Depending on who you engage with the reaction to the word can be a hit or miss. Most people can’t stand the idea of it while others begin their day quoting statements from the latest political article. Personally, politics was never a “thing” in my household. Sure, growing up I learned about it in social studies, caught glimpses of news reports in passing and participated in social justice activities in college but who hasn’t? It wasn’t until my wife, Destinee and I decided to run for office seats that I was able to come face to face with this mystical concept of democracy and learned a few things about running a political campaign.
There are no rules
Of course there are the typical restrictions from the Board of Elections regarding things such as proper phone hours to call people, the size of signs (which no one follows) and deadlines on financial disclosures but beyond that, there are no rules. There is no official guideline on how to create, handle or run a campaign. Unless you hire a campaign manager, which we did not, everything is a shot from the hip, a pull on imagination and an exhaustion of connections. If you enter into the arena with no Public Relation skills whatsoever, defeat is certain. The moment your name is registered with the BOE you have to “make your name rain”. There are no meetings, follow ups, reminders or alerts. Everything that happens (or doesn’t) with your campaign falls on your shoulders. It’s like starting a small business where you are the product and votes are your currency.
Campaigning is more about educating
The masses have grown apathetic to the political process, especially the minority population. It was astonishing to witness candidates in unison, claim to have knocked on thousands of doors beforehand but then have voters tell me that they didn’t know an election was coming up when we ventured into the same neighborhoods. So, in conjunction with getting your name out there, you also have to tell people when the election is, where they can vote, why they should vote for you (or at all in some cases) and surprisingly, why they should care. Simply handing people a piece of literature, directing them to your website or mailing them brochures is not enough. However, it is also imperative to be conscious of the time you spend educating and whom. There was a gentleman who had approached me during “pavement work” and asked me a series of questions about my campaign, where I stood and why I deserved to win. After the conversation, he assured me of my delivery but then revealed that he was a non-resident and could not vote even if he wanted. TIME WASTED and that’s a big deal because…
Timing is everything
Had we known what we know now, we would have started our campaign at least a year in advance like others. In fact, one of the candidates that I was running against had ran in the previous election, so he technically had a four year head start. These are the things to take into consideration including the track record of the incumbents (those who are currently in office and in many cases, have been for years).
Many of the incumbents that we faced had served more than one term. One in particular had been in office since 1983. I said 1983! Others had double digit term services that kept them locked in the mindset of people so hard that they barely had to campaign but was still able to secure hordes of votes. The incumbents are already known, teams already established and connections already solidified. Unless you are lucky enough to land on a slate with other familiar politicians, you have to put in some serious work to be seen.
Organizations, Media outlets and PACs send SO MANY e-mails requesting responses to surveys, attendance at forums and interviews. In order to meet every single deadline, time management is crucial! A majority of the forums occur during the workday so you have to account for time off and if you miss anything, journalists find pleasure in virtual finger waging at your name or leaving you out of an article altogether as if you aren’t running. #ImStillSalty
Which brings us to the “fun” part of running a campaign…..
Some people become real life trolls
REAL. LIFE. TROLLS.
I’m no stranger to receiving internet trolling but it is an entirely different experience when some of it comes from people you have physically encountered. It truly takes a certain level of self-control to not lash out. The very first day that Destinee’s filing was solidified, articles came out and her social media was screenshot. At that very moment, I knew that it was going to be an uphill battle that would require many days of meditation. My immediate response was to blast back and enter into groups that were attacking her (one of which would not accept my request to join Lol) but after making one post, I had to force myself to change my mindset. As the blatant slander rolled in, from her being 39 (she’s just turning 30 in August) to her never living in the district, despite having Morgan State University as an Alma Mata, the taunts were endless. While on my side the most I had to deal with was bullying via sign destruction.
Even still, we handled the chaos with grace and look forward to running our next campaign with unwavering courage. #Parker2022