Day 352. The One Time I Almost Ran For State Legislature

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

It came as a shock to me. I had never had such aspirations. How was I the name they came up with? Could I possibly pull off something so large if I wasn’t passionate about doing it? These were my considerations as I was being pursued to run for state legislature. It was 2008, and a group of Democrats always get together to brainstorm ideas for who should run for state congressional seats. Somehow, my name came up. I identify as a Democrat, but I don’t identify with polarizing, and if you’d like to know my thoughts on it, click here. The spot had been held by a longtime politician who was now being termed out. The guy I know, Kris, who approached me explained that they thought I would be good because I’m personable, I like public speaking, and I’m fairly well known around town. True, I like talking to people, and the more random the people the better. Also, I do like public speaking quite a bit, and a lot of people do know me, even if I’m known for idiocy on a stage.

I could kind of see why they thought of me. I do like politics and get pretty into it. I was throwing a block party that weekend, which they seemed to think was something a candidate does, even if I was doing it because I love potlucks and yard games, and that party would ultimate end with a downpour and my friend Joe and I in a kayak trying to navigate a flooded ditch by the road.

I was considering it, well, I kept trying to, but every time I did, I just giggled, a lot.

Me? I don’t know if I could take it seriously enough. I’m pretty sure politicians wear suits and say mean things to each other. I told him I would keep considering it. I mean, it would mean literally going door to door for hours several nights a week. It would mean getting all up in the dirtiness of it. I would have to think about what my stances are on things, and there are a lot of things that I can see all sides on. On the other hand, I would get yard signs with my name, which is pretty influencing.

The next step in the process was to meet with an incumbent Democrat in a nearby district. So, Michelle and I went to have dinner with her, her son, and her campaign manager, who happened to work with Michelle. We met in a nearly empty restaurant in the back corner. It definitely looked like a back room political dealing, only we didn’t have to wait for two huge guys in suits to let us past to see her, and I was more worried about if I was getting asparagus in my teeth than I was about how to fix an election, or something scandalous. We talked about various things, and they spoke in very flattering ways about me. “Hey, maybe I am perfect for this,” I thought. One of the things discussed is that I would most likely just be a seat filler. The Democrats haven’t had a majority, or close to a majority in the Missouri House for years. Basically, if I had an idea, it wouldn’t get done. Not to mention that six months out of the year, I would basically be living three hours away from Michelle. Keep in mind, this was when that felt like a long ways away, before I moved to California. As the dim light shined on our exit, we said goodbye to the godfather (mother) and walked out.

I went home and thought about it, and mostly giggled.

The next step was to meet with the House Minority leader over coffee. He was in town and offered that he could meet up. I didn’t know what to wear to have coffee in this situation. What do politicians wear on a Tuesday afternoon? I only ever see them doing important things in suits, or folksy things in button downs with rolled up sleeves, or sleazy things on the internet. I decided to go with business casual. I got there before he did and waited. I was pretty sure that this was the highest ranking politician I had ever had coffee with. I figured out who he was by identifying the man who looked like he overcame a lot to reach where he was at, who probably liked to hunt and have a beer like the next guy, who did well in school, and knew what the average Missourian wanted. His name was Paul and we talked about what it was like working in politics and what it’s like being away from home. He told me I could do great, which was very flattering, it was all very flattering. I told Paul that I was convinced that I could win. The Democrats were making a big surge that year, and I felt confident that I could spend the time talking to people to get enough votes. When I finally left, I realized that I had forgotten my American flag pin, and completely embarrassed myself.

I drove back to work and thought about it, but mostly giggled.

Ultimately, I decided that I didn’t want to do it enough to pursue it. It’s a lot like Hollywood, I would have to do a lot of work for the chance to maybe do it. Then, if I got it, I would be a seat filler who had to wear a suit. My two suits at the time were both from thrift stores, and both looked like they were tailored for someone’s older brother.

The Democrats got a candidate who was a professor at a university in town. One day, as campaign season was heating up, I got my mail, and noticed a big glossy mailer. On the one side was a picture of the Democratic candidate in black and white. Text said something to the effect of, “If _____ can’t handle his own finances, how could he handle the state’s?” It was cruel. It was a smear job. Apparently, the candidate had some credit card debt where the courts had intervened. This was a smear job on someone who lived locally, who was just a guy running for office. From all accounts, he was a nice guy, and this mailer went out to thousands of people. I was livid. It was plain mean. I don’t like that type of politics, especially on a state legislature level, I was upset for this guy, and probably, mostly I was thinking, “What would they have done to me?” I don’t have any credit card debt that was sent to court, but I’ve done a lot of stupid things. I like to think that I’m totally clean, but I’m certain that they could have found a picture of me in an improv show with my shirt off, which is offensive to anyone with eyeballs.

I grabbed the mailer and walked to my computer, looked up the Republican candidate’s e-mail address and started crafting an e-mail. I say “crafting,” but really, it was my unfiltered thoughts typing an e-mail. I have rarely done such a thing, but I decided not to filter it too much. I was just writing from an honest place as an anonymous voter, I might as well let it fly. Then, I just hit send and went about my day.

I was surprised when, a few hours later I got a response from the candidate. It was pretty lengthy, explaining that he doesn’t believe in negative campaigning and that he had nothing to do with it, it was the Republican State Committee. Fair enough, but I would have a tough time allowing such a thing to be attached to my campaign. He talked about what he believed in and then signed off. Below that, he added one final P.S. (This is the actual paragraph I found in my e-mail).

“PS. I enjoy the Skinny Improv and think you are a very funny guy, and your letter only has improved my respect and opinion of you as a thoughtful person.”

Umm, so much for anonymity.

Maybe I could have been well known enough to run.

Maybe I shouldn’t write e-mails like that anymore.

I write this as I’m trying to find work that will make me happy. I think it’s a sign that a job is not for you when you just giggle at the prospect of it, and when you, yourself are inspired to write a vitriolic e-mail to the man who got the job, about a vitriolic mailing that went out in his name.

Job search lesson: Stay away from jobs that inspire both giggles and vitriol from you, that’s a good recipe for crazy.

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