I have had a lot of requests for our campaign to start a blog and chronicle what it's like to run a political campaign. I'm going to start putting some entries here so that you can track the status of the campaign and follow along with us.
A lot of the requests came from families with children who are trying to get their kids interested in local political issues. For this reason most of the posts will be a little simple, but it may give you an idea of the work needed to keep a campaign like this going.
WINDING IT UP
July 15th, 2020
Election results are in, and it looks like it's going to be 5th place. We didn't get to the runoff, but I would like to think that we had some input into the direction of this race. Just because it didn't turn out as we hoped doesn't mean we didn't make a positive change.
This was my first political campaign, and to say there was a steep learning curve would be an understatement. It's hard to believe that it's only been two months since I filed to get on the ballot. Every day seemed to bring new challenges to work on. Despite having the best campaign manager you could ask for, it was definitely hard to get out the word and break through the noise during this pandemic. I said it many times during the campaign, but I suspect this virus is going to affect our politics and our economy for years to come.
I want to express my sincerest thanks to everyone supported us during the campaign. We got a lot of support from old friends and people I know personally and professionally. We also got support from some surprising places, and I wanted to let you know how much that means to me. It really picked up our spirits one day when someone on Mopac saw the campaign car and began honking, wildly waving, and giving us a thumbs up. I also had someone who works at Costco stop me yesterday and tell me they voted for me. These gestures really help keep us going, even when the campaigning is not going well.
I also want to thank everyone who came to the site and read this blog during the campaign. I hope you learned something about running for office in Texas and the process involved. We may be back to run for another office in the future. In the meantime, I hope you and your families stay safe, and I will see you on the other side of this pandemic.
June 28th, 2020
District 14 does not just represent Austin and its suburbs. It also encompasses Bastrop County. As you can imagine, the interests of Bastrop County are somewhat different than the interests of Austin in a lot of areas. Our former Senator Kirk Watson was good about representing the interests of the area, and I am hoping to do the same.
May campaign manager is only familiar with Bastrop as the closest Buc-ee's to our home in Austin. I however was fortunate to have worked there a few days a week for many years in one of our satellite offices. I enjoyed getting to know the citizens there in that role. I also got to see some of the area's natural beauty, which is underrated in my opinion.
Large parts of the county are rural, and the rapid growth of Austin has put some pressure on smaller towns in the area like Bastrop. In my view, the main issues facing these areas have to do with eminent domain law and with agricultural exemptions. Agricultural exemptions need to be maintained by the state - they are one of the only ways that people living near the outskirts of Austin can maintain ownership of their land in the face of ever growing tax burdens. I am committed to ensuring that these exemptions stay put.
Eminent domain laws are an area where some improvements can be made. When the state or a municipality makes an eminent domain claim over a piece of land, they are required to offer a fair market value for that property. In some cases this offer is a low ball one. The property owner can always fight the claim in court. However, as you can imagine, this incurs a considerable expense. I would like to see the financial burden of fighting eminent domain claims reduced by the state in some way. This could mean that the state pays court costs or some portion of lawyer fees for these situations.
Regardless of how this election turns out, do yourself a favor and go see some more of Bastrop. The people are really nice, the food is really good, and there is a natural beauty in this part of Texas that is worth your time.
CAMPAIGNING AND MEDIA
June 16th, 2020
If you feel like the campaign has been a bit quiet the past couple of weeks you're not imagining it. There has been a lot going on around the country and in Austin, and I've been spending more than the usual amount of time watching the news closely to stay on top of events as they are developing.
This past weekend my campaign manager and I were able to finally get out and start spreading the word about the upcoming election. Under the circumstances with the pandemic still ongoing, we haven't been able to meet with groups and hold events like you usually would during an election season. So it's mostly been passing out flyers on cars at supermarkets and putting some directly in mailboxes. A lot of candidates will use direct mail for this. As my budget is very low and I am not accepting donations, we decided to do this on our own. Because frankly with the current shutdowns, we've got the time.
Later this week I am planning to finally do some media appearances via Zoom, so hopefully this will help spread the word a little. A lot of people these days do not have a very high opinion of the media. They have their preferred source for news, and they stick to it. This is compounded by the fact that many reporters and other media personalities often try to inject themselves and their opinions into the story. Overall trust in the national media is at an all time low, and I can understand why.
The real stars of the media world these days are the local reporters. These people are often not paid much, and sometimes they have to cover absolutely mind-numbing topics, all in the service of keeping people informed about what is going on in their communities. They sometimes still show biases, but overall many of them do a good job. I'm looking forward to talking with them later this week.
June 4th, 2020
So far my campaign has been contacted by a few lobbyists. This was a little surprising to me, especially since I don't take any donations for this campaign. So I thought I would use this opportunity to lay out some of my thoughts about lobbyists.
