I think I’ve told it enough that we all know about my first meeting on the campaign trail. Since then, I had gone from “Youth Campaign Coordinator” with my good buddy Chase Fleece, to Media Coordinator, to Transition Committee Vice-Chair. Around 2:15 on Monday, I dropped that last title. I jokingly say that I’ve returned to civilian life.
When I returned to school, I had some downtime to reflect on the last two years. It was the middle of my senior year when Christina first asked me if I’d entertain helping, I remember thinking “this will be a heck of a resume builder.” Right after, Jon and Christina attended a Wildcat basketball game. The student section theme was the beach. I was the only one that showed up in costume. Later, they’d admit that they had reservations about my outfit until they realized I was marching in my own direction, against the flow of my peers.
I sat back and watched at that plaza meeting as they discussed the statewide ticket, fundraising, strategy, and more. We announced in March and started down the trail. Parade after parade, festival upon festival, and pizzas on top of pizzas. We worked our jobs all day, then traveled the district half the night.
Then, the attack ads hit.
I remember the day I heard them on the air at work. I’ll hand it to the swamp, the tactics were good. I remember the emergency meeting that night. Everyone cleared their schedules and showed up wearing everything from dirty work uniforms to coats and ties. While we were at a pretty deep low; looking back that was one of my favorite moments of the campaign. It was inspiring to see leadership from across the district make themselves available at the drop of a hat so we could overcome this large obstacle in the road.
There was another favorite meeting moment (these suckers were weekly) It was toward the end, and the rest of the committee had gone about their ways. We were standing around shooting the breeze, and Matt said something extraordinary.
“This started as a way for us to have local representation, but this has evolved into something bigger than all of us.” – Matt Jennings
Matt said it best. The Columbus team said we were one of the top two heated races in the state. I’ll spare the gory details, but It was obvious that our race was one of the differences between the same old leadership, and doing things right.
But my favorite memory of the trail was just this weekend. Going through school, the government was something we learned about but never engaged in. It seemed to be this higher power that operated without regard for communities or the people that call them home. We got to watch as that theory was disproven, and for the first time in 55 years, Hardin County made it’s return to the Statehouse. Jon said it best on Friday at the hometown swearing-in.
“It’s time for us to renew our spirit to public serivce.” – State Representative Jon Cross.
Look, these races have been ugly. They’ve been polarizing and divisive. We were sold out by some local party officials. We were told time and time again that we couldn’t do this, or that we shouldn’t. We were told we didn’t stand a chance. But, at the end of the day, Jon Cross was elected by the people to be their representative and is ready to work for everyone.
So, what are the takeaways?
I learned a lot about the inner workings of a campaign. I learned what to say and how to say it, who to call when, and who has the best pizza in the district. There are a few things that we can all learn from the past two years.
Have an open mind
When we announced, we had oodles of people ready to tell us it wouldn’t work. They were ready to tell us there wasn’t any way we could win. Someone from Findlay was running, and there was no way the good ‘ol boys from Hardin County can pull it off. Then, the story changed to “OHROC is supporting the other candidate.” (The Ohio House Republican Caucus – essentially the election arm of the Ohio House GOP. These were the people that devised and funded the attack ads on us.) Then, when those lost their luster, the Topix forums fired up with false accusations about “keeping Honda away” and being the reason “we don’t have a Bob Evans.” Had folks just had an open mind rather than preconceived notions, that thing would’ve been far less expensive, painful, and polarizing.
Pick people up
We were sucker-punched right in the face. Over, and over, and over. Especially in the beginning while at work. I’d hear that awful ad come on the radio, and it would stop me dead in my tracks. Each time we received a hit mailer, another devastating blow. It’s tough, but we’re tougher. We have to remember to be there to pick others up, rather than post about how much we dislike political mail and changing the station.
Do the right thing
Matt has a quote that hangs on my dorm room wