4th District

I’m not going to run for Luis Gutierrez’s seat in Congress (which has unexpectedly opened up this week, with a filing deadline on Monday). I flirted, every so briefly, with the idea, even talked it over with Kevin for an hour late last night, had trouble sleeping because I couldn’t stop thinking about it — but decided it really didn’t make sense. In the interests of transparency in politics, esp. for those thinking of running for office, here’s a little of my pro and con list:

– so far, the three people in the race are all men; it’s possible that another woman will declare, but until that happens, it would be valuable for me to run, just to increase visibility

– similarly, there still aren’t very many Asian Americans running for office, and even fewer South Asian Americans, so there’s a visibility argument there too

– also queer folk visibility

– the district isn’t one I live in, but it basically surrounds mine, so it’s certainly more manageable logistically than something downstate, for example; I wouldn’t necessarily have to uproot my family

– I think I would be good at the job itself; I’ve found that I really love being on the library board, and I have to rein myself in to keep from making the meetings last three times as long as they’re supposed to because I want to argue out all the issues in detail; I am apparently more of a policy wonk than I’d realized

– it’s a majority Hispanic district, and I am not Hispanic (the three men who are running are, I believe)

– relatedly, I don’t really know anything about the needs of that district — I would have to dive in to really get to know the people, their struggles, their hopes and aspirations, etc. Over the last year, I’ve gotten to know Oak Park a *lot* better than I knew it in the eight years previous that I lived here, so I certainly think I could learn what I needed to learn to serve the people of that district well. But it would be a lot of work, and would require a lot of time, and there would always be the danger that even if I put in all of that work and time, I would still miss important things because I come from a very different place (culturally, historically, economically, etc.)

– the current popular incumbent has ‘tapped’ his preferred replacement, who is also popular and is much more known in the district (and the city) than I am, so it would be a very hard fight

– I’m tired.


In the end, it was the last thing that really tipped the scales decisively, enough that I didn’t even want to gather petition signatures and get on the ballot. (It felt strange to me to do so, if I had no intention to run, though I know sometimes people do it to raise their visibility for a future race, raise issues, etc.)

Running for office last spring was exhausting, in part because I was starting from scratch and so I felt like I had to schedule and attend every event I could — for months, I had community events on most weekday evenings and 2-3 on the weekends. It was a grueling pace to maintain with a day job and small children, and I hadn’t realized how much Kevin would need to pick up the slack in order to make it possible.

If I felt like this was the right race for me, that I needed to do it, that the people of this district would be substantially better off with me representing them than the other candidates, then Kev would support me. As he said when we talked about it last night, he’d manage. But as I said in response, he might manage, but I don’t think he and the kids would thrive, if I were basically absent for the next several months. And if I were trying to keep up my teaching to a strong level in that time too, then I think I’d also lose all my writing time. The novel would have to be put on hold, at least until the election, and if I won, on hold perhaps indefinitely. It’s a lot to sacrifice.

It’s been a long haul for me, the last several years. Small children were exhausting with the sleep deprivation, then there were some family health and other crises that took a lot of time and energy, then my cancer diagnosis and treatment, then the election in November 2016, and running for office. I have another reconstructive surgery scheduled for tomorrow, and there may be one more after that. I feel like I’ve been just running flat out since Kavya was born. More than a decade.

I said to Kev last night, “I don’t know how Hillary did it.” I just finished reading her memoir, and I honestly don’t know how, at her age, she had the strength to campaign as hard as she did.

Right now, I’m too tired to do the job of running for office well. I need a few more months, at least, to finish the cancer recovery process; I feel like my life is only now finally getting back to normal. I need to build up my physical strength and health, to get fit enough that I could conceivably do months of evening and weekend events without falling over. There’s a reason you call it a race, and like a marathon, I think before I run again, if I do, I want to actually train for it.

So this isn’t the race for me, however tempting the sudden unexpected possibility was. Right now, I focus on serving well on the library board, taking care of my family, recovering my own health, teaching my students, and writing the novel.

Down the line, who knows?


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