The Unexpected Candidate
Running a political race was the last thing I ever thought I’d do.
I’ve been around politics enough to know it is a serious undertaking and not for the faint of heart. Although the inner workings have always been intriguing to me personally, one of the main things that has kept me out of politics, is well, politics. But wait, I’m jumping ahead of myself.
About a month ago I was standing in a crowd, chatting with various people supporting our House Representative, Connie Bernardy. I was mingling with people I knew, catching up about families and jobs, upcoming fundraisers and high school graduations. Commissioner Jim Kordiak, tapped my shoulder to say hello, something he has done a hundred times. He quickly pulls me aside. This was unusual.
We go to a quiet corner where he tells me he will be sending out a press release tomorrow morning announcing his retirement after 32 years of service. I am wordless. He’s been our Commissioner for as long as I can remember. We stare at one another for several beats. He reminds me that I expressed interest in this role several years back, and now the chance is here. Whether I was ready or not.
This chance did not instill excitement in me, it instilled fear. Because it’s true, I had expressed interest in this role, and my inner most networks knew this about me too. And here it was, presented with a smile in a quiet corner, topped with a shiny bow. Would I accept the gift, or politely decline?
I knew enough about politics to know things move quickly. Indecision is death before you can take your first gasp of air. I spent the next week in a flurry of concentrated examination. Why would I want to run (really)? What does it mean to be a County Commissioner? How will this affect my family? Every question colored with the hue of, could I serve my community well?
I’m lucky. I have people—specifically women—who have tremendous experience in the life of politics who I knew would be candid and tell me like it is.
And it’s not pretty. It’s hard. Really hard. Campaigning takes intelligence and stamina and mostly belief. Some would say you must have the belief you can win, or don’t bother trying. For me, it is the belief that winning an elected seat means I will do something good in the world for others at my highest capacity. If I didn’t believe this wholeheartedly, I wouldn’t subject myself to this grueling process.
But I’ve struggled with—continue to struggle with—the perceptions and labels of “politician.” Thoughts of manipulation, unfairness and insincerity leap to mind. That the systems and culture of politics often reward the cunning and punish the well-intentioned. Why would any “nice” person want to get involved with that?
I’ll tell you why. Because politics are an inescapable element of our everyday lives. The very definition of politics means the keeping of power and influence. We gnash our teeth together over it, wanting it to change, knowing it will only shift again. Every employed adult understands this and every family member. It is human nature.
Becoming a politician for me became a philosophical question. When a good opportunity presents itself—however unexpected—do you grab it with both hands and run with it, or let it go?
I chose to run.