She's GOT to be kidding.

That's what I thought at 7:30 p.m. on primary night when I looked at my doorstep and saw a woman who wore a T-shirt emblazoned with the name of the fellow who had, by then, become one of my least favorite local politicians of all time.

Let's call him Bedeviling Buddy.

"The polls are open for 90 more minutes," she chirped merrily at me, as if I'd suddenly lost the ability to tell time.

"I already voted four hours ago," I scowled back with pure loathing dripping from my voice.

You have no idea how bad it had become by then. Buddy, at that point, was one of the curses of my daily existence.

He wouldn't leave me alone. His cardboard pleas for my primary vote filled my mail. His robocalls infested my answering machine daily.

Buddy himself, early on, came to my door, introduced himself cheerily and asked for my vote.

Did that stop him from sending other volunteers and partisans to my door, including a member of Bedeviling Buddy's own immediate family? Hell, no.

They were there, it seems, every time I looked up in the past two months.

Mostly, of course, at dinner time, when they know you'll be home and they couldn't be less welcome.

I don't know about you, but I have always tended to think of dinnertime as sacrosanct. If it's not the time for families to come together, it's the time when people who live alone can unwind after a long hard day at work - have a nice civilized drink, enjoy dinner and watch news on TV, with all the joy that comes from removing one's shoes and not dressing up for company.

By all means, you can add the weekend to that, too.

Which is why Buddy and all of his brother and sister bedevilers were sure to show up at just those times to "remind" us of Buddy's superiority to his competitors in the political racket.

He won his primary handily, and I certainly don't wish him ill in November. But I never again want to see his face, shake his hand, meet a supporter or hear his or their voices on my telephone for the rest of my natural life.

I talked to a politically savvy colleague here at The News about the water torture campaign of Bedeviling Buddy. It turns out that in his neighborhood, he had a similar experience with another desperate candidate, also a handy winner on primary day.

"It's like you're being stalked," said my astute colleague.


It seems to me that if a fellow comes to your front door, pumps your hand and introduces himself, you'd have to be very stupid indeed - or far gone into senile dementia - to forget that he's running for office, especially when there are cardboard reminders in your mail every other day.

The robocalls, then, were a pointless annoyance. So were his sinister agents of bedevilment pushing my doorbell constantly and harassing me at dinnertime.

Let me, at this point, hastily point out that until Bedeviling Buddy started stalking me, harassing me, and insulting my (admittedly limited) intelligence at every opportunity, I had not had a single unkind thought about the fellow.

I LIKE politicians. I know that probably makes me crazy, but I've known quite a few with some candor and intimacy my entire adult life. And of the particular breed I've seen, I tend to like their idealism, their civic responsibility, their humor and the genuineness of their concern for constituents. I've always found them to have odd and quite charming affection for some constituents they'd never have met at all if they'd done something else for a living.

And I've liked their wives even more. Frankly, "political wife" is one of the toughest jobs on earth when that's as far as it goes. It entails all of a politician's vulnerabilities but offers almost none of the rewards.

If you're ever looking for the "salt of the earth," try a politician's wife. You won't have to look any farther.

It was, then, something of a feat for Bedeviling Buddy to turn me from a kindly disposed constituent to a citizen who now dreads the very sound of the guy's name.

I know from talking to people that I'm not alone.

So let me make a modest proposal to all local pols, and I do mean all. This is the computer age. Find a tech-savvy young volunteer and figure out a way to limit the number of intrusive in-person visits and robocalls by yourself and your volunteers.

Do what you want with the mail. The U.S. Postal Service needs your business.

But keep track in your computer of every intrusive contact with voters' home lives. Limit the number of direct contacts - by phone or in person - to five.

No more than that.

Trust that if you've looked someone in the eye and you shook his or her hand, they'll remember you and, if they like you, your politics and your record, they'll vote for you.

If they don't like one or more of those things, all the visits and robocalls in the world aren't going to change their minds. (Quite the contrary, in fact.)

My experience with Bedeviling Buddy totaled about 25 such contacts in the space of, say, six weeks, which is indeed a form of stalking.

All of it turned me from someone kindly disposed to a fellow to someone who actively resents his contempt for my memory, my judgment, my civic-mindedness and my privacy.

To all local pols I say "no more political stalking, folks.

By all means, find out who needs a ride to the polls on Election Day and take them. Otherwise, leave us able-bodied and free-thinking voters alone."

Start keeping touch with what your barbarian hordes of volunteers are doing in your name.

If you can't do that, don't be surprised if citizens start bedeviling YOU.