Unexpectedly Dramatic

Well, yesterday was unexpectedly dramatic. At 3:45 or so, I was checking over my forms one more time, before heading over to Matt Fruth’s home to have them notarized. Just sort of obsessively double-checking, just in case.

I had this weird little sense of uneasiness about the petition form, and I didn’t know why, but I went back into the rather confusing Candidate’s Guide (the IL government needs a better tech writer to make these forms much, much clearer), and suddenly realized — oh no! I had used the wrong form. I was pretty sure I had used the form that is correct for the library board, and for the park district (P-4), but NOT for the school board (P-7). All of my signatures that I, and others, had laboriously collected over the past few weeks were useless!

I felt SO BAD for all the people who had gone to effort to collect signatures for me — Shayla M. Bell, Tree, others — and everyone who had gone out of their way to stop by my table or my house and sign for me. SO SORRY, folks!

I frantically messaged a few people currently on school board to confirm, and they got back to me quickly to say yes, I had used the wrong petition form. There was some discussion as to whether the form could be conformed for use nonetheless, since they were almost identical, but that seemed a risky gamble to take.

Now, in some sense, it wasn’t such a big deal. Today is the day petition filing opens, and there’s some time (I think two weeks) before it closes. BUT, the people who file in the first hour petition signing is open are entered into a lottery for the first slots on the ballot, and voters who don’t know anything about the candidates often just vote for the first names. Which isn’t a great way to get votes, but on the other hand, you don’t want someone else to get those votes because they were the early birds and you weren’t. Those are tasty vote worms, and you want every one of them.

So I had a moment to panic, and then a moment to ask myself — could I collect 50+ signatures on a Sunday evening in the middle of a pandemic? (50 is the minimum for school board here, but you want some more for insurance in case of challenges — if someone has written their name or address illegibly, for example, that signature could be thrown out.)

In normal times, it’s honestly not that hard to collect signatures. You can set up outside a grocery store, for example, or knock on doors, or go to holiday parties, and in general, the vast majority of people you ask to sign for you will sign, in my experience. Occasionally they’ll ask you what you stand for, or why you’re running, but most folks don’t even ask that.

I was holding the grocery store option in reserve, but I thought I could do better than that. I’ve lived in this area 10 years now — I know a lot of people. I started calling and messaging folks, and I actually only made it through the D’s on my address book before I had amassed enough promises of signatures, and then it was just a matter of driving all over Oak Park and River Forest to show up on people’s doorsteps to get the sheets actually signed.

Now, that process was vastly sped up by a few people who rallied their neighbors, and I want to shout out here to Amanda Daly, Stephanie Bailey, Brynne Hovde, Alli Bax, and Nancy Ross Dribin, all of whom are on good terms with lots of their neighbors, and were able to message / text them, ask if they’d sign for me, and then either give me a list of addresses or actually walk me around from door to door in their neighborhood.

There’s a moment in West Wing, when Santos is first running for President, and they’re starting out in New Hampshire, and he’s wanting to make big speeches to big crowds and gets frustrated that Josh, his campaign manager, has him going to people’s houses to talk to a few people at a time. But as Josh says, those people are the hardcore volunteers, the ones who are deeply embedded in their community, who can turn out a neighborhood to sign for you, to stump for you — in New Hampshire, they say over and over, politics is retail.

That’s true in most places, I think, certainly if you’re talking about something like a local school board election. If there’s someone on the block that people know and trust, that’s the person you want supporting your campaign. Better than a yard sign, every time — better than a hundred yard signs.

So I drove around, and those people rallied their neighbors, and I walked from door to door (that they directed me to), ringing doorbells, and we all did our best to be masked and distanced because the last thing I wanted to do was breathe on someone in the midst of a pandemic (and how frustrating is it that they still require hand-written signatures in the midst of a pandemic?).

The nicest part of it all was that River Forest and Oak Park are really getting decked out for the holidays this year, so the lights were beautiful. The least pleasant part was that it got colder and colder, and I really don’t love the cold — I was shivering for the last few houses. Should’ve worn my giant sleeping bag coat, AND the silk long underwear. Eventually, though, I had collected my 50, plus several dozen more for insurance.

It was about 9 p.m. by the time I made it back to Matt’s for notarization of my new signature sheets, and how much do we appreciate Matt for being willing to notarize for not just me, but lots of other candidates, on a Sunday during a pandemic? We appreciate Matt a lot. (He’s running again for library board; please vote for him, Oak Parkers. He’s terrific on the board.)

And then I came home, and crashed (Kevin had ordered a meatball sub for me, so I did get dinner, hooray), setting an alarm to get up an 6:30 a.m. It has been a long time since I’ve needed to set an alarm to get up, in pandemic-land! But I wanted to be downtown (the school board candidates have to file downtown or in a few other locations, none of which are in Oak Park) by 7:45, so I could be in line by 8 a.m., when the doors to the building opened.

I actually woke up at 4:30, I think because I was anxious about missing my alarm, but kind of dozed for a few hours off and on, until it went off. And then it was up and dressed, and coffee and and breakfast and out the door, my petitions and Nancy’s in hand — it turns out that you can file for other people, which I hadn’t known, and if I’d realized that earlier, I would’ve reached out to other candidates to see if they wanted me to file for them, because again, it’s ridiculous that we’re doing this in person in the middle of a pandemic. We should be minimizing contact.

Then various standing in line, filing out more forms (contact sheets and such that they hand you there), going upstairs to file our statements of economic interest, then bringing the receipt for those back down, and by 8:45 or so, I was finally done.

Home now, and I need to switch tasks completely, because I have a deadline for a project today, and I’d meant to finish it a day early, but had to put it aside to spend five hours collecting signatures… but it’s okay, I should have plenty of time to finish it.

And with luck, I’ll also finish the Wild Cards story revision today, and then tomorrow, there’s another Wild Cards story due, which I will probably have to beg a small extension for from George, because grades are also due on Wednesday, and that deadline isn’t moveable. Plus I’m trying to get as much as I can shipped in time for Christmas for treat packages and such. This is a very intense week, but if I make it through to Friday, I think I can collapse and actually take two solid weeks OFF.

I don’t know quite what that will look like; it’s a little hard to imagine not working for two weeks! We’ll see. By that point, though, we’ll know how many people are running for D200 school board, and if it’ll be a contested election (probably) or not. If it is contested (with more than 4 people running for the 4 seats), then in January, we’ll shift into campaign mode, and I’ll be reaching out to these people again to see if they’re willing to call and text and walk for me some more…

(On the plus side, I now know that I can get several dozen signatures in 5 hours, so if I actually run again for something, that might be useful information.)

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