Not (quite) as calm as I look

Just had a nice little freakout at Kevin about what I’ve gotten myself into with this running-for-office thing. Imposter syndrome, we has it in spades right now. I told him how unnerving it was to walk into parties full of strangers and ask them to sign the petition to put me on the ballot. Why me? Yes, I’m reasonably qualified for this particular job, but so are lots of other people, I’m sure, so where do I get off thinking I should pester a lot of strangers into even remembering my name, much less trusting me with this job? How arrogant is that???

And if I do get the job, what if I mess it up? I’m not a lawyer; I’ve never sat down and read through the Village…what? Code? I’m not even sure what it’s called! I was reading the first chapters of _How to Win a Local Election_ this morning, and one point he made was that you need to start familiarizing yourself with the local laws because you need to know them to get elected and you’ll need them even more if you actually get the job. I’ve never read the local laws. I don’t read the New York Times every morning; I don’t even subscribe to it, or the Washington Post, what kind of poser wanna-be maybe-politician am I anyway???

Kev got me to chill out a little; the big panic was probably mostly because he’s been out of town and somewhat inaccessible by phone through all of this last week and so I was saving up all my anxiety to dump on him at once. Kevin doesn’t seem concerned about my ability to handle the job if I get it, and he’s pretty smart and I trust his opinion, so it’s probably all right. I guess.

But still, I think maybe I should start reading the New York Times every morning.

(Note: You don’t need to take this opportunity to tell me I’m great, though I do appreciate that some of you will want to do that. I think I’m calmed down, mostly. Blogging this mostly in service of transparent documenting of the process.)


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Mohanraj For the People

I was there bright and early at Village Hall, ready to file my candidacy statement and attached petition.


The ‘attached’ is important — it’s a requirement that the pages be bound together in some way, which I had missed; luckily, Matt was kind enough to donate an extra binder clip. There are so many little fiddly details to this process! It is pretty essential to have someone walk you through them, I think. Later this week I’ll need to go downtown and file a Statement of Economic Interests, and then bring a receipt for that back to Village Hall. 

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This morning’s part took about an hour, which was mostly waiting and chatting with the other candidates for library board, village trustee, etc., very pleasant and collegial. Everyone who was there by 8:30 was considered a ‘simultaneous’ filer — we’ll be put in a lottery at the end of the week to see whose names go first on the ballot. (There’s also some value to being last on the ballot, so they’ll do the same for anyone who files in the last hour of candidacy. Fascinating.) The village staff was pleasant and efficient; I don’t think they could have done the work any faster. Still, I couldn’t help thinking about the years when I was temping, at jobs with no flexibility, when taking the time out for an hour of political activity on a Monday morning would have been prohibitively difficult. There are so many barriers in the way.

But for now, here I am, definitively on the ballot! I may have persuaded my fellow library board candidates into a photo op, because I am just that excited about the whole thing. Left to right, we have Matt Fruth, Sarah Glavin, Brandon Spurlock, and Mary Anne Mohanraj. (That’s me. 🙂 ) At the moment, there are four open slots, and four of us running, but we won’t know for a week whether anyone else might be joining the race for library board. So I’m planning to file my statement of economic interests, and then relax for a week, see what happens. Once I know whether this is or isn’t an uncontested race, I’ll start actually planning the campaign.


Thanks again to everyone who’s helped thus far — the advice-givers and petition-signers. It’s a fascinating process, and relatively painless and even fun so far. Onwards!


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My forms are filled out, my petition signatures are notarized (thanks to library board member Matt Fruth, who kindly stopped by my house to notarize them, in the midst of a snowstorm, what a mensch!), and I’ll be filing tomorrow morning at 8:30.

Local elections are April 4th — Oak Parkers, mark your calendars! (Someone told me recently that only about 6000 people vote, out of 52,000, in the off-year elections. Surely we can do better.)

Baby’s first run for office, whee! 

One thing I’ve been surprised by, in this whole running-for-office thing, is how very supportive and kind so many strangers have been to me as I figure out this whole process. I ask for help, and so many people have offered it. I hadn’t expected that.


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It’s time.

“Decisions are made by those who show up.” That line is attributed to both Harry Truman and Woody Allen. Bartlet and his press secretary C.J. Cregg both say it on The West Wing, during Season 4. It’s been running through my head a lot lately, mostly because of two things:

a) I’m seeing so much frustration in my various communities, so much despair and such a sense of impotence. A fear that Trump is going to drag our country right over the edge of the cliff, and take much of the world with us, and there won’t be anything we can do about it.

b) I’ve been frankly a little astonished at how few people come to Democratic events here. And of course, I say this as someone who went to her first such event last Wednesday, so I’m certainly not casting stones. But I expected way more people to be in the room, especially after the last election. I am a little startled that I’m probably going to be running against perhaps 6-8 people total for the 4 available slots on library board — I mean, it’s not quite unopposed, obviously, but it’s certainly not a hotly-contested race. And I know, library board sounds like a sleepy kind of thing, but whomever wins will be given oversight of a several million dollar budget, and will have the opportunity to shape the library, one of our great civic institutions. One would think that more people would be fighting for that, would be paying attention.

