Next steps

Okay, I’m just going to talk this out a little, and this is a little more frank than I think one normally is about running for office, but it’s also all completely obvious to anyone who actually pays attention to these things, so I think it’s fine. Transparency is how I work, regardless, and hopefully it’s useful to others thinking of running for office.

Here’s the issue — I would like to save the world. That is not so feasible, but I can perhaps help improve a little piece of it. I tried running for the smallest of local offices. With much effort and help, I succeeded. I now will serve for four years. Since library board is one meeting / month, my life could mostly go along as it has been. BUT. If I do want to run for higher office and serve a larger constituency down the road, there are things I should start doing…well, not necessarily now, but soon.

One thing is to be more involved in my community — that part is easy and fun. I like volunteering — I’m very happy to take Kavi and go help out at the homeless shelter / food bank / sign-making party / etc. and so on. I also like community book clubs, women’s group cocktail fundraisers, etc. and so on. All good.

BUT. The question is, what would be the next office. And that gets pretty complicated. If I’m staying local, it’s straightforward — I could run again for library board, or look at school board, village trustee, park district, township, even, I suppose, mayor (or rather, village president, but it’s currently called mayor, sometimes, it’s complicated). My life would be largely unchanged in the next four years in that case — more community involvement, perhaps a citizens’ commission, maybe even a couple urban planning classes. A tremendous amount of good can be done at the local level.

If, on the other hand, my aspirations are for state rep., or state senator, or governor, or even Congress, if what I really want to do is solve problems at those levels, then it gets complex. Because the thing is, we have a representative government, and you need to actually live in the place where you’re running, which means if I’m going to run for any of those offices, I need to a) be convinced that I’d be a better candidate than the people currently in those positions, and b) be realistically able to unseat them.

I live in a very Blue area. All of my representatives are Democrats. But are they good, strong, effective Democrats? My state people are Don Harmon and Camille Lilly, my Congresspeople are Tammy Duckworth and Dick Durbin.

I’m still learning about them, and will be for a while. I met with Don Harmon recently for the first time, and have also seen him speak at a forum, and I have to say, I’m generally pretty impressed with him. There’s more research to do, but overall, he seems strong. And yes, he’s a white man, and in general, I would like to see a more diverse group of elected officials, but Don appears to be a very smart, competent person with politics I agree with, so I’m not currently feeling an urgent desire to try to unseat him.

I’m meeting with our representative, Camille Lilly tomorrow, and I know less about her, but people I trust seem to like her. And she’s a black woman, so there’s no diversity argument for me to be trying to unseat her — the opposite, rather, as I would think hard before trying to take a seat away from a black elected official, especially since they often are representing majority-black districts, and it seems unlikely that I, an upper-middle-class brown woman, would be able to represent their district better than they already are. (And there are complexities — I’m also queer, and also an immigrant, and that all factors in, one way or another, but still.) I think representation matters.

I don’t know enough about Duckworth or Durbin yet. More to research, and all of that may take some months. So there really aren’t any decisions to make anytime soon. But hypothetically speaking, let’s say I decide all four of these people are good, and strong, and I just want to support them and maybe harass them a little to keep them on the right track. So then I could stay at the local level with my own campaigns.

OR. I could move. And that is where it gets really complicated. Because moving me means moving my family, and we bought this house because we LOVE Oak Park and we wanted these schools for our kids and it’ll be about ten more years until Anand is done with the schools. In ten more years I’ll be fifty-five — is that too late to move somewhere else, get involved enough in that community to realistically run for something else there in a reasonable time frame? I honestly don’t know how Clinton did a national campaign at her age; it seems utterly exhausting. After four months of library board campaign, I basically slept for three solid days and still feel a bit wobbly a week later.

If I were going to move, never mind the question of where that should be — that’s a whole ‘nother question, that would require lots of research. Right now I’m just struggling with a somewhat confused worry that perhaps I need to figure out in the next four years (while I serve this library term) whether I really think the right thing to do with my life is run for higher office, and if so, whether I’m willing to uproot my family and move them in order to have a shot at it. (And given that I did almost no writing while campaigning the last four months, am I willing to also give up a lot of my writing career? Should I?)

I don’t have to think about any of this now, or, I suppose, at all. But a lot of people supported my campaign, and at least some of them did, I think, because they knew I was seriously considering higher office down the road. So here I am, seriously considering it.

Honestly, it’s keeping me up at night a bit. Maybe it’s having gone through cancer treatment, but for whatever reason, I am feeling an acute awareness of how many years I might or might not have left, and a strong desire to be intentional with that time. I’ve had twenty-five years as an adult, and have generally been pretty happy with how that’s gone. (I could wish I had spent less of my 20s struggling with credit card debt and terrible temp. jobs, but oh well).

What should I do with the next twenty-five, should I be lucky enough to get them?

(I do not actually expect the internet to be able to answer this question for me. Writing it all out helps, though.)


5 thoughts on “Next steps”

  1. Maybe one thought is to consider the specific issues you are most excited about, and use that as your guide for what to do next. E.g. I remember at one point you were musing about the inequities of school funding. If you come to a point where you think current Democratic pols in office are not tackling it, then maybe that would be the point to challenge them. Or if queer issues are your thing, maybe that would be a reason to challenge the current state legislator.

    Personally, I hope you take on economic justice issues. Everything else is important, but it seems like everything else already has its constituency. Whereas no one is really talking or thinking through issues like school funding.

  2. If you’re really serious about running for anything beyond what is an appointed, not elected position in other parts of the country, you really need to refresh your basic civics lessons and learn the difference between the state assembly, state senators, members of congress, and state senators. Harmon and Lilly are your state senators. Duckworth and Durbin are the two US Senators from Illinois. Vastly different.

    1. Mary Anne Mohanraj

      Heh. Yes, this was a bit colloquial in my terminology, which I’m sure was confusing; I think I edited this post soon after writing it on Facebook but forgot to edit it here as well for clarity. I’ve actually met all of them now (including Danny Davis, our rep. in Congress), and discussed policy positions with them, so rest assured that I do know who does which job.

      But I wonder if you’re using the terminology differently than I’m used to — Lilly is my state rep., no? Not my state senator?

      1. There is a lookup table on your country website. Yes, Lilly is your state assemblywoman. Davis is your federal congressman.

        All of those positions are pretty ambitious unless you are really plugged in politically. Have you looked at the Cook County positions?

  3. Mary Anne Mohanraj

    Yes, I’ve looked all of that up, several months ago; you were using the terminology differently than I did. Kevin and I were talking about this last night, that even though the House and Senate come together to make Congress, we don’t usually refer to Senators to Congressmen — it’s an odd American language tic. So I can see how what I said was confusing.

    Re: the state race possibility, none of this would be anytime soon. If I were going for something at the state level, I’d be looking 8-10 years out, probably. The only reason to think about it now, is if we were going to move the family to a new area, to have time to put down roots in the community and become known to people.

    Immediately, I serve on the library board. In 4 years, I probably think about either school board, village trustee….or something at Cook County. And in the meantime, spending time volunteering to support our state folks. I’ll be having conversations with people over the next few years to see what makes most sense.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *