The spotlight that shone on Russell for decades nearly blinked out on Election Night 1996.
But even as native son Bob Dole's final presidential bid ended in defeat, a flicker of national prominence remained.
"We've still got one waiting in the wings," a clothing store owner reminded me on my visit to Russell that day 14 years ago. "We'll get Arlen ready to go again."
Sen. Arlen Specter never did run for president again. (His bid for the '96 Republican nomination that Dole won had been brief.)
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But in the years since, the Wichita native and 1947 graduate of Russell High School remained a key figure in national politics.
That is, until last week.
With Specter's defeat in Pennsylvania's Democratic primary (he switched parties in 2009), Russell loses its last tie to the political big leagues.
Which makes you wonder how much longer it will be before motorists passing by on I-70 will spy the big blue billboards touting Russell as the boyhood home of Dole and Specter and ask themselves, "Who are those guys?"
"We've discussed it before," Russell County Economic Development director Janae Talbott said Thursday when I inquired whether the Dole/Specter signs might be retired.
"We don't have a board meeting until next month, but I'm sure it will be on the agenda."
Whether you're heading east or west on I-70 outside Russell, you've seen the big, blue billboards that say:
"Welcome to the boyhood hometown of Sens. Bob Dole and Arlen Specter."
An earlier sign mentioned only Dole, who made much of his ties to Russell during a 27-year Senate career and four national political campaigns.
In recent years, though, with Specter still a force in the Senate, the pair got equal billing along the interstate and at a local motel.
Since 2003, the AmericInn has promoted its Dole-Specter Conference Center as "the perfect location for your next event."
When needed, the 3,200-square-foot hall can be split in two. The Dole Room is the larger space, seating 200; the Specter Room accommodates 80.
You won't find many other mentions of Specter around town, where Dole has always had the higher profile.
"In our fossil museum there is a room dedicated to the Doles, Bob and Elizabeth," Talbott said.
Technically, it's the Fossil Station Museum, but Dole, 86 and always the jokester, probably would appreciate his name being associated with dinosaur bones.
As for the signs, former Russell County Commissioner Don Haberer doubts the community would insult the more favored of Russell's favorite sons by removing them.
"You can safely assume that it's not going to happen before the death of Bob Dole," he said.
As for Specter, 80, I expect there'll always be room at the AmericInn — at least until the next remodel.