Lessons from Running for Office
In February 2022, I filed to run as the United Utah Party candidate for Utah Senate 28, a sprawling district that covers all of Iron and Beaver Counties, as well as parts of Juab, Millard, and Washington Counties. There are a lot of reasons that I made that decision. But for the purposes of today, I want to share three things I learned from the experience.
1) Only Ordinary People Run for Office
I feel like a lot of us have the belief that you have to be extra special or have the perfect resume to run for political office. I know I felt a lot of imposter syndrome when I first filed to run; “Who was I to run for office?” But it just isn’t true. During my campaign, I rubbed shoulders with both candidates and current office holders and they are all ordinary people, just like you and me.
There are some legal requirements to run for office (they vary slightly, but can mostly be summed up as citizenship, residency, and age). Once you’ve met those, all you really need to run for office is a desire to serve and a willingness to try. The imaginary lofty requirements keep a lot of people off the ballot who would be great candidates and even better public servants. I wish more people would recognize the amazing strengths they have that they could bring to the political process.
2) People Are Nicer in Person Than They Are Online
“Politics” is a dirty word for many people. The late comedian Robin Williams once defined the word 'politics' this way: "Poli, a Latin word meaning 'many' and ticks meaning 'bloodsucking creatures.'"
Jokes aside, there really is a ton of rancor and vitriol online and in the news surrounding political issues and political leaders. Unfortunately, the negative perception makes a lot of people want to avoid politics altogether. Which is unfortunate, because we need good people on the ballot and in office.
During my campaign, I actually found that people are a lot kinder and more polite in person than they are on the internet. Most of my discussions on doorsteps and at political events were really positive. Even the people who were not interested were simply dismissive, rather than hostile. I also had some great conversations with the two other candidates on the ballot for my race, the incumbent and another challenger. They were respectful to me and even considerate.
There are a lot of great people in our communities, our state, and our country. A great way to remind ourselves of that fact is to get off the internet (and the news) and start a conversation.
3) It Is Worth the Effort
Our system of representative government relies on choice. There are studies that show that uncontested and uncompetitive races lead to ineffective government and even corruption. Truly representative government requires accountability and accountability is only possible when there is more than one name on the ballot.
In 2022, more than ⅓ of the races for Utah Legislature and Senate were uncontested at the general level. When you look at all political races, including county and local races, that number goes above 80%. Our state needs more people willing to step forward and give us real choices in our political process. Even if all you can do is file the paperwork to put your name on the ballot, you are performing an invaluable service.
On a scale between just being a name on the ballot and attempting to knock every door in your district, I would say my campaign effort was somewhere in the middle. The most time-consuming activity was placing signs (mostly because my district was roughly the size of the state of Massachusetts), but the most meaningful efforts were the conversations I had on doorsteps and at events.
After the election was over, random strangers thanked me via text, email, and in person. They were grateful for the opportunity to vote for someone with a clear conscience. Someone who was more interested in solving problems than scoring political points.
I didn’t win. I received about 3,300 votes, or 9% of the vote total. But I still consider my campaign a success. I gave people hope and I showed them that there is a better way to approach politics.
And that will always be worthwhile.
—Patricia Bradford, United Utah Party Vice-Chair