I really wanted to win the seat on the Los Angeles College District Board of Trustees. The more experiences I had in the campaign the more I became invested in this. I fantasized about what I would do with the other Board members were I to be elected.
But I did not win. I did pretty well. I managed to attain about 58,000 votes citywide. Not bad for an admittedly uphill campaign against an incumbent who had reputedly over $500,000 to spend on his campaign. He had the support of the County Democratic Party, the local parties (except in three cases where I received enough votes to block his otherwise automatic endorsement) and both branches of the teachers union-----local chapters of the America Federation of Teachers. (These branches are, respectively, the Faculty Guild and the Classified Employees Union.)
There were several tangible rewards to be gained from being a candidate. I became very focused, purposeful and energized from the campaign. New friendships developed and I learned a great deal---about the District and about how it functions (and not so….). I thoroughly enjoyed the campaigning: the forums, the questions, the challenges, the personal interactions---the chance to be involved with something that really mattered. And I got to support the staged reading of a wonderful play by Edmund White.
Of course there were also downsides to the campaign as well as a few disappointments. I did not get the Los Angeles Times endorsement. I got no Democratic club endorsements (even though I have been a loyal progressive Democrat since college). The Faculty Guild did not even invited me to an interview (they just endorsed my opponent). It was difficult to raise contributions I needed and I could not afford mailings. Major politicians (some of whom have been friends) either would not endorse me because of the presence of an incumbent or would not even return my many phone calls. (I vowed to act differently if I am ever fortunate to be in a position to do so.)
What I make of all this are several important lessons. Running for the right political office is very worthwhile. It makes us put our heart and our talents where our critical mind often takes center stage. It affords us a chance to be involved, to contribute, and to try to make a difference. It gives us a chance to believe in ourselves (or not….).
Running for office also takes money (lots of it), talented associates who are often volunteers, energy and stamina and a thick-skinned perspective every day. It takes planning and focus and insight. It requires us to rise above some of our personal selves.
Many voters----and almost all vested interests (I am thinking here of the Democratic parties and the teachers unions and even the Los Angeles Times) are going to support the status quo. They are going to be cautious and conservative in their approaches. You have to work hard to gain their support---or even to get their attention. Campaigning is often an uphill exercise.
But, at the end of the day, I am very glad I made the considered decision to run and to be involved. The rewards and learning will be a treasure for the rest of my life. I found new ways to be connected and I want to stay connected.
Finally, campaigns bring unexpected support and openness and favors. I treasure the mew friendships I made and am grateful for all the encouragement, participation, contributions and support I received. Many of my friends either volunteered many hours and much talent or were sources of encouragement and strength. Again, this all will have a very long shelf life.
So, if you are reading this, please know that I valued your support. And I had a wonderful, rich time.