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.
Any board I’ve ever been on there hasn’t really been any competition. I don’t think I’d have the courage to go through a campaign as gruelling as what you went through. I was on the board of our after school daycare.
And while I never ran in an election I did run a polling station for the provincial election. You wouldn’t believe some of the stuff that gets stuck in ballot boxes.
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Hey, Pat. Kudos for serving on the board for your after school day care. Important to keep those kids safe and occupied. I served once as a precinct worker, not the in-charge person, like you. I remember there being so many rules! Thanks for doing that job and for stopping by and sharing. 🙂
I’ve never run for any office, but like you, Marsha I am political and come from a very political family. I grew up living and breathing politics via my family. I try extremely hard not to post my views and I have many views on FB. I think people would be shocked. Sometimes my views slip through though.
Although I’m not going to stand for injustice. Good post.
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Hey, Susan. My family wasn’t actively political. With my father being in the Air Force, my parents weren’t free to voice their opinions. But after Dad retired, my mom was very active–she was a letter writer, and I get that from her. Wrote lots of them and articles for the paper on issues, but that was before becoming a writer. And I’m with you, an injustice will make me rethink my reticence. Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing.
What a great post, Marsha. I totally agree with your statement “put-up or shut up,” and I really admire you for stepping up to the plate. If you don’t agree with how something is being run, there is no point standing on the sidelines chelping. I admire you for taking action and not standing back.
I do struggle with not expressing my political views as a writer, and I wonder if it would be better – and more honest – to express them, or if my social media feed as a romance writer is just not the right place.
One view I do have – and this is the same in the UK and in a lot of so-called democracies – is that the outcome of political campaigns shouldn’t have anything to do with who was able to spend the most money. How can that be democratic? But that’s the system here, in France, all over. I don’t know how it could be changed, but the outcome would be fairer if all parties were even.
Anyway, that’s me off my soap box 🙂
It was great to find out what went on in your process and to see all your photos. I’m sure you were a very principled and thoughtful member. Good for you for standing. I hope more people like you do the same.
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Hey, Helena. Thanks for you kind words. I’ll tell you to this day, I’ll meet someone and they’ll say, “Oh, you were on the school board, right? I voted for you.” or “Thanks for your service.” It’s very gratifying, becaue I’ve been off way longer than I served.
I so agree with you about the funding system for elections. I didn’t realize you had the same problem in GB and Europe. I’m basically an optimist and will continue to hope for the best. Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing.
Hi, Marsha! Wow, you have great insight. I ran for treasurer in jr. high and that was my last experience. Since, I just volunteer. Way easier. Thank you for your service.
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Hey, Vicki. Thanks for doing the treasurer job! That is one I never, ever do. I’d be a disaster. Thanks for stopping and sharing.
Hi, Marsha, I do very well remember those campaigns and your service on the school board. I was always grateful that you were there to protect the school children and the teachers as best, honestly, and fairly as you could. I, too, am a political animal and have strong opinions. However, even though I am not a writer, I have learned to keep my mouth shut in general and only talk among friends who share my views. I don’t write to the newspaper because of my last name. We’re the only ones in town with our last name. In Texas, we live in such a polarized society, where it’s hard to differ sincerely and politely with others’ opinions. There was a time when we could have civilized discussions with people even if we disagreed. I can send money, and occasionally put a sign in my yard. I can talk freely at the Book Club. We all have similar views. I loved the family picture from your first campaign. The girls were very young, weren’t they?
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Hey, Jane. Thought you’d remember those days. You and Tom were really supportive. Remember building the signs? What fun. It’s very sad that the fabric of our society is torn such that we can’t have a civilized disagreement. You’re right we used to be able to do that. I heard recently that several child advocate groups were speaking out against the way campaign debates have dissolved into shouting matches with people talking on top of each other and ignoring time limits. How do we teach our children to behave better?
Kathryn seldom reads my blog posts, but she did this one and said, yes she wished I hadn’t used that card with their picture. I hadn’t kept much from that first race in my zeal to downsize., so I didn’t have many options. Guess you’re never to old to embarrass your daughters. LOL Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting.
Sorry, Kathryn, my dear, I thought the picture was precious and bought back wonderful memories.
I so agree about writers not posting their political views on their social media. There are some authors, some of whom you are friends with I’m sure, whose books I have purchased and then saw them post something political that just bothers me so much that I cannot continue to read their books nor even finish one I have started. If you don’t want to alienate any readers, then I highly recommend not expressing those views online. I am every bit as passionate in my own political beliefs and it will be a deal breaker. Political beliefs are opinions, not facts, and nothing will make me turn and run faster than someone spouting off about their beliefs in an aggressive manner. I hope all your writer friends make note of this.