I Ran for a Public Office I Didn’t Know Existed

I Googled it after I said yes.

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I spent every weekend in January doing the same thing. I would wander the parking lot of the nearby Costco asking people if they were a registered Democrat or Independent and whether they would like to sign a petition to get retired NASA Astronaut Mark Kelly on the ballot of the US Senate.

Well, I’d do this until I was asked to leave. That would take about two hours.

As nerdy as it may be to say, it was exciting. I met some wonderful people, recruited a few volunteers, had a couple of good discussions, and only once got yelled at when a woman got six inches from my face and yelled, “Make America Great Again.” I told her to have a nice day.

Tangential side note: When canvassing in the middle of the day, the smell of Costco pizza will turn you into a small child in a Dicken’s novel asking for more porridge. It’s cruel how good it smells.

If there is one thing I have learned about volunteering for political campaigns it’s that the campaign will love you for it and they will keep your number on speed dial. This feels good.

After a few weeks, I got a text message from the Arizona Democratic Party asking if I would be interested in running to be a precinct committeeperson. I’m not sure if it’s my inability to say no, my need to belong to something bigger than me, or merely being flattered, but I said yes.

Then I had to do a Google search to figure out what I just agreed to do.

A precinct committeeperson is the lowest ranking political office a human being can hold. Sounds about right for me. I’ve taken a liking to underachieving in the latter part of my years. Essentially, they do exactly what I have been doing all along but you get this rush of adrenaline that your name will actually appear on a primary ballot.

As it turns out, there are a lot of seats open for precinct committeepeople and no one knows they’re out there. There were six seats available and three people running. I filed my paperwork and got a congratulatory call three days later. My name was never on a ballot.

My campaign turned out the same as when I ran for House of Representatives in 8th grade. I won because there were more seats than people interested. Not a bad situation for one of the least popular kids in middle school.

Apparently, I have a penchant for wanting to do work no one else wants to do.

I never had any aspiration of getting into politics, no matter how small the office might be. I’m a behind the scenes kind of girl. Turns out, I still am. I like sitting on my couch in my pajamas doing the work.

After my first legislative district meeting, it’s business as usual except for one thing. I feel part of something.

I sat on Zoom call with about 60 other people, all with the same common goal of moving the ball down the field to turn a red state blue. In Arizona, that’s an uphill climb. There was a lot of passion on that call.

Especially now, when we’re living in a world of division, anger, confusion, and frustration, being surrounded by people who don’t want to complain about how things are but want to change them, is unifying.

There’s nothing self-important I feel in getting to have a tiny little title. But the work I do feels important. I feel recognized. I feel like when I meet other people who do what I’m doing, there is this understanding of, “I know you. You get it.”

Having my name on a ballot was not something I considered. However, when I take a minute and look around at the world we’re currently living in, I couldn’t have imagined that either.

The truth is that the world is, indeed, bigger than us and our political climate is fraught. We change our world when we cast a ballot but the work starts long before that. Someone has to do it. It might as well be me.

Written by

Flaming pinball, nerd, music lover, wine snob, horrible violin player. No, I won’t stop taking pictures of my drinks. vanessaltorre@gmail.com IG: vanessaltorre

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