One thing I am learning about is the quintessential endorsement interview. When running for office a candidate is inundated with endorsement questionnaires by various organizations looking to put their stamp on a candidates name. These questionnaires are followed up with an endorsement interview. When I ran for a position on the Issaquah School Board in 1999 I received the endorsement of the local paper, The Issaquah Press, which really boosted my numbers. So, I do understand the importance of the endorsement process.
The first organization to reach out and invite me to give a five minute stump speech was the Metropolitan Democratic Club of Seattle. This particular organization was started in the 1950’s by progressive young people who want to affect change. Unfortunately, the organization is still operating under those same people who are no longer young and progressive. They have aged and become more conservative…oh well. Conveniently, the event was in West Seattle at the home of a married couple. After reading the list of candidates who would be there (pretty much anyone running for a position in King County) I decided it would be a good opportunity to get some exposure. I showed up, after hanging out at the Sheep Dog Classic on Vashon Island, and broke down the reasons why I am running. Even though the woman (white and between 60-75 years old - this comes into play later) hosting the event told me they were going to endorse the incumbent because she has been with the organization for years and is their friend, I feel the speech went well and was excellent practice for future speeches/interviews.
The next organization to reach out was the National Women’s Political Caucus of Washington. I filled out their questionnaire and then met them for an interview. For this interview I put on one of my favorite bow ties and best shoes. The interview was run by three women of three different ages and the questions focused on what I was going to do to support the young women in our school district. I was pumped as this was right up my alley. I let them know I fully support consent education, sex education and contraception in our schools. When asked about how I would support the education of our young women, I let them know that my strategy is to ask the students what their needs are. What do they want? And made sure to include an example of what that would look like. The interviewers were very respectful and kind and although I did not receive their endorsement, I do appreciate the work they are doing.
Okay, now we get into the grit and grime of politics. The King County Democrats sent me their questionnaire and I truly felt like I nailed it. A few weeks later I received an email from someone in their organization that I was invited to an event held at Kane Hall on UW campus. I threw on a bow tie and hit the road. I never know what to expect when I enter into an event of this nature so I make sure to just go with the flow. I arrived and found myself surrounded by campaign managers, various campaign volunteers and candidates of all kinds. It was a mad house. People were passing out candidate campaign swag, fliers and asking for signatures on a number of petitions. It was overwhelming and also exciting. I shook hands and shared some of my platform with Cary Moon, got some free stuff and almost ran over Kshama Sawant with my wheelchair. I was a bit of a mess until Egan Orion (running for City Council Position 3) was kind enough to take me under his wing and explain to me what the evening was about. Turns out this was a King County Democrat District 43 endorsement night. There were around two hundred people in attendance and most of them were members of the 43rd Democrats. Candidates were allowed to give a two minute speech (if nominated by a member to do so) and after speaking the members would decide whether or not to endorse that candidate. We all sat and listened to the many candidates speak for about two hours and members would choose to endorse or not. Turns out my name was on their list and as long as a member nominated me I would be allowed my two minutes! I wish I had known about this process and what to expect so I could have prepared but that is all part of the journey. There were two members willing to nominate me: first, a woman who is on the board of the Commission for People with Disabilities and second, School Board Position 3 candidate Rebeca Muniz. I rolled up to the front of the room, introduced myself, gave a bit of my background and then promptly ran out of time. Two minutes goes by very fast. However, I did have the audience rolling in their seats, received a couple of compliments on my bow tie and figured I would get a few endorsement votes. And that is when it happened…the crux of my campaign… white women between the ages of 60 - 75 years old. A woman (she is someone in charge of the organization) in this age bracket approached the microphone and told the members not to endorse me as the organization was already planning on endorsing the incumbent, Leslie Harris. She let the room know that after reading my endorsement questionnaire (the one I thought I nailed) she felt I was not qualified for the job. Imagine my surprise. I thought this was a democratic process. Neither of my opponents were at the event to speak for themselves. Another white woman between 60 and 75 leaned over and told me that Leslie Harris had been apart of the organization for many years and was a good friend so they were endorsing her. Where had I heard that before? Well, the evening was getting late and the endorsement votes were cast, counted and reported so I went ahead and left for home. It was a punch in the face drive home as I was in shock about the experience. Luckily, the universe had an excellent friend call me just then and talk me down from the rafters.
SIDE NOTE: I have been learning in various workshops that us white women need to heal our trauma around the patriarchy so we can align with our sisters of color; otherwise we are gate keeping what little power we feel we have. I believe this endorsement evening was a good example of what gate keeping power means. Sometimes it is best to lead by following as opposed to gate keeping.
Three days later, I had an endorsement interview with, The Stranger. After the last three interviews, I felt I was getting into my interview groove. Boy-oh-boy, was I in for a shock. Turns out The Stranger was planning on having a candidate debate which I was completely unaware of, those slippery bastards! I showed up with various bribes (got a tip from the candidate grape-vine) and a fresh bow tie. Fresh out of the elevator I noticed the incumbent, Leslie Harris. We shook hands and chatted a bit and, while I quietly wondered what she was doing there, candidate Molly Mitchell hops out of the elevator. Well now I am sweating a bit. The candidate endorsement staff of six invited us all into a room and began asking questions. Needless to say, they spoke with Leslie the most with Molly stepping in and letting Leslie know how the district is failing students of color and disabled students. Leslie responded more that once about how her hands are tied, etc., etc. and I pretty much just sat there looking good. Molly and I are definitely on the same page when it come to values and things that need to be done to the point where I looked at the Stranger staff and said, “What Molly said. Molly, you’ve got my vote.” She nailed that interview. The Stranger ended up endorsing the incumbent anyway which was shocking as Molly was on fire in that room and really hit on important topics. I don’t think I will ever understand politics and the media.