Blue America: So, You Want to Run for Office?
2006 Blue America Candidate Brian Keeler
A couple of weeks ago, we had people in the comments talking about running for office, locally. Some had made the decision, some were just thinking about it, having been inspired in no small part by our work here at Blue America to promote change across the country. Someone asked my advice about making the decision to run, and I felt at a loss: what the hell do I know? That led me to bring in today's guest Blue America writer, 2006 Blue America supported candidate and netroots homeboy, Brian Keeler.
When I asked Brian to write a bit of, "what you should know before you make the jump" stuff, I anticipated some insider technocratic stuff about running a campaign, raising money, finding friends and supporters, effects on your family you need to take into account, etc. You know, technocratic stuff designed to help you know what you're getting into, a kind of set of warnings, to help prevent people from getting in over their heads.
Brian is smarter than I am, and I'm glad I asked him to write about his experience. He makes it a lot simpler. Instead of offering a bunch of things designed to scare people from taking such an active part in our government as office holders, he boils it all down into the thing that matters most. Without further ado, here's Brian:
Let me say, right off, that running for the New York State Senate in 2006 was a defining event for me. The reason I make that claim is that my life will never be the same. Pretty heady stuff. So knowing that, how do I write about what went into my decision to take the plunge? Do write from my innocent pre-race frame of mind, or do I look back and address it from a "If I had known then what I know now…" point of view?
Well, let me do a bit of both and then we'll get to the conversation, which is where we'll all learn some stuff.
From my "then" head, circa. February, 2006:
Quite simply, I wanted to save the world. Really, that's why I did it. Now, I had been involved with the online political community for a couple of years, founded ePluribus Media and was (and still am) a true blue progressive, and I knew from that experience that the only real way to impact people's lives via government, was to get elected and craft policy in the progressive mode.
I understood very little about what it would take to run for office outside of what I had gathered from working on a campaign or two, and I had no idea, really, as to what it would entail. And that was part of what made the experience so incredible. I was learning as I went along.
From that single-minded drive comes my only real piece of advice about making the decision. You shouldn't consider running for office unless you have a real passion to positively affect people's lives through the democratic process. Without that, just say no.
From my "now" head, circa January 12, 2007:
If I didn't have that passion, I never would have been able to charge through all the incredibly hard work, the endlessly long days, the meetings, the fund raising, the issue research, the debates, the loss of income, the loss of weight, the neglect of my home life, the lack of sleep, the lack of exercise, the rotten food, the long winded speeches…the handshaking, nerve rattling, ego bruising, humiliating process that is a long campaign for public office.
Yes, it's all that and more.
But everyone's psyche is unique and people have different likes and tolerances…so it's almost impossible to make blanket statements about what is important about the decision making process. I think getting into a discussion here and answering some questions and talking about what one has to do to make a go of it is how we all will define our own criteria. Set our own priorities. So, let's have at it. Ask me some questions about what it was like and what I learned and I'll let you know what I think…and if I don't know the answer, I'll do what I did on the trail…I'll make it up. (:>)
Since the election, Brian has cofounded the Albany Project, designed to promote greater transparency in New York government, exposing the systemic barriers in the law to protect incumbents and prevent the hoi polloi from believing they can actually launch their own candidates against the state machine. That can't be welcome news to uber-corrupt NY GOP kingpin Joe Bruno.
Please welcome our good friend, Blue America favorite and FDL commenter, Brian Keeler. He's here to talk about what it's like to run, for those of you who may be wondering.