These posts will continue at approximately one per week till the November 4 election. #1 is here.
Thursday I was at a meeting that included my State Legislative Representative, Joann Ward, MN District 53A.
I asked, off the cuff, how many people live in your District; and how many households (“doors”) there are.
Population: 37 to 39,000
Households: 16 to 20,000
Most every Minnesota legislative District has similar numbers. Rep. Ward’s is relatively compact, being a suburban district, major parts of two suburbs.
She is a first term legislator, the incumbent, and between now and November 4, six months from now, she has to figure out how to reach in some fashion or other, as many as possible of the people who might vote for her, or her opponent*.
On the official paperwork, she is the one running for legislator; actually, it is every single one of her constituents who support her re-election who are “running”. (She has been an outstanding legislator, but those two words bring a new dimension to her candidacy this year: she has a record. Incumbency is its own curse, particularly in this intensely polarized political age!)
If she runs by herself, without lots of active support from the constituents who elected her last time, it will be difficult. “Nature of the Beast”, these constituents, most of them, including her strong supporters, at this moment, are paying no attention to the coming election, concentrating on other things, like summer at the cabin.
It is a dilemma.
I happened to be at the local Convention at which she was nominated March 31, 2012.
Here is a photo of her first stump speech, seeking nomination. (click to enlarge)
I had a very small advantage over the delegates to the Convention that day. For a brief time, 13 years earlier, JoAnn and my paths crossed, and I saw her in action as a school volunteer helping bring to fruition a successful Community Conversation About Public Schools, a pilot program I was coordinating in her local school district (at the time I lived elsewhere).
She was one of those who stood out, even then: the kind of person you remember.
Most of the delegates really had no idea who she was March 31, 2012; and she had likely had really no idea about the realities campaigning for election. I would bet that then, and probably often since, she and her family have wondered “why did I do this?”
Running for office, especially as a newcomer, is very difficult. Serving in office is no walk in the park either.
We had agreed to do a fundraiser for her during that summer, and it was considerably less than successful: we invited over 20 people; only a couple of them came. Probably a half dozen of us sat in our living room.
But, thinking back, that tiny event was, like all other events, crucial for her. It was an opportunity to practice talking about Issues in front of Real People. It was like that first speech we’ve all had to give sometime, in front of people, in 5th grade, or high school, or at church, or wherever, only worse: you have no idea who is in your audience, or what questions they are going to ask, and governing a state, much less a nation, is exceedingly complex work.
I’ve watched JoAnn Ward these past months, and she has served us with distinction.
This will not deter her opponents, who will paint her in an extremely different way.
There are many ways by which we who voted for her last time – there were 11,932 of us – can help her retain her seat in 2014.
Campaigning is not rocket science: it is people helping people. We each can help.
But we can’t wait till November, or next month, or sometime later to do so.
Ditto for every other candidate in every other district in every political party everywhere: the Candidate is not the one running for Election; the Constituents are….
Get off your duff, find out who’s running, help them in every conceivable way that you can, starting with letting them know you’re willing to help.
* Joann Ward’s first election to the Legislature, 2012.
23807 – Registered Voters as of 7 a.m. election day
11932 – Votes for JoAnn Ward
9269 – Votes for her opponent.