years.
"Public educators, legislators and business leaders are participating in the governor's education conversation every week. Only in Vince Sheheen's liberal fantasies would South Carolina be better off if we expanded ObamaCare and let labor union bosses and trial lawyers kill our jobs."
Considering, again, it's 15 MONTHS before the November 2014 election, I thought it was quite telling the likely gubernatorial opponents were already so willing to fire off such direct cannon blasts at one another. Next year is going to be fierce, not just in the gubernatorial race, but also in many others.
I'll regret saying this later but, for now, I can't wait for the show to begin. Really, it already has.
Trainor is the senior staff writer at the Index-Journal. Contact him at 943-5650; email email@example.com. You can follow him on Twitter @IJCHRISTRAINOR. Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only and do not represent the newspaper's opinion.