On Karen’s Campaign Trail

My inner voice said, “You need to do this or you’re going to die.” The voice did not say I was going to win. The voice did not say it was going to be easy. Or fun. It just said that I should do this – you know, if I didn’t want to die and stuff. So. Yeah.

I wasn’t really sure what the voice meant by “die” – physically? mentally? emotionally? – but running for office seemed preferable to death. So one drizzly day I found myself walking down to the courthouse during lunch break. My shoes squeaked as I crossed the lobby – the long line of people waiting to get their cars licensed looked over at me – I grinned sheepishly and pointed to my shoes – and got some chuckles from the people in the line. I went to the elections office, was greeted by some cheery ladies behind a desk who pointed me to another office, where the mother of one of my former students asked me if I was running for school board. I told her yes, and I’d never done this before, and… how do I sign up? She smiled and put me in front of a computer where I typed in my name and other particulars and the next thing I knew it I was a political candidate.

I’d signed up on the last day a person COULD sign up – a Friday. It wasn’t until after I signed up that I learned the names of the other folks I was running against. One of them had a Spanish surname and I found myself feeling a huge sense of relief – like – oh! I can withdraw my name and use this woman with the HIspanic name as my excuse! I can say I want her to win because I support diversity and equality and rainbows and so forth. But the thing is – I knew the real reason I wanted to withdraw my name was because I was scared. Plain and simple. Yes, of course, I support diversity and equality among all people – but taking my name off the ballot wasn’t in any way going to promote those things. It was just going to give the voters less choices. It wasn’t going to guarantee that people who would have voted for me would now vote for the woman with the Spanish last name. It wasn’t going to help my school district to take my name off the ballot. In short, taking my name off the ballot was just going to make me a chicken shit. And so when Monday rolled around – the last day I could take my name off the ballot – I fought my cowardly urges, and kept my name in the race.

I am a responsible person who doesn’t particularly like responsibility. Maybe you’re like me? You take on responsibility because you know you’re the best one to take it on? I don’t enjoy being the boss. I don’t enjoy being responsible for other people. But my career as a teacher and my experiences helping my elderly parents have shown me that I’m good at it.

I think I could do a lot of good on the school board. I believe I have the background in education, and the maturity and experience, to bring progress to my school district. But – and how do I explain this part? – I am not afraid of failing. I’m not afraid of losing. What I am afraid of is not trying. What I am afraid of is not having the courage to do something that I feel is the right thing for me to do.

I’ve never thought of the other candidates running for this position as my opponents. It feels more like we’re teammates together – all working towards the same goal of helping our community. And I believe that whoever wins is going to rise to the occasion and do a good job for us. I believe the person who wins is the one who’s meant to win. And that might be me. And it might not.

It has been a wonderful trip so far. I’ve met some really amazing new friends, and reconnected with old friends and former students, who have stepped up and offered their support (and their lawns and corners for signs). I’ve had a lot of fun getting out in the community and meeting people – it has given me hope for the world to realize how many good people are out there being kind, being honest, doing right by each other.

There’s some reason my inner voice guided me down to the courthouse that day. There’s some lesson I’m supposed to learn, or something I’m supposed to do that’s going to help someone or something. I’m not sure, yet, what that is. I’m still not even sure that winning is a part of the whole deal. But I’m going to go forward and do my best to be honest and live with integrity, and trust that everything is unfolding as it should.

“Good try, though.” :)

Some wise guy turned around my campaign sign at the espresso stand so’s all you could see was the blank back of it. And I found myself cracking up. I could just picture it: I pictured a man with a baseball cap on his head, a cup of drip coffee in one hand and a rascally grin on his face – slyly reaching out and pulling my sign out of the dirt, giving it a stealthy 180 turn, and re-planting it. And – maybe it’s my background as a middle school teacher – but the idea of that just cracked me up.

It reminds me of my first day teaching eighth graders at Allen School: My partner, Teresa, and I both started in the B-E school district at Allen Elementary School the same year. Teresa taught science and math to the youngsters and I taught social studies and English. We were both dazzled by our students right from the start – I remember half-way through the day we both popped out of our classrooms at the same time, looked down the hall at each other, big grins on our faces, and said simultaneously, “I love these kids!”

At the end of the day we were outside the building, waving good bye to our new students as they loaded onto the buses, and we suddenly – again, both at the same time – looked at each other and said, “Where’s ____?!” We realized we were missing one of our students.

Without needing to say anything more to each other (and this is probably when I recognized my new partner and I had some special cosmic connection) we both hauled off in the same direction – towards the side of the school – rounded the corner and found our missing 8th grader in the process of lighting up a cigarette. Simultaneously, we yelled, “Busted!” He grinned at us and we grinned back. And that was the end of that. We established right from the get-go who he was dealing with that year, and we also established that we genuinely cared about him and he wasn’t invisible to us.

Finding the sign turned around this morning made me flashback to that scene at the side of the school all those years ago.

Ahem. And no – I did not leave the sign turned with its backside to the road. Good try, though. 

campaign sign

Running for School Board

So what happened was… one day during lunch I walked down to the courthouse in the drizzle, squeeked my way across the lobby (my shoes decided to show off to the long line of people waiting to get their vehicles registered), and announced to the ladies behind the election counter that I was going to run for office. They smiled and pointed to the next office over, and there I was greeted by the mother of one of my former students who asked me (and how did she know?!) if I was going to run for school board. She set me up in front of a little computer, I typed in my name and pushed a couple buttons, and – just like that! – I was a candidate!

Here’s my statement for the voter’s pamphlet:
I’ve been a teacher in Skagit County’s schools since my husband and I moved here 34 years ago. I taught in the Burlington-Edison School District from 1992-2012. For the last seven years I’ve taught at Emerson, a nonprofit alternative high school in Mount Vernon. Recently, I wrote a health supplement on teen drug abuse for an educational publishing company. Working for the publishing company gave me an opportunity to recognize the challenges students and teachers face today in education.

As an educator my mission has been to help my students build a solid foundation of knowledge and skills they can bring with them into the future; and to help them see the power they have to make the world a better place. I retired from teaching in spring of 2019. I’d like to bring my teaching experience with me to the Burlington-Edison school board.

Our sons are Burlington-Edison graduates. I appreciate the dedication of the teachers who gave them the skills they need to achieve their goals in life. I’d like the opportunity to give back to the teachers of Burlington-Edison now, and to support our young people, by serving on the school board.

Doing the Right Thing

I guess what’s more important to me than the promises a president makes at rallies, are a president’s actions. Speaking the right words is a lot easier than actually doing the right thing. Is it right to separate thousands of immigrant children from their parents and detain them (still!) in cages? Is it right to refuse to pay the construction workers who built your tower? Is it right to create a fake university, charge students thousands of dollars in tuition, and then offer them no education? Is it honorable to believe you can grab any woman you meet “by the pussy”? Is it right for a President – a man who has sworn to protect the Constitution – to berate people for practicing their First Amendment rights and kneeling in peaceful protest? Is it good for our country to sign legislation that will allow toxic waste to be dumped in our rivers? Is it noble to sign legislation that will allow hibernating bears and their cubs to be slaughtered? Is it honorable to refuse to address the bigotry of people who march with NAZI flags and assault rifles in our streets? Is it wise to put a woman who is against public education in charge of public education? Is it wise to put a man who is against environmental regulation in charge of protecting the environment? Is it honorable to threaten the news media when it does its job and holds you accountable for your actions?