Dear candidates running for office – any office. This is an open letter to tell you how to and how not to garner votes from a 41-year-old white woman. You’re welcome in advance because I’m sure this is highly valuable, previously classified information.
I’ll start with a little back story.
When I was a kid, my family was really close to another family, the Turners. The patriarch Jim Turner went to high school with my dad in Crockett and they both subsequently fled the Piney Woods to go to college at the University of Texas at Austin.
Then they both moved back to Crockett with their wives. My mom and Ginny Turner became the best of friends and still are close today. The Turners had a son, John, who is the same age as my sister, and a daughter, Susan, who is my age and was one of the first people I met when I was born. We introduce each other as “my first friend.” We’ve stood beside each other at weddings and funerals and sweet 16 parties and high school reunions (we did not go to the same high school; I am a reunion crasher). We’ve spent countless nights at each other’s homes and while we don’t talk often, she’s a ride or die homie in my book.
I am, in fact, getting to the point. Susan’s dad Jim Turner served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1997 to 2005 following stints in the Texas House and Senate going back to 1981. The Turners taught me the importance of voting and campaigning and being part of the process.
I remember my mother taking me door to door passing out campaign literature. Even when the Turners moved to Austin and my family moved to College Station, we still campaigned on Election Day, passing out info cards at the designated distance from polling places. It was drilled into my head that elections are important and our right to vote is important. It was a true honor when as a young reporter, I got to cover Mr. Turner’s stump speeches. Mrs. Turner once even gave me a tour of the White House in Washington, D.C.
Cut to 2018 and my friend John Turner, the son who is my sister’s age, is running for the Texas House. This isn’t a proper endorsement; John lives in the Dallas area so those reading this may not be able to vote for him anyway, but if you know anyone in District 114, this guy deserves your vote.
I like to think that I taught John Turner everything he knows because when we were toddlers in Crockett the four of us kids decided that playing House was for pansies and we evolved the game into “House Take a Trip” where John, Susan, my sister Carla and I would pretend to embark as a family on an excursion to Europe or Lufkin or, you know, just another place that wasn’t our house or the Turners’ second-floor playroom. It’s not lost on me that John Turner is now running for the state House. See what I did there?
And he’s doing things right as a candidate. He’s not shoving his political agenda down everyone’s throat. He has a good website where we can read up on his policies. He posts pictures to social media – as candidates should – and he hands out yard signs and T-shirts and educational materials as candidates should. His IQ is probably in the genius range and at first glance he seems like the Harvard guy that is going to talk about rowing or cricket.
He’s not that guy.
The last time I saw John Turner was Fourth of July a year ago in Crockett with his beautiful wife Jenia and their two sons. He let me talk baseball with his kids and teach them catch phrases like “runners on the corners.” His boys showed me their technology room, which once had been a life-size dollhouse for me and Susan and is now stacked with computers. John hadn’t yet announced his candidacy and he wasn’t campaigning or asking for my assistance in gathering votes (he would never do that because my campaign slogan would be “Turnt Up.”) He was just being a person.
Someone once told me there are two types of people who run for office: narcissists and those who genuinely want to do something good for their community, state or country. The rest of us are just apathetic occasional voters who get upset when the State of the Union address interrupts “Grey’s Anatomy.”
John Turner is one of the good guys.
We want leadership that is human. And we need our leaders to be good humans.
So here’s my free advice. Show up to events, especially hyper-local events like the Chamber banquet and the Go Texan steak dinner. Be a person. Continue spending time with your family. Do it old school like the Turners did. Pound the pavement. Knock on doors. Answer people’s questions. Tell them how you’re going to enact change.
Live well, be honest and set achievable goals. That’s the best way to get my vote.
Let’s make sure the right people are playing House Take a Trip.
April Towery is the managing editor of The Sealy News. She can be reached at 979-885-3562 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.