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As you campaign, the process makes you practical. You don't have access to all the information sitting politicians do, but I think you're obliged to figure out how you might actually achieve your goals. Voters ask some pretty good questions; you'd better be ready.
The last thing you want to do, especially in a small town, is flip-flop and tell people what you think they want to hear. One of my fellow candidates, who is a smart, likable fellow, fell into that. People picked up on it. He finished somewhere down the line.
My mission was sustainability. Big topic but one you can tackle at the local level through strategies like smart growth, good public transit, how you handle your waste and pushing for sustainable, green economic strategies like developing the arts.
If you stay true to why you are running it will sustain you through all kinds of moments: the nerve-wracking seconds before you get up to the podium to speak for the first time or your annoyance when someone gets in your face, or spits at your feet, as one lady did when I was main-streeting (politico-speak for handing out brochures to passersby on main street). I wonder what she really thought about my position on the new uptown development.
The gong show
The campaign trail - and I can only speak to the local trail here - is nothing if not entertaining. It starts with the run-up to nomination closing, when the rumours run rife. So-and-so is running. Oh no-o-o! Or, great! the various cries ring out. The only time some air hissed out of my balloon was the first go-round when I heard a former incumbent was running. He'll get my seat, I told my husband. And he did.
Of the 40-some people running over the two elections I was part of, only a couple were cagey strategists, putting their hats in the ring after they'd checked out who the competition was and decided that they had a shot at winning. The vast majority of us were pretty straightforward about just declaring ourselves and going for it.