No conclusions here — just thinking out loud. I was talking to a friend this morning, and they were worried that I was working too hard, taking on too much. And I said that a) library board was a relatively small time commitment, and b) that I’m in my 40s now — entering my professional peak years, and if I’m going to change the world, now is the time to start doing it. And they laughed and said I wasn’t going to change the world, that the world was falling apart and there was nothing we could do about it. And I know the news makes it seem that way, but I think that’s exactly wrong.

The world is, actually, improving radically overall, and has been for several centuries. We have to be careful not to fall off the climate change cliff, and there are a host of other problems to contend with, obviously. These are hard problems, and will take hard work to solve. Progressives have just suffered a major setback, and the whole country is going to suffer as a result. But the answer isn’t to give up. It’s to show up.

At the Democratic meeting yesterday, I said, a bit despairingly, to one of the organizers there, that I was worried that Trump was going to roll back all of Obama’s progress over the last few years. And she touched my arm and said firmly, “We won’t let him.”

All right then. Time to show up.


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Shout-out to Tiffany and Katy, who suggested that I stop by the local LGBT org’s monthly potluck dinner to collect signatures. The food was divine, the company was delightful, and in about fifteen minutes, I had another twenty-odd signatures, putting me at about forty-seven or so total, which I think is plenty. (25 is the minimum.) I was sad that I had to leave after two hours to relieve my sitter — the carol-singing was just getting going.

It was also refreshing / rejuvenating, in a way that’s hard to explain. So much of my life these days looks very straight, with the two kids and the husband. Most of the people I socialize with are straight families. They’re lovely people, but. After Pulse, I went to a rally in Boystown, and it reminded me that there’s a part of me that longs for queer spaces. It’s not easy to find time for that in my current life, but I do miss it. I wish we had a regular queer open mic or something like that in the area; I bet the teens and twenty-somethings would come. Maybe something to organize in the future.

I’m going to be hosting the potluck in March, which is something.


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Whoa, I’m kind of shakingly exhausted. I fell into a bath at 8:30, climbed out at 9, and promptly fell into bed again, with no plans to leave it. It’s been a really intense couple of days, between the podcast recording all afternoon yesterday and today (surprisingly tiring, I think because we’re ‘on’ and thinking hard for several hours), and the mad rush of deciding to run for office a few days before the filing deadline, going to political meetings and gathering signatures a bit frenetically. (And of course, I still have this stupid cold. It’s mostly just a lingering occasional cough at this point, but I’m sure it’s making me more tired than normal.)
With Kevin out of town, this wouldn’t have been possible without my two babysitters (thanks to Franki and Adam!), and even with them, it’s a little intense of a pace for the kids, who have barely seen me yesterday and today. It’s okay for two days, I think, but not something I’d be willing to do long-term, not with them still so young. Definitely part of my exhaustion is just being drained from worrying about the kids yesterday and today, worrying whether they were upset by the changes to their routine, worrying about whether the traffic driving back from the city would make me late enough to stress the babysitters, etc. (It’s also lucky for us that we can afford the extra babysitting costs — a potential barrier to parents running for office.) But Kev will be back Sunday, and he doesn’t have any travel for months, so we should soon reset into normal family patterns.
The house is definitely falling apart, a noticeably higher level of mess than usual. It’s driving me a little nuts. I’ll be home most of tomorrow, though, so I should have time to set it in order again, in between grading final papers. I am weeks behind on Christmas decorating, which is a bit unnerving (I usually do it the weekend after Thanksgiving), but not actually important. I haven’t written anything in days, of course, but I’ve actually learned a bunch from the podcasting, so that’s not bothering me as it might otherwise.
Just pondering what exactly winning this election would be likely to do to my life and schedule. I think it’d be fine, though. I’ve decided to delete Scandal from my Hulu queue — that’ll get me back some hours / month this spring. 🙂 Of all the activities in my life that could be cut, giving up some tv is likely the least painful. (I watch a lot of tv.)
Plus, this frantic pace is mostly an accident of my deciding to run just before the filing deadline. It should slow down to something more reasonable. And one side benefit already is that I’ve met quite a few interesting and civic-minded people in the last few weeks. More friends for my parties, more people to feed. Yay!


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One of the women from Oak Park Progressive Women for Action kindly invited me to her work holiday party and ushered me from person to person, introducing me and asking them to sign my petition to run for library board. I walked in with five signatures and walked out less than an hour later with twenty-six! (I needed twenty-five to get on the ballot.)

