What It’s Like to
Run for Public Office

in ,

In Short: Stressful.

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I have heard some say that they enjoy campaigning for public office. That is definitely not my experience: I’ve run for local office four times.

While it was nice to once in a while engage a really cool individual in policy discourse, that was only around 2% of conversations. More likely it was a child answering the door and yelling, “Mom, someone is here wanting to talk to you!” and then poor mom comes to the door from the bowels of the home where she was obviously busy in whatever chore she was performing.

They’re in the privacy of their own homes and are suddenly disturbed by someone wanting their personal signature on a petition they had no idea existed two seconds prior. Who knows what mom was doing, it certainly was not hoping to engage some person they do not know at their front door.

Then there is the money. Oh yes, campaigns for public office need money. That was the worst! Sending letters to anyone I could remotely identify on the voter rolls for the party I am affiliated with along with the “Independents.” It felt like groveling on the street corner for whatever the person could afford.

Photo by the author.

I only did that once, my first run for office. Afterward, I self-funded. But the signature collections did not change: that’s required for each election.

Then there are the “debates.” Some with questions asked in advance, some with questions asked on the fly. Each has their own unique feel.

For instance, the same questions asked by your local newspaper of each candidate requires one to contemplate what your opponent might say. Once responded to in writing, the candidate is locked in. There is no “explaining” or changing a response that draws negative response.

In a live debate, a candidate has the opportunity to respond in real time to remarks made by their opponent. It is mentally challenging to make very word count and to avoid giving the opponent an opportunity to use their words against them in the court of public opinion. It’s challenging because one must (should) stay true to their core beliefs even if it may be unpopular. Imagine the stress knowing that a serious misstep could derail the campaign or open it up to ridicule, particularly in the era of social media.

We all know there are “wafflers” in public offices but who wants to live like that? I sure don’t!

Election day is stressful: outcome is unpredictable. I always spent election day taking down my campaign signs. Some candidates want their name out there as long as possible, but to me it was therapeutic. It kept me busy, kept my mind off of the election, and hopefully voters saw it as an effort to get rid of the dadgum signs everywhere in advance of the opponent.

I have no idea if it was an effective tactic, but it was healthy for me and the chore of campaign sign removal was well underway. The last thing I wanted was to have some wayward sign championing my election standing on a street corner two weeks after the election!

I was successful in my first campaign and had the privilege of winning four elections, 2004–2016 (four-year terms). I did not run in 2020 — 16 years was enough. I can tell you that it was an honor and a privilege to serve my community (I’ll tell that story later!), and it led to some amazing experiences. I simply disliked the process of getting there.

Russell McCloud is co-owner of a family-owned and -operated automotive repair company in Yuma, Ariz., that his father started in 1969. He also served on the Yuma County Board of Supervisors from 2005 to 2021. He also wrote What It’s Like to Wake from a Coma.

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1 thought on “Run for Public Office”

  1. Russell, you’re exactly the kind of careful and aware public servant needed. I’m sure everyone in your jurisdiction, of your party or not, appreciated the 16 years you gave. That makes it worth the pain of winning!


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