While traveling home recently from an out of town event, I was thinking about my view of candidates for public office before I became one. I have always valued a level of honesty that seemed elusive and when my wife and I sat down and decided to do this, I committed to being the same me throughout the process, for better or worse. What would it look like if our elected officials and candidates were flatly honest about the campaign process? Here’s my answer.
For me, this conversation is about fear and about hope. People ask me every day how I am going to raise the money to compete with career politicians who have more name recognition than I do and powerful connections. I smile, look them in the eye, and firmly talk about my passion and professional background and willingness to listen to voters as individuals. I talk about how years in the private sector and prior stints working with and within government bureaucracies have helped prepare me to do this work. I hope that this will resonate with people, but on any given day I really don’t know. And it’s more than a bit scary. I hired staff on the advice of some folks I had to trust quickly and I have grown quite attached to my team. They work hard and are a big part of our ability to raise money and communicate with voters. But, like my friends who own small businesses I find myself thinking not only about their work but about their rent and personal expenses and their growth and their future. I can feel the pressure as I type this. Don’t get me wrong, we chose to do this with eyes wide open, but the unfiltered truth is that every day I have moments of fear and doubt about their futures and raising enough money to reach the voters we need to reach.
I joke with my friends (when I see them) that I’m basically a telemarketer for 3-5 hours per day. Only I’m mostly calling either friends and colleagues or complete strangers to ask them for money. I’m not sure which is harder. Asking friends with their own families and bills and savings goals to invest in the hope that I’ll win and be the leader they really want is hard and a little emotionally draining. Asking strangers is a little bit easier, though the rejection rate is higher so that’s not what I’d call a picnic, either. The truth of a campaign for me is that I LOVE when I get to chew over policy issues or field questions from the community or knock on people’s doors – but most of a campaign is worrying about raising money and whether some group endorsing another candidate will close another door.
I could write a whole separate post about the behind the scenes petty behavior and shenanigans that confirm most people’s worst beliefs about politics, but I’ll save that for another day. Instead, true to who I am at my core, I’ll land in the place that brought me to this choice: hope.
My professional background in public health and land use law prepared me for much of the actual work of a County whose primary roles are in health and land use. Growing up in the foster care system in San Diego gave me a window into people and our system that most don’t see. Those were good starting points to which I added years of serving the community at the neighborhood and system level. But the truth is I put one pedal in front of the other every day – I bike to the office – because I believe we can demand the government we want. A government that can help give every child a fair shot, regardless of how they got started. A government that views its citizens as partners in an open dialogue about the community we want to be rather than adversaries to be tolerated or, worse, obstructed from participation. I have hope that San Diego County can be the best place in the country to raise a family because every family has the opportunity to breathe clean air, walk safely to a park, make a dignified living and love and live as they choose. I am running for this particular job because the County has the potential to help millions of San Diegans for generations to come – especially children and seniors. I tell anyone who will listen that the chance to make this type of difference every day is worth the stress and the fear and the time away from my wife and putting off our own savings plans as a family. That belief fuels me and it is probably what most people see when I talk about our policy priorities. But every day on the campaign is a mixture of that hope and a good dose of fear and stress. I think asking you to vote for me means I should be honest about both. Thanks for reading.