Political Virgin

You can think you know a lot about politics; you may have followed issues and personalities, ideologies and grand visions for years; you can, as I have, reported on political campaigns dozens of times over several decades as a seasoned journalist.

And yet actually throwing your hat in the ring and putting yourself out there as a candidate is a wild ride. It's instructive, creative, nerve-wracking, invigorating, touching, exhausting and a life-affirming journey outside the known world: that is, ones own highly personalized comfort zone.

Often I've heard candidates, whether they've just won or lost a race, express their deep gratitude to supporters and backers --  in addition, of course, to voters. Now I'm learning the real depth of what they're expressing.

When people put their money behind you, whether $2.50 or the max (in my race for the Leon County Commission) of $250, you are suddenly benignly beholden to them for their act of faith in your leap of faith.

I've not had a single person suggest overtly or even subtly that they expect anything in return should I be fortunate enough to get elected to the countywide at-large seat I'm seeking.

What they want, or so it seems so far, is just a chance to touch base later on and be courteously listened to if and when a topic of high interest to them arises that as an elected official (again, we're gazing optimistically into the future) I might have a chance to address or vote on. (I'm not totally naive, on up the food chain of political office, I assume the expectations of donor to campaigner are considerably less friendly.)

Another discovery of mine as a novice campaigner: Though our culture seems particularly contentious just now, most people I'm encountering, whether at fundraisers or on their doorstep when I crash through their tranquility zone to introduce myself, are so welcoming and interested in what I'm up to. Not 1 in 100 people has squeezed their door shut on me, having opened it only 2 cautious and possibly hostile inches to start with.

Something that really has surprised me, though, is how many people think it's "brave" to run for public office. It doesn't strike me that way at all. But I do take that as a compliment and like to remember that the land of the free has, as history tells us, benefited from personal acts of bravery, large and small. If stepping out of ones comfort zone is brave, then running for public office is for me, I'll admit, one of the bolder things I've ever done.