There are many types of journeys one can take but a personal journey is an exceptional opportunity.
What non-political, in fact apolitical, person ever expects to be called upon to run for office? I certainly didn’t, but what a range of feelings and emotions that request evokes.
First there is the surprise, followed by pride, which quickly is overtaken by self-doubt. Did my life, education and career experiences offer me enough substance upon which to base a political race, particularly in a town where a Democrat has not won this seat in 100 years? Having been asked two years ago by standard bearers of the Greenwich GOP helped in this regard because they had already told me many of them thought I was the best candidate for this position. I wondered, win or lose, would I have contributed enough to the community dialogue on issues that have been so important to me, and for which I have fought so hard over my 44 years of professional life, to have been relevant when all was said and done? Politics is such a broad field of endeavor and each of us are only expert in a few areas. I came to understand that where I didn’t have the answers, I knew where to go to research them and who the best resource people were, from here to Hartford, and beyond.
Then the question emerges in your head about how to prepare for a task as broad and far-reaching as would be a political run in Greenwich. What would be my personal goals for undertaking such a challenge? Several asked why I was willing to be a sacrificial lamb because, as they explained, I could be the best candidate for the job, but that would not even be a factor in the race; the outcome was pre-determined purely by the numbers and GOP party voting loyalty regardless of candidate attributes.
I knew in my heart that enlarging the community understanding of the social, economic, health access, and broad diversity issues impacting so many people in the 150th District would be my personal subjective goal. This district is the most diverse in every way and if any District in Greenwich needed a Democratic voice, this was it. The 150th encompasses all but one of the Housing Authority buildings, all the senior and affordable housing units, all but one of the Pathways group homes and supported housing units for people living with mental illness, as well as those units for people with other special challenges. Our only Veterans’ club is in this district. It contains the schools struggling with racial imbalance issues and has the largest share of our immigrant and our low income populations; none of them a priority in the national or local GOP platform. I knew I could live with the pre-ordained outcome of the election if I could raise Greenwich community awareness of the issues facing these people, and what that truly meant. I knew, through my own commission, committee and task force work from here to Hartford that my own work on these issues would not falter; I would continue to be a loud and strong voice for these people as I had been for decades, regardless of whether or not I was in elected office.
The duty to self-educate and prepare for such a monumental undertaking as a political campaign, especially as a novice, feels overwhelming; all the more so to one who did not have political aspirations to begin with. When you make the decision to accept your Party’s offer and be a standard bearer for Party ideals, you face a whole new range of challenges. A true process of soul-searching begins; at least I believe it must in every good candidate, as you need to be very clear on where you stand on issues and why you feel as you do. If you go into politics for any reason other than the good of the people, you’re in it for the wrong reason. Your positions can’t be spur-of-the moment eureka events, but those based on a careful review of both sides of each position so you can imbue your standpoints with the strength and veracity of heartfelt beliefs.
So how did I handle this challenge? In my usual research, evidence and outcome based way of approaching issues. I sat down and wrote a 101-page primer for all of our Democratic candidates on every conceivable topic that I felt could emerge in discussion or debate. I researched the issues, went back to many original documents, spoke with and interviewed numerous people on both sides of the aisle on the topics’ pros and cons. It was a tremendous learning experience and I felt so righteous when a Republican lady at one of the debates commended me on my participation responses, noting that she had felt I would be a one-issue candidate, presumably healthcare. She noted that she wished she could vote for me, but she was a Republican. I reminded her that she actually could. The poll booths are, after all, confidential.
So, I didn’t prevail, and a good man from the other side did. I wish him the best of luck and have offered any assistance I could to help him succeed on behalf of the many diverse faces of Greenwich. Hurricane Sandy stepped in just before the election and showed us the broad range and capacity of our citizens just within this one District. One family, whose beautiful shore-side mansion was damaged, was built from one year’s bonus; numerous other families lost just the food in their refrigerators but they could not afford to replace that food without assistance. These are two very different worlds right within our District borders. It is my fervent hope that my former opponent, and now my Representative, will use his time in office to improve the lot of ALL the people of District 150, not just the more affluent and those who pay our property taxes. Holding taxes down and cutting costs must be balanced with maintaining a safety net for the many people of District 150 who sorely need that. It is a challenge, but one that must be met for the sake of the humanity in all of us. We can’t do less for our people than we are required by law to do for our pets; food, shelter, healthcare.
Would I take this challenge again even knowing the probable outcome? You bet I would, were I to be asked, in a heartbeat, because the people in District 150 need a voice that speaks from the heart for those many within it who are less able to speak for themselves for so many reasons. I’ve walked several of the paths they now walk, not having come from affluence, and the opportunity for an affordable education and good fortune along my way has allowed me to succeed beyond my expectations in life. Campaigning has been a remarkable journey of personal growth that has strengthened my inner core of convictions. I am surer now than ever that the two political sides do not represent good guys and bad guys, but merely groups of people addressing what they see as different sets of problems and seeing different solutions to those problems. We can work together and we must do so for everyone to benefit from what our community and our country has to offer.