For those of you in the US, you’re well aware we’re in the thick of the presidential election season. I heard a report from the BBC the other day about how the election was going, so maybe everyone is aware.
Now don’t worry, I’m not going off for against any of the candidates. As a writer, I can’t afford to alienate half my potential audience. LOL Giving up this opportunity has been hard for me to come to grips with, because I’m a political animal. But it’s a sacrifice I make so I can write.
“So, what pray tell are you going to write about?” You ask.
Elections! The campaign process. What’s required of anyone willing to put themselves out there to run for office.
You see I know a bit about this process from personal experience. Back in the 80’s I ran for the Fort Worth ISD Board of Education. I’d been observing it for many years, attending the board meetings and reporting to my American Association of University Women (AAUW) local chapter. I saw mostly a bunch of old white men (there was one woman), none of whom (IMHO) knew enough about public education to make decisions affecting kids and staff and parents. (In retrospect these folks were all younger than I am now or than many of the current board members! Hindsight is sometimes everything. LOL)
At the time the FWISD Board was made up of seven single member districts with a president and vice president elected at large.
One December we read in the paper that the incumbent for the single member district in which we lived was not going to run again. You probably know this, but in case you don’t, let me assure you that it’s way easier to run when there is no incumbent.
Hint: Incumbents have a distinct advantage of knowledge and name recognition. Try to run when there isn’t one.
You know the saying, put up-or shut up? Well, I’d been saying for several years that I wanted to serve on the board. This was the perfect opportunity.
My husband had experience in political campaigns from college and law school and knew a lot of people from his law practice. I knew a lot of people, too from PTA, AAUW, school volunteering, Junior Women’s Club, and church.
Fort Worth is an interesting town. We are all interrelated. I naively thought that just because someone knew me, they would support and vote for me. In a field of four candidates, it didn’t work that way. One of my best friends supported another candidate. They went to church together. She’d promised him her support before she knew I was running. I was devastated. Now, I had a lot of other support, but wow, that hurt.
Hint: Get out there early and first.
Reminder to Vote Card Front
Rules of the game: One neighborhood in the district was pretty much run by one powerful woman. If you had the BBQ dinner for her, you got the votes. I just thought that was wrong and refused to do it. One of the candidates did and got the votes from that neighborhood.
Hint: Realize you will be asked to make decisions that ethically may make you uncomfortable.
Be prepared to write down what you believe about a host of issues and to be able to articulate those in forums. The newspaper or League of Women Voters and a host of other organizations will have questionnaires for you to fill out. (This is decidedly easier now than back in the dark ages for sure.)
Hint: Educate yourself about the issues. You don’t want someone to ask you a question and have no clue what the audience member is talking about.
Hint: Never bluff. If you don’t know, say that and tell them you’ll get back to them. And then do so.
This is an issue page I’ve left this larger so you have a shot at skimming through.
Hint: Learn to use sound bites. I know this will surprise you, (LOL) but I’m not good at sound bites. They’re a little like a tag for a book, a few words telling what the book is about. Twenty words to tell what my 90 K- word book is about! The reporter asking a difficult questions sticks the mike in your face and wants a “brief” explanation of some very complicated issue. Just not happening!
Back of the card above. My daughters will kill me for posting this!
Hint: Know the rules of campaigning. Did you know that campaign signs have to be 6 feet from the curb? (That’s in Fort Worth. Check your city ordinances for your own area.) One of the candidates knew all the rules, and she reported me and the other candidates for not complying. Of course, we fixed all of ours, but I didn’t like feeling like a jerk. I’m a rule follower above almost everything. Did you know they are supposed to be picked up within a few days after the election unless there is a run-off? Yep. Ours always were.
Hint: If you don’t like asking for money, being a candidate may not be for you. Oh, my gosh! I hated asking for money.
I hated asking for money.
I hated asking for money!
But you need money to run a campaign for the flyers and signs. To pay a graphic artist to come up with your campaign logo. Even in today’s high tech social media world, candidates send out flyers and use campaign signs. (At least in local elections.)
Hint: Be prepared to reach into your own pocket to get things started. If you’re not willing to do that, the message is you don’t believe in yourself.
On that first campaign, including the run off, we spent $17,000. And we lost!!!!
(That is an exorbitant amount of money, but my district ran the same time as the president and vice president who were elected at large. It always took more money to run in my district than the other single member districts.)
Hint: If there are multiple candidates be prepared for a run off. Just because you were ahead in the general election, don’t take any time off after the election before beginning to hit the trails again. We were exhausted and took off a week. Big mistake.
A campaign runs on volunteers. You need a way to capture and keep up with them.
Losing is awful!! Just awful. I feel such pain for candidates when they lose, even the ones I don’t want to win! Because I know something of what has gone into a race and how much they wanted it.
In this instance, losing was a good thing. My kids were still young. I got lots of opportunities because of the name recognition I’d gained during the campaign. When I ran next time and was elected, it took only a month for me to realize how glad I was the girls were older. And all those opportunities I got because of the first campaign, made me a better board member than I’d have been before.
Local elections are the heart of our democracy. If you don’t want to run yourself, then educate yourself about a candidate and get out there and support him/her. I couldn’t have been elected without a lot of support from folks doing super volunteer work.
Hint: It helps if you like popcorn. We ate popcorn for supper for every one of our Sunday evening campaign meetings. 🙂
I’d have had more pictures but because I’ve been downsizing, I got rid of a lot of material from that first campaign. I still have the bus bench add in the garage. Guess it will go to the lakehouse with us. We were one of the first campaigns in Fort Worth to use this.
So have you ever run for anything? Did you win or lose? How about working in campaigns? (Some of you who follow this blog, worked in all of my campaigns. 🙂 Thank you much!) If you’re a writer, do you struggle with this “rule” that we’re not supposed to get involved in politics.
Love to hear from you.