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My Political Journey: To Run or Not

Lessons from My Experience at Camp Wellstone Progressive Intensive, Seattle, 2017

by Carissa Daniels, Contributing Editor, Women for Justice

Lesson # 1.

Don’t let the challenges stop you from being a Catalyst of Change

It’s been a little over a year since I first heard of Camp Wellstone, the intensive workshop for people who are interested in progressive politics, and looking at how they might step up to the next level in support.

Last year, I didn’t hear until almost the last minute, and ended up unable to make it all work due to costs and transportation issues, but the minute they had dates for this years event, I put it on my calendar. They have changed how they do things, so now there is an application process as well as an opportunity to ask for a scholarship to go.

I filled out my paperwork, and the fact that I would need some scholarship assistance since I couldn’t make the 8 hour commute every day and get there in time to participate. But AirBnB has been wonderful for us. We found a nearby place and made it all work.

As a disabled single parent, I was worried about how I would financially do it, but when I found out I had gotten the scholarship, and we found the perfect place to stay for a fraction of what it would have been in a hotel, I knew it was meant to be!

I didn’t allow finances to stop me from taking the next steps.

I registered on the candidate track, so I could explore the possibilities of a run for office. I already do public policy advocacy on both the state and national level, but am looking at what's next. This meant all my classes were focused on becoming a successful candidate for whatever office I chose to run. I knew it would be an incredible opportunity to learn, build my own power and confidence, and get more tools for organizing to make change.

Taking the training presented a lot of challenges, but I made the deliberate choice to get involved, to step up to the challenges offered and to realize that even in moments of discomfort and uncertainty, I would be able to take away some amazing information, whether I ultimately decide to run or not.

One of the first things I looked at, even before participating in Wellstone, is considering whether to throw my hat in the ring. On this blog, this sounds like it is a duh, but there really are a lot of considerations when thinking about the possibility. There are some huge advantages and disadvantages. Considerations include such items as loss of privacy, time management, how to survive financially during the campaign period, and will I have the support I need to be successful?

Family and friends are great sounding-boards. I really found this to be the case. I was actually amazed at the support and encouragement they gave me when they found out what I am considering. It is also important to think about family who might not be on the same page with you. How will you deal with their reactions? When will you discuss it with them?

As I began the process, I realized that some people weren’t going to commit themselves to any involvement, or be positive about things. That is their choice, and it's okay.

Those who are closest to me support my endeavors, and that is what really matters. It is important to be realistic about all of this going on, though, and not allow nay-sayers to stop me if this is what I am meant to do. I made the decision not to let their negativity be a road block, but keep traveling down the road, exploring the possibilities in a safe and supportive environment.

Issues we looked at in Camp Wellstone included things like: do I have the finances and the time it will take? Even with a terrific team working with me, its going to take a major chunk of my time to get out there and do it!

It also means looking at my personal history (candidates are put under the microscope in ways that the average person is not!) and finances.

Can I afford to take the time off to campaign? And the ongoing issue of fundraising?

It was a bit overwhelming, but very exciting as I realized that my dream of being an advocate at the highest levels is entirely possible once I get the appropriate pieces in place, whether that is through my own candidacy, or through working with and supporting another progressive who shares my values.

I don’t have any major announcements yet, but that is okay. This is a major life decision, and those take time, thought and support. Regardless of my decision, I will continue to be a change maker and an advocate for the rest of us.

In my next blog, I will talk about some of the tools candidates need to make their decision, and what people are needed to run a successful campaign. These are “nuts and bolts” that will sustain a campaign and result in success at the ballot box.

Blogger Carissa Daniel volunteers with Women for Justice as a Contributing Editor.  

"I spent 7 years in broadcast journalism--horrified to see what has happened in my old line of work. My own experience with domestic violence led to pioneering work in online domestic violence advocacy and from that into my current love as co-director of Safe and Silent No More. I fell in love with Bernie’s brand of social democracy early in the process of researching presidential candidates and knew I wanted to be a part of supporting him.

I’m a senior at Seattle University (majoring in Communications and film), and a single parent.

Bernie and the people I work with give me hope even at the darkest of times."

She Should Run is a Women for Justice partner organization.

'Over 100K women from all walks of life have been encouraged to consider public office through She Should Run’s Ask a Woman to Run program. Our multi-platform ongoing awareness and action campaigns continue to make the case for women’s representation in elected leadership. And our content exclusively developed for our community of women poised for future leadership has garnered thousands of downloads. The She Should Run Incubator is our online program to help more women envision themselves in public leadership, and our way of providing thoughtful guidance and support for women considering a future run.'

Women for Justice is an all-volunteer team of activists.

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