Cigar Hunter: Post-election short smokes

David Martosko Executive Editor
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Cigar Hunter is back after a short election hiatus. The next prize giveaway will be announced later in the week. Make sure you’re at least 18 years old and a member of the Cigar Hunter email list for a chance to win.

Today’s photographic guest smoker: The late Christopher Campbell, a Navy SEAL who died on August 6, 2011 in Afghanistan when his helicopter crashed. CQ/Roll Call photographer Chris Maddaloni took this photo of mementos, including a CAO cigar, that were left Sunday on his grave marker at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

Just imagine her toasting his robusto

Cigars turn up in the strangest political stories. This week news emerged that Illinois Democratic Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. will likely go to jail for misusing campaign money on home furnishings and travel. (RELATED VIDEO: Jackson nearing plea deal, jail time)

But his donors’ dollars didn’t buy just any garden-variety plane tickets: Chicago newspapers breathlessly reported that the airfare was for Jackson’s mistress, a hostess at a Washington, D.C. restaurant/cigar lounge.

The hot spot? Ozio on M Street in Washington. I’m embarrassed to say it’s a few blocks from my office and I haven’t been there yet. Is Giovanna Huidobro, the mistress in question, still an employee? (I might have to go find out.)

Her name isn’t nearly as well-known as that of Karin Stanford, whose affair with the congressman’s father (the Rev. Jesse Jackson) produced a child some years ago. But whether it’s plane tickets or child-support payments, the apple doesn’t seem to fall far from the tree. (RELATED: D.L. Hughley book says Rev. Jackson paid mistress — again)

Even if Huidobro has vanished, there’s always hope for former Jackson lady-friends: Stanford now teaches black history and hip-hop culture at Cal State Northridge. Maybe she can take up cigar rolling if the bikini modeling doesn’t work out.

Because Punxsutawney Phil isn’t odd enough

Pennsylvania has some odd traditions, the Groundhog Day rodent being probably the most famous. But last week in the Eastern Penn. town of Richland, the borough council approved a New Year’s Eve “drop” of a giant cigar instead of a shiny ball or (if you’re on Key West) a big conch shell.

The Lebanon (Penn.) Daily News reported that the Richland Heritage Society will drop the cigar — which they’ve used before — from a bucket truck at midnight. Last year’s event drew about 220 people. Someone shot a video of this in 2010. Words. Cannot. Describe.


John Hay Cigars in — yes — Intercourse, Pennsylvania sponsors this every year.

The company has been producing cigars since 1882. According to local historians, who seem to write about this in their newspapers an awful lot, between 1871 and 1940 most of the people in Richland County were involved somehow in the cigar trade.

And it turns out the town of Red Lion in Pennsylvania’s York County — whose last remaining cigar factory closed just last year — also drops a cigar on New Year’s Eve. (Why can’t Miami take this kind of initiative?)

Elections have consequences

I keep reminding myself that even as many Republicans lick their wounds this week and some Democrats find a new level of cockiness, voting can have consequences that hit us closer to home than the presidency can.

North Dakotans, for instance, were just hit with a stunning ballot initiative: Two-thirds of voters approved a broad smoking ban in the state that will cover “public places and most places of employment in the state, including certain outdoor area.” It also covers electronic cigarettes, which makes no sense to me at all.

When it goes into effect next month, bars, truck stops, cabs, hotel rooms and — yes — tobacco shops will all be smoke free. You’ll literally have to walk outside, 20 feet from a cigar shop, in the North Dakota cold, to smoke what you just purchased.

Bar and restaurant owners always hate these laws, and North Dakota’s are no exception. “It should be up to the business owner,” one told the Bismarck Tribune. “There are plenty of places to go non-smoking if you don’t want to smoke … What’s next? Are they going to tell us what kind of beer to sell?”

Todd Pryor runs The Great Plains Smoke Shop & Garage Lounge in Minot, N.D. It’s the state’s only real “traditional” cigar bar, Pryor wrote on Facebook before the election.

“Imagine visiting your favorite truck stop, and you order some apple pie and coffee,” he explained. “Sounds great, right? Then the waitress brings you everything in To-Go containers because Public Law stipulates these items can’t be consumed within the business; because they are bad for you.”

And an anti-Nanny-Stater was born.

Glynn Loope of Cigar Rights of America is one of my favorite stogie warriors. Smoking- ban advocates, he wrote last month, “have not accepted that notion that cigar smokers, cigar shop owners and even the manufacturers of great cigars, just want to be left alone.”

And the day before the election, he made a promise of sorts about the ballot initiative: “If it passes and takes away enjoying a cigar in a local shop, see ya’ in Bismarck for some legislative change.”

I have no idea if Loope’s cavalry has enough juice to override a two-thirds majority of North Dakotans with sheer lobbying muscle. But I bet he hands out a lot of cigars in the statehouse.

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