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Notes from the Campaign Trail

Nov. 6

In May, at the McGovern-Roosevelt Day dinner, at the Crazy Horse Memorial restaurant, things got real for me regarding the campaign. Along with candidates for governor and US senate, Jamie Smith and Brian Bengs, I would be a featured speaker. Because of a family emergency, Smith canceled, putting more pressure on me; that’s how it felt.

When I write a speech I obsess. Because this speech would officially kick off my campaign, I obsessed even more about it. Even as I walked up to the lectern, I could not decide whether to read it or use it as an outline. In the end I did both, which was a mistake, if a small one. One of my goals for writing the speech was to combine the serious with the comic. For the most part I think I succeeded. (You can listen to version of the speech at my website and judge for yourself.)

Following the speech—to my utter amazement—people gave me money. This triggered the first of many campaign epiphanies. At that moment I knew I had to spend the money and that I was beholden to those who donated. Many candidates would agree with me when I say the worst part of campaigning is begging for dollars.

If money is the root of all evil, then money in a campaign is eviler. The mostest evilest. In the house of money, campaign financing is the subbasement, the basement below the subbasement, the crawlspace where they always hide the bodies. You get the idea. But, supposedly, it is a necessary evil.

Without going into the boring financial details of rudimentary campaign management I will say that I learned a lot fast. I needed to get a tax ID number and a separate checking account with debit card and checks. Word of warning to anyone thinking about running for office: keep track of every penny. I photocopied every check a received. I signed up with Donorbox to accept online donations, linking it to my website and Facebook page.

Eventually, a friend volunteered to be my campaign treasurer, an extraordinary stroke of good luck. Mike is detail-oriented and a perfectionist who saved me time and hassle when I most needed it. Three people vital to a successful campaign: manager, IT person, treasurer.

For now, I won’t go into how and why I spent the money. Near the end of the campaign, when Mike filed the paperwork for the secretary of state’s office, I’d received over $9000, a stunningly high number to me. Throughout the campaign the money stream ebbed and flowed. I spent it when I had it. I probably should have concentrated more on fund raising in the early months of the campaign when I had more and fewer distractions (code for work).

From the onset of my campaign, I said I wanted to be different, and at almost every stage I did what every other candidate did. I cannot say how much this disappointed and frustrated me. If I was going to follow a traditional game plan (against my better judgment), I knew I had to say something different or say it differently.

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