I stood looking at myself in the mirror. The woman looking back at me almost looked like someone else. She was confident and so sure of herself. It was quite a contrast to how I felt.
I made my way downstairs to get my coat and car keys. I wanted to document the moment, but it just felt like senior prom or something. Juvenile. Overdressed. Silly. Those were the words I would have chosen to describe myself at that moment. Not the feelings I would have expected as I prepared to go to the county elections office and register as a candidate for state senate.
And then as I stepped out of the elevator, it all changed.
I walked into the lobby and connected with my fellow candidates. There was an electric, excited energy. Gone were my doubts. Vanquished my fears. I stood shoulder to shoulder with fellow women, together willing to be brave and do something far outside of our comfort zone. I felt strong. I had purpose. Win or lose, at that moment, it didn’t matter. I knew I was doing something meaningful. Regardless of the internal or external critics, this was something that needed to be done.
I am no typical candidate. This is not about me or my campaign. This is something much bigger.
There is something missing in politics. Many “somethings”, actually. Politics is missing beauty, understanding, kindness, patience, creativity, and grace. Women do not monopolize these qualities, but we possess the ability to make them sparkle and shine. That is our natural gift to the world and it’s time to give us space in politics.
Obviously this is an uphill, upstream battle. It is a marathon. This is certainly not a sprint to the finish line. If I ever doubt it, I encounter a “friendly” reminder.
Since declaring my candidacy, I have often felt the butterflies rise as I think about everything that needs to go into running a political campaign. While I definitely need to still do many of the typical things like fundraising and attracting volunteers, my winning strategy looks very different. But my ideas throw people off. I remember a conversation with a good friend, someone very knowledgeable and for whom I have great respect.
The conversation went something like this:
“Congratulations being a candidate!”
“Aw, thank you,” I said.
“Yeah. This is exciting. So, uh, how do you plan to distinguish yourself as the person I should vote for?”
“Oh, well, I plan to focus on reform and changing the system. It’s just not working anymore, ya know,” I said a little awkwardly.
“That’s nice. Yeah, but what makes you better than your opponent. What specifically would you do? What would you do if you were elected to office?”
“Um, well, yeah, that’s a good question,” I said, completely understanding the importance of the question, but struggling to answer.
“Have you thought about your opponent and how you’re going to win?”
That’s when I realized I needed to back up the conversation.
“Look, I know this might sound strange, but I don’t plan to play the same game. There is absolutely no way I can win based on the current rules. My opponent has already mastered the game. I am going to have to simply change how things are done by doing it differently,” I said.
We stood there for a moment. I could tell my friend was still processing. Before we could discuss further there were kids interrupting and screaming, so we moved on to other things. I know, though, this is a conversation that will replay over and over again with many other people. That’s an item on my candidate to-do list: Get better at explaining.
It’s been hard for people within my political party to understand as well. Writing that sentence makes me chuckle, thinking of the mixture of feelings I must inspire in some of the leaders. I imagine they are particularly frustrated, because I constantly refuse to play by the rules.
Sorry, but that is the power of a candidate.
That’s not to say I get to disregard every rule. There are plenty of important rules I plan to follow very carefully. That is especially on my mind as a female candidate.
As a woman, I can guarantee you I have spent a substantial amount of time thinking about how my body will be used as a sexual mental image. That is the blessing and curse of the female body and it is not to be taken lightly. My opponent, a 40-something balding male, doesn’t have to worry about that. Granted, he doesn’t get off free and easy either. He has to make sure he doesn’t come across too boring.
So, I’m careful about what I wear, how I pose, and how much skin is showing. It’s tempting to try and solve my problem by wearing a potato sack and hiding all of the curves. Uh, yeah, I learned long ago that hiding doesn’t solve anything either.
It’s a balancing act.
I find myself evolving and learning as I go. I’m inspired by my own transformation and that woman who keeps meeting me in the mirror every day. She is amazing. She is powerful and she knows it. I want to be her. I want to show others that they have an equally inspiring person inside of them too.
So here I go, emerging from my cocoon and trying out this whole campaigning thing. Any questions? Things you’re curious about? I plan to share as I go, but it’s always nice to know what aspects of campaigning you might find interesting.