I haven’t written anything here for over a year. I was campaigning for state senate. I hadn’t planned to do this. I hoped some young, dynamic person would step up and run, and would become part of a new bench for our county. You can’t build a bench on people of certain age. State Senate is a bench-building position, and our county is in dire need of a strong bench. But nobody else stepped up, so there I was. I knew our county party really didn’t have an infrastructure, and I figured that at least I could use my race to help build one.
Running for office is a strange experience. People you think will be excited about your run and totally behind you aren’t, and people you never heard of are totally there and working on your behalf. I met the most amazing people who are doing incredible work for their communities. I learned about struggles of families in our supposedly comfortable community, I learned about the needs of education, I heard stories about the difficulties of young people getting started in life. But, funny thing, I never met my opponent. Every time I expected to meet him face to face he bugged out.
I was running against an incumbent. In his last run, four years earlier, he had won by 30 points. We only lost by 11 points, running against an incumbent. I think this seat can be flipped next time, maybe by a comfortable margin. Winning requires getting started. I hope next time, a dynamic younger person will step up and take this seat.
I learned about how hard it is to get your name out there, especially when the local media are friends of the incumbent. I learned that fundraising is really hard and needs to be done a whole lot earlier than people expect. Lots of funds come in too late to be used if you aren’t doing quick media buys, and the groundwork to do those media buys is nearly impossible if you can’t predict the funds.
I knew I was entering the race a bit late, but I delayed while trying to work through the protocol. I also knew that I had a huge mountain to climb, and the chances of scaling it were slim. But I knew that if I could use my candidacy to build an infrastructure, future candidates would have a better chance of winning.
The biggest thing I learned is that labeling is what is dividing this country. Time and time again, I was asked, Are you a moderate? A liberal? A progressive? And I learned that that is one question a candidate should never answer directly. So I began to instead ask the questioner about issues. I said, “I am not sure how to label me. I believe that our children should be able to get a great education, and begin their careers without facing a pile of debt. Is that liberal, progressive or conservative?” And usually, they said it was not any of those things, but a practical concern. I said, “I have a future daughter in law who is a brittle type 1 diabetic. Without ACA, her insulin and uptake medications cost $2000 a month, plus another $2000 a month for insurance. That means that she has to earn $4000 after taxes just to take care of her diabetes. That means a salary of $60.000 a year just for her diabetes, before she even buys a mouthful of food, to say nothing of lodging, clothing and transportation. I think we need to fix that. Is that conservative, liberal, or progressive?” And I got the same answer. In addition, I got to engage in some fascinating conversations. The same with the light rail we have been paying for for 10 years and still don’t have. I asked, “Is it liberal, progressive or conservative to want to have what I have been paying for?” Same thing. We have to get beneath the labels to discuss the real issues.
I will have more to say about the campaign in the days ahead. But for now, just know that I am back.