Unlikely Candidate, pt. IA story of the transformation from a left-wing candidate promoting the issues he felt a school board should address, to a candidate with a mission to win.
by Paul Franklin
"Do you want to win?"
It was four weeks before Election Day and the words seemed to echo in my head - do I want to win? Of course I wanted to win - why else would I be running? Nevertheless, my friend James asked me this question after seeing the flyer that I had created for my campaign. I was one of four local residents running for three seats on the Live Oak School Board (Santa Cruz county). It quickly became evident to me that he was trying to understand why I was attempting to sell myself using this laundry list of issues that positioned me to the far left in the political spectrum. I advocated for no support of animal cruelty - no zoo trips, no support of the military industrial complex - no student lists for military recruiters, accommodation for non-immunized students, no products containing refined sugars or caffeine on school grounds, and a re-evaluation of the emotional costs of State-mandated standardized testing, among other more centrist issues.
The only thing that surprised me more than his question was my hesitation in responding. During that pregnant silence, James clarified: Do you want to win or do you just want to promote your issues? It was at this moment that I began the transformation from the left-wing candidate with the issues that I felt a school board should address, to the candidate with a mission to win. While the commitment to four years of part-time work with no pay seemed substantial, it became clear that my effectiveness to advocate for my Green agenda would be much greater as an elected board member.
I had originally filed my candidacy papers as a way to get another Green on the ballot - three weeks into the filing period there were only two Greens running for city council and one for Congress, and the Congressional candidate had no illusions about his ability to win. Too bad we were all white guys. At that time, I didn't believe that I had either the qualifications, campaign skills or local support necessary to earn the number of votes that I needed to actually get elected. But listening to James and noticing the confidence that he and others in the room attributed to my candidacy and to me, I found myself turning the corner and accepting this task at an entirely new level of legitimacy.
The discussion continued for an hour, with useful and considered suggestions on how to present myself as legitimate and qualified, both on paper and in person. Later that day I reworded and reformatted the pamphlet for presentation to an informal meeting of teachers at one of the school sites. They too seemed to embrace my candidacy with helpful suggestions, a willingness to wear buttons with my name, to put signs in their car windows, and to volunteer. I ordered 100 buttons, enough for most teachers, and within days I'd placed a pamphlet into the mailboxes of all of the teachers in the district that I had access to.
Then I received a telephone call from Peggy Lewis of the Campaigns and Candidates working group of the Green Party of California. (Continued in the next issue.)
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