Setting Out on the Campaign Trail

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Wild Ride on the Campaign Trail

Joining the ranks of people on the campaign trail has been a wild ride for me, filled with much more excitement than I ever would have imagined. When I decided to run, I pictured myself at events where I would have a hard time staying awake. Instead, this campaign takes me back to my early days of the Peace Corps in Chad, where an intense group of idealistic people kept a grueling schedule, with passion and enthusiasm.

I was twenty-three, fresh from graduate school at Indiana University in Bloomington. At our first Peace Corps dinner with the French Ambassador to Cameroun, this Indiana farm girl had to eat frog legs with a smile and then ride home on a bicycle through a pitch-black night, along unpaved streets with no streetlights. My bike was one of those big balloon-tired rentals, repaired countless times, with no headlight.

I recall my thoughts as I rode through the dark, following the bike in front of me, hoping I wouldn’t crash and land in the dark water of an open sewer at the side of the road. Here I was in Africa, I had just met an ambassador, and I was sailing along on at breakneck speed with no clue where I was headed. Someone shouted out, “This is the stuff of life!” How perfectly that phrase captured my feeling that I was engaged in a glorious adventure, that every moment was a learning experience.

That feeling of excitement has returned to me with my decision to campaign for State Board of Education. I’m racing along, not always sure of the way. In fact, I got a little sidetracked on my way to the Tejano Democrats conference in San Antonio. The receptionist told me the location on the seventh floor, so I bopped on up there and marched into the first room I saw with food and a big crowd. I grabbed myself a plate and headed for a table of friendly-looking people who gestured for me to join them. We talked for a while and I was looking around thinking that except for our table and the great food, this just didn’t seem like a Tejano Democrats reception.

After some chitchat, it came out that this was an Air Force Reunion meeting, with people who had served mainly in World War II and Guam. My table mates were most gracious and said they were glad I had joined. They added that they were sorry they couldn’t vote for me, since they were all from outside of District 5.

I had finished eating, so I excused myself and then went to the right reception next door. There, Senator Gonzalo Barrientos, who had invited me, was speaking about the importance of the State Board of Education race. I waved my hand at him, but he couldn’t see me, so he didn’t introduce me. I was crestfallen. Moments later, though, he found me and had me stand up with him in front of everyone. The senator held my hand up as he introduced me, whispering that I’d have to be aggressive to succeed in politics.

Senator Barrientos’ kindness is typical of the warm welcome that seasoned campaigners offer to people like me, a beginner in politics. Encountering this strange new world, I feel just the way I did back in the 1970s in Africa, sailing through the darkness, pedaling as fast as I can to keep up, riding on faith, and following the lights of those who know the way.

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