For a big chunk of my adult life, I voted only by absentee ballot. I was in the military from 1986 to 1994 and then again from 1999 to 2012. While I may have missed some local elections, I never missed the federal elections every two years. So, for the most part, I never experienced a lot of races where candidates were running unopposed. Or maybe it just didn’t jump out at me if it did happen.
But since I’ve settled down in Knoxville, I’ve noticed multiple races where the candidates (almost always a Republican) would run without a Democratic or even an Independent opponent. I started down this path by just writing my own name into the spot where the Democratic candidate would go. And the ballot machines don’t make it easy to do that, believe me. I remember coming home after voting a few times and doing this write-in thing and remarking to my wife – Susan – that I should just go ahead and run in one of those races. I mean, if they were going to be blank anyway, a second name would give the voters some choice.
It took me until this summer to start to consider seriously doing something about it.
At this point in the story, a little background is in order. I have thought for a long time that women and minorities are underrepresented in politics. Since I was voting absentee for much of my adult life and since much of that time was pre-internet, I got into the habit of voting, if I knew nothing else about the race, for the woman over the man. Since politics has moved online in the last decade, I have tried to research the candidates before going to the polls, but if I didn’t get around to it or couldn’t find anything, my rule of thumb was to choose the woman over the man, all else being equal. While this rule generally ends up with a vote for the Democrat, there has been a time or two when I’ve voted for the Republican female candidate over the male Democratic candidate.
So, now I’ve got a son who’s a freshman at UT and a stepdaughter who’s in 5th grade (at Blue Grass Elementary). I think there’s a lesson in this for my son as he has just become old enough to vote (although he won’t be voting for me since he’ll be voting absentee in the Viriginia elections). But my stepdaughter lives with me and hears me talk about politics all the time. I think it’s important that she doesn’t just hear about the process of getting involved. Or about running for office if you think it’s important. It’s important that she sees it as well. Elizabeth Warren meets a lot of little girls on the campaign trail. And she always tells them that she’s running for President because that’s what girls do. I couldn’t agree more. So, another reason I’m running for political office is to show my kids (but especially my stepdaughter) that running for office is something that all people can do.