You hear a lot of talk about lobbying at the national level. Many will tell you that it's a corrupt practice that needs to end. They will try to conjure images of lobbyists and legislators going on lavish vacations and throwing stacks of money at each other in order to sway a vote one way or another. It's certainly an easy target to try and get some attention for a politician. They engage in a lot of "selective lobbyist outrage" - decrying the money that some institutions are spending on politics while taking money from lobbyists that represent other causes.
The reality is a little different. The truth is that lobbyists represent people. Doctors have lobbyists, and so do teachers, firefighters, charities, and even some neighborhoods. It's one way to petition the government. You may not think you have a lobbyist representing you, but it's possible that your company, or a cause you support, does have one.
Lobbyists are also a source of information. Don't ever let a politician convince you they know everything about everything. They rely on lobbyists for some of his information in order to make an informed decision. I know a little bit about medicine. However, if I am asked to vote on a bill about limestone mining (for instance), I am going to have to go somewhere for information. This might include lobbyists from environmental groups as well as mining companies in order to get the full picture.
At the local level, lobbyists make a lot of campaign donations. Honestly, they donate to everybody. It is not uncommon to find a lobbying group that has given donations to every candidate running in a race. This sounds weird - I know most people think they would donate only to politicians that support their cause. In reality, they want to be sure to have communication with a politician regardless of who wins. So it's definitely possible that a politician denouncing a certain corporation or group is still taking campaign donations from them. Usually as an election nears, lobbyists will start sending in "make up money" - donating more to the front runner in a race to make sure they are able to communicate effectively with them after they win. Even groups that we consider largely tied to Democratic or Republican issues have probably donated to the other side at one time or another.
We live in the state capital, so it's likely that you know someone who is a lobbyist, even if you are not aware of it. They are not (necessarily) the villains you hear about from our national media. They have a role to play in our political system, just like we all do.
THE EARLY DAYS
May 25th, 2020
So what do you do in the early days of a campaign like this?
Normally we would be arranging meetups with various civic groups, meetings with staff, and in general trying to get the word out as best as you can. However, right now we are in the middle of a pandemic, and that does change things a bit. So for the most part I've been answering emails and questionnaires.
When you become candidate for office there are a lot of interest groups that want to know your position on various things. Some of these could be positions you have already given some thought to, such as education reform and the response to our current pandemic and the lockdown. There are also a lot of interest groups that have concerns about which you may not have given much thought. And they all have questionnaires.
In general I try to be as honest as possible when responding to these emails. This is partly because I feel that honesty is important (and often lacking) in a politician, and also partly because my daughter is watching this campaign closely. But don't let any politician fool you - they don't know everything about everything. There are some of these about which I am ignorant, as my background is in medicine and not law.
The major temptation is to tell these interest groups what they want to hear. These organizations will sometimes endorse candidates depending on the answers to their questions. I feel that it is important to answer these questions truthfully, and I have no problem telling them that I don't don't know enough about certain topics. In some cases I don't answer the entire questionnaire, but simply send them back some thoughts on the topics that they raised. Although a fledgling campaign like this could use some endorsements, I would like to think that being honest about what you know and don't know is more important.
If this all sounds a little mundane for a political campaign, don't worry. There will be more exciting days ahead as we get out around town to raise awareness about the election.
GETTING ON THE BALLOT
May 16th, 2020
I have been truly overwhelmed by the support I've received! We've had a lot of people reach out to express their excitement that an independent candidate has decided to join this race.
We have had several questions regarding the process to get on the ballot, so I'll try to lay that out in this post. Keep in mind that I am not a politician by nature, so I am approaching this from a perspective of a lay person.
In a normal general election, the process for getting on a ballot can be quite difficult. Typically a candidate will need to be sponsored by a major party, which is the Democrat or Republican Party. This requires winning a party's primary process. Other parties, such as the Green or Libertarian Parties, also have a process for getting on the ballot.
Independent candidates have an uphill battle when it comes to this process. In order to get on the ballot for a general election, an independent candidate will need to file a petition with signatures from the district. The amount varies by office and can be found here: https://www.sos.state.tx.us/elections/candidates/guide/2020/ind2020.shtml.
The process is different for a special election such as the one coming up in July. In this case, a candidate does not have to declare a party, and no petition is needed for independent candidates. All that is required is to appoint a campaign treasurer and pay the filing fee to get on the ballot. That is why this is the perfect time for an independent candidate to run.
One of my goals for this candidacy is to open the elections process up more for independent candidates like myself. In particular, an online petitioning system run by the state would make it much easier for small campaigns to obtain the necessary signatures to apply.
I will post again in a few days to update everybody. The first week of this campaign has been a whirlwind, and I can't wait to tell you about it!