Well, it’s the end of the first week of my officially announcing my run (I hope I’m doing it right) for a local county board office in a historically red county. Having never run for office before, I’ve learned a lot in that short amount of time. In the interest of transparency at all levels of government and the electoral process, I’d like to share what I’m learning.
First, let me tell you a little about my county. We’re located roughly 20 miles west of Chicago. According to census data, the population is approaching 930,000, 66% of whom are white, not Hispanic or Latino, 15% Hispanic or Latino, 13% Asian, 5% African American, and 2% two or more races. Median household income is $85,000, per capita $42,000, with 6.2% of the population living in poverty.
The county has been historically red until the 2018 election cycle when a Democrat (who also happens to be a woman) was the first Democrat elected to a county-wide position since 1934. Additionally, prior to 2018 there was only one Democrat on the county board out of 18 seats. Currently, seven of the 18 board members are Democrats and all of them are women.
The entire county is broken down into six districts. I’m running in one of the districts.
I still haven’t figured out exactly why, but my district’s primary is an incredibly hot race. I’m jumping in as a novice and there are currently four others running for the same spot on the ballot against the Republican incumbent, an attorney who attended the local high school, who has served since 2016.
More about my Democratic primary rivals: one came very close to defeating the Republican county board chairman last election, one is a 19-year-old who was featured in “Teen Vogue” magazine after she ran for a seat on the board last year, one has some experience with energy policy, and one I haven’t met or heard anything about.
Some Stuff I’ve Learned and Some Stuff I’ve Experienced
After downloading the paperwork from the county website, I learned that I needed about 150 unchallengeable signatures from people in my district in order for my name to appear on the ballot. I was advised to get at least 2-3 times that many signatures because the Republicans will challenge the ones they deem questionable. (I’m assuming the Dems do the same.)
Where are the young people? Where are the GenX’ers?
My first outing as a candidate was to a local Dem-leaning organization meeting—average age of attendees was about 10-20 years older than me (where are the young people? where are the GenX’ers?)—to kick things off and start getting some signatures.
Suffice it to say, it wasn’t a very positive start. I was told there was no way I could win and the next morning, after a night of mulling over the experience, I tweeted out this thread:
But I did end up with seven signatures and a political ally who is running for a different office in the same district.
But Wait… There’s More
In addition to canvassing neighborhoods to get signatures, the local township Democratic party and the county Democratic party offer opportunities for all candidates to have their petitions out at meetings to get signatures. (County, districts, townships, yikes! And the township is broken down into precincts. So many boundary lines.)
I attended the township meeting where the people were very much more welcoming than the last meeting I attended (and there were some people my age, i.e., middle aged). You would think in a healthy democracy any and all participation is encouraged. I was glad to see and feel this at the meeting after my experience at the first one. Anyway, all candidates were given a chance to stand up, introduce themselves, and make a 30-second elevator speech.
My speech, and candidacy, was apparently a big surprise to the others running for the same spot on the ballot. I smiled at them as I introduced myself thinking we could recreate something like the lovely Elizabeth Warren/Kamala Harris hug. But no such luck. I didn’t even get a smile in return.
I’m getting a little bored writing this now. That means you must be getting a little bored reading it, but let me share just one more thing.
Last night I took my kids to the county Democratic party office for another night of petition-signing. My petitions were sitting out on the table with everyone else’s, except my poor lonely ones didn’t have a single signature on them. (I’m making a sad, frowny face as I type this.)
I went out of my way to sign the petitions of my competitors and to show my children that I was doing so, as they shoved their faces full of candy. They asked why I was signing to help my rivals get on the ballot. And I said: Because it’s the right thing to do.
Why am I running? Because contributing to the conversation is a civic duty. No longer will I be afraid to have my voice heard. No longer will I selfishly keep all the knowledge I’ve gleaned throughout my life, my education, and my experience to myself. I’m going to use it to make things better in my little corner of the world.
It’s the right thing to do.