I was going through some old records the other day and found a button from my failed campaign for Mayor of my then adopted hometown of Edmond Oklahoma in 2003! I was a true political novice and lost handily but it was a good loss (if there is such a thing) and a great experience. I had just retired from the USAF and just felt the need to continue to serve and try to make a difference on the civilian side. I figured what better way to do that than to run for political office. I had lived in Edmond for over 5 years, was plugged into the community, and saw a few things I felt needed to be done to make this great community even better. I definitely had the heart and maybe the smarts, but I most certainly didn't have the experience, and was not prepared for small town politics! I had to run a campaign against a popular two-time incumbent who was a lifelong well-connected resident.
I majored in Political Science, so I pretty much knew all there was to know about running for political office---NOT! The little boy in me said, why not? You will be a great Mayor! But I made every mistake in the book with the first being not talking this over with my wife, Carol. When I told her about my plans, her first words were "are you insane!!". Her tone told me she didn't mean insane in a comical sense but the "real" insane as in, "have you lost your freaking mind". I probably had lost my mind and the idea most likely was a little insane. But it was too late to rethink it, I had already gone down to the Board of Elections and had my name officially put on the ballot. I was amazed at how easy it was, but that probably should have been my first warning sign. Though Carol balked at first, she did eventually come around and became my biggest supporter. My boys were on board too, sort of, Justin was in high school and thought it was cool, while Austin was in elementary school and could have cared less. However, they both were out on the streets with us holding Vote for Goff signs.
The campaign was the most exciting part of the process. I brought together a diverse team of people who like me, had never been a part of a political campaign but were ready and willing to help. There was an energy I had not seen before and have rarely seen since. Everyone pulled together for one common cause; to get me elected. We had fundraisers where I had to articulate my platform and convince people to donate funds to support my campaign. We had routine meetings i.e. strategy sessions (sounds more official haha) to plan how we were going to blanket the city with Vote for Goff signs and banners. We knocked on many doors (and had many slammed in our faces) trying to get supporters and voters. No one was more surprised than I was when we started to get positive feedback and more importantly, donations to support my campaign. The energy and excitement of the campaign trail made election day seem almost anti-climactic.
During the Watch Party, I was ahead during early reporting and for a brief moment, I allowed myself to think I might actually win the election. However, the reality of my long-shot campaign quickly came to fruition and the incumbent won. It was of course a bittersweet moment I will never forget. I was not upset because I lost the election, but I felt bad and hurt for the people who believed in me and worked hard for and with me on the campaign trail. As I hugged away the tears of my supporters, I remember thinking how lucky I was to have such wonderful people in my life. I had lost the election, but I had gained many new friends and found a new appreciation for what could be accomplished when people worked toward a common goal.
I also gained more respect for our political process; anyone who has the heart to serve can give a shot. The odds may be against you and the results may be predictable in many cases, but you can throw your hat in the ring and see what happens. It does take leadership to build a team and run a successful campaign, but if you feel strongly enough about the issues and feel you can make a difference; go for it!!
Unfortunately, this was my first and only attempt to run for political office. Maybe it was temporary insanity or maybe it was the sanest thing I have ever done. Sometimes I even think it may be time do something "insane" again!
There is soo much more to this story and it may be a future book. I have never forgotten the hard work and energy friends and strangers put into helping during my campaign. This experience shaped my leadership style from that point forward---keep people first!!
Give all those bold enough to run for President the benefit of the doubt. Listen and evaluate them carefully and cast an informed vote!!