“For years I have dreamed of taking the skills I’ve developed during my career and putting them to work for the public good. I came here to find my place- whether it’s running for office or supporting other women as they run.”
After delivering this introduction I settled into my seat, nervous and excited about the day ahead. It was 8:45 a.m. on a cold but sunny Saturday, and I was taking a first step by attending the NWPC-WA Candidate Training in Everett. In the room with me were elected women who were running for re-election, several first-time candidates, a handful of campaign managers, and a smattering of campaign consultants. It was inspiring and humbling to sit among these brave and impressive women. Like them, I am a woman who wants to help her community. Unlike them, I had little idea how to get started.
“There is no magic here. This is just work,” said Teresa Purcell, owner of Purcell Public Affairs, during the first talk of the day.
It was the first of many inspiring and useful quotes I scribbled into my notebook over the course of the day’s ten sessions.
“There are lots of things that you’ve tried and failed at. You didn’t die.”
~Briana Thomas, legislative aide, Seattle City Council member Lorena Gonzalez
“It does not matter what you know, it’s what you intend to do.”
~Lorraine Howell, owner, Media Skills Training
There were sessions on every aspect of running a campaign, from networking and fundraising to seeking and winning endorsements. We talked about being authentic, and we started the work of crafting our brands and our messages. We received coaching on how to talk to voters and how to prepare ourselves for the day when things go negative. I learned the terrifying new term that will take over my life if I decide to run; that term is “door knocking.”
One of my favorite sessions was called “Networking on Purpose,” presented by Amber Nelson, the president of Lingo Institute. In her talk, Amber taught us how to begin to develop our authentic personal brand, and then gave us concrete behaviors that we can use when we are networking. I think everyone could benefit from this talk, because we all want to know how to make a great first impression. More importantly, we all have times when we need to know how to exit a conversation quickly and gracefully. My favorite quote from Amber was, “Thinking small will not serve you.”
Another session that I loved was How to Ace your Endorsement Interview, presented by Emily Wicks and Christina Pederson of NWPC-WA. As an endorsement committee member herself, Christina gave us the insider’s view of what to expect and, more comically, what not to do in our endorsement interviews. During this session, I felt sad that I hadn’t already signed up to run for something because they helped me to clearly visualize myself getting endorsements. I felt so prepared for my interviews that I have started writing down the groups I will approach.
The most difficult session for me was Delivering your Message, from Lorraine Howell. Lorraine handed us each a candidate questionnaire, which helped us to develop our message. This questionnaire asks all the right questions: Who are the people in your audience? What can you do for them, really? I really connected with this simple way to put my audience (my potential voters!) at the forefront of my message. I wanted to know my office and my district so that I could think about that all-important question: What can I really do for you?
I’m keeping this form for the future.
Looking back on my day as I write this, I’m beginning to see the pattern. The theme that rises above the rest for me was that theme of connection. How to derive my message from my own authentic beliefs, where they intersect with the needs of my constituents. How to ground my campaign in that message, and how to use that message to connect with donors, endorsers, and with voters.
That’s a powerful learning.
It’s learning that will definitely be useful to me when I run. It is learning that shows me how I can make the highest and best use of my time if I choose to support another candidate. It is learning that is giving me the confidence to take additional steps along my journey.
This week, candidate Abigail Doerr came to my door. I liked her priorities, and her experience with transit, so I agreed to volunteer on her campaign.
Now, I just hope that NWPC-WA will create two additional training days: “So You Think You Want to Run? How to Find Your Place,” and, of course, “What to Expect When You’re Elected.”
You can bet I’ll show up for both of those.