I’ll collect a few more over the weekend for insurance in case any get disqualified for address or other issues, but I think you can now safely expect me to be on the ballot in April.

I am running for office. That still seems a little unreal.


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Retail Politics

So, last night I decided to run for library board. This is short notice — I had originally started thinking about running for office about a week ago, maybe for next September, after concentrating on the novel for the summer. Then I mentioned it at a local political meeting, and was told that local elections are in April, so I should basically start running now. A Democratic party volunteer came to my house to inform me about all this; if she hadn’t made the effort, I probably wouldn’t have run this year.
Then last night I went to the Democrats’ open brainstorming session, and talked to some more people there about where they could use me best. They took half an hour to talk me through the process, and give me the arguments for running for library board or school board (the other positions in parks and village committees seem mostly stable at the moment, not in need of me). I talked directly to a library board member, as well as someone else running for library board (there are several slots total). So already, just to get me to consider running, several people have put in a few hours of work.
I decided on library board, by the way, because my impression is that school board is notably more contentious and time-consuming, and I’m really feeling like I want to dip my toe into the water of local politics, rather than jumping in the deep end. My kids are still relatively small and need a lot of my time, and I have a full-time job and novels to hopefully write. Library board is a four-year term, of about one evening / month (I hope I’m remembering that right).
And then there’s campaigning time, so let’s say roughly 50 hours / year to do the job (mostly in the evening), and another 50 hours / year to campaign and attend other local Democratic events, etc. I think I can manage that level of service; my impression is that school board would probably be close to twice that much time, and notably more stressful. Maybe down the road, but for now, this seems a better fit for my life. I’ve been wanting to do more service, and while I could go and volunteer with one of the many great non-profit orgs in the area, given my areas of expertise (English teacher & writer), library board seems a natural fit — something that I’m well qualified to do. I have a LOT of librarian friends to advise me, too. 🙂
The next step is collecting signatures; I only need twenty-five, but it’s good to have some extra in case any get disqualified, etc. So I’m aiming for forty. (Village Clerk, by contrast, needs 900 signatures.) I’m scrambling a bit to collect the signatures by Monday morning at 8:30. Apparently, while you in theory have a week to file, it’s important to be there first thing, because everyone who’s there first thing when filing opens gets their name put into a hat for their order on the ballot, and earlier slots are worth hoping for, because so many people just vote for the first name(s) on the ballot (oh, humans!). I’m actually completely confident of my ability to find 25 locals to sign for me by Monday.
I was thinking about Village Clerk, if I were running — I don’t think I know 900 people personally in Oak Park who would sign for me, but probably at least 300? And if those people were willing to vouch for me to their friends, and I had a little more lead time… I’ve lived here seven years now, and I’ve been fairly active in the community (more so in the last few years, as my kids got bigger). And it turns out I really like retail politics, oddly enough.
I love talking to people, and feeding them tea and cookies, and hearing about their kids and their jobs and their worries and what they do for fun. I like talking through issues, teasing out the different elements at stake, trying to figure out the best way to satisfy the needs of a large group of people. It’s fascinating. And while I don’t particularly enjoy being yelled at (cough, school board, cough), I think I could handle that too, if I were sure that my cause was worthwhile, worth fighting for. I’ve stood up to being yelled at plenty in the past.
All of which is to say, this is my bag. In some ways, while I’ve never run for office before, I also kind of feel like I’ve been training for this my whole life. Library board sounds like a quiet sort of thing, but with several million dollars to allocate, it’s certainly also significant. Libraries have been my haven since I was a small child, and as an adult, I’m very aware of how often they’re under attack. Librarians are on the first line of defense in protecting our civil liberties, so if I can help our library out, that’s worth quite a bit of my time.
Also, I think this will be fun. 🙂


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Shout out to Kevin. When I talked to him last night about how I might possible want to run for office at some point, he was entirely supportive. I was honestly a bit surprised, because it’s potentially asking a lot of him in terms of additional childcare, housework, etc. His only concern was that he wouldn’t enjoy being much more in the public eye himself, but that’d be unlikely unless I got up to something on the national stage, like state rep. School board or alderman or anything along those lines shouldn’t involve a lot more publicity for him. Anyway, just feeling grateful for him.
We also talked about the fact that a lot of the work I do, like the Survivor anthology, and the Invisible anthology, make us basically no money and eat a lot of my time, all of which has consequences for our household. This new workshop Kate and I are planning to run next summer — we’re charging something for our time in teaching and setting it up, but not anything close to a reasonable market rate, this first time around. But as I long as I think these projects are worthwhile for the community, he’s willing to back me. And of course, he’s been supporting my writing for decades.
I found a good one. 🙂


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