Terry McAteer: Nevada County candidates deserve some praise | TheUnion.com

Terry McAteer: Nevada County candidates deserve some praise

Terry McAteer


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We are in the midst of another campaign season and it’s time to take a break from the rhetoric and focus for a few minutes on our fellow citizens who bravely decided to seek public office.

Putting oneself out on such a public display takes courage and passion. It’s easy to be an armchair critic and skeptic during these unique times in American politics but for those few who step out and locally seek public office in our democracy, they deserve our praise. No matter your political persuasion or your views on each candidate, the essence of our democracy depends on these warriors.

I’ve run for local public office six times and know the trials and tribulations that each candidate goes through on a daily basis. It is a continual emotional roller coaster— highs at one moment and lows the next. While many of you have been friends with candidates and worked on campaigns, there is nothing comparable to the fact of having your name on a public ballot for everyone to judge you and you alone. (I soon realized that I was the only one who really knew what campaigning felt like, except the person I was running against.)

Most elected officials I’ve known throughout the years enter the political arena not solely for personal gain but for a genuine interest in improving the life for their fellow citizens. They enter as a novice and exit, whether a winner or loser, having a more callous view of people and politics.

There is something wrong with the fact that today you need to raise $50,000 to run a viable campaign for County Supervisor or Sheriff.

They may tell you along the way that they enjoyed campaigning but an honest conversation with an office seeker will reveal that they intensely disliked the trail. (My campaign was a 24-hour-a-day operation, as my mind constantly spun and 20-hour days on the trail found my body exhausted.)

The thought of asking people for money, and lots of it, is not a proper fit for those who seek public office to serve their constituents. Most candidates truly despise this aspect of the process.

There is something wrong with the fact that today you need to raise $50,000 to run a viable campaign for County Supervisor or Sheriff. You may be the most qualified and most capable person for the job but unless you can compete in the fiscal realm you are doomed to failure. (I absolutely dreaded picking up the phone “to make the ask” and forced myself to set aside time each week to perform this awful task or it wouldn’t get done.)

Gossip runs rampant in a political race which plays mind games on your emotions. Many lend you advice, some tell you what you want to hear but all love to lend their opinion of the race or tidbits of what they have heard. These opinions and tidbits create a roller coaster of emotions for the candidate. You are exhausted from this 24/7 experience and emotions often get the best of you. The only saving grace is that every night you come home after a battering day on the campaign trail to your only sense of tranquility — your home and your family. They provide a safe space to vent the day’s experiences and offer unconditional support and love (My wife, Liz, always offered an ear, a shoulder and a kick in the butt to get out the door and face the next day. The campaign also drained her but she never showed it to me because she was my rock).

Most importantly, the other side of a political race is that you truly get to know who your friends are. True friends step up to the plate when their friend is on the ballot, to walk precincts, hang signs and donate. Amazingly, you remember those who bent over backwards for you during this public process and you remember for life those who purported to be friends but withered during the election process (I will always remember campaigning door-to-door in a pouring rain in Grass Valley with a Bear River teacher named Lew Sitzer. He is my friend for life!).

Therefore, to those who are running, thank you for your willingness to undergo public scrutiny, public praise and public ridicule. You are currently absorbed into a fascinating experience in your life and I, as a former candidate, understand and commiserate with you as this campaign season comes to a conclusion.

And to the 99 percent of you who have never run for office, be considerate and compassionate to those who are running and thank them for doing such, whether you support them or not.

These campaigning warriors have skin as thin as yours and, as the axiom goes, deserve to be treated like you would want to be treated.

Dr. Terence K. McAteer, a former Nevada County Superintendent of Schools, lives in Grass Valley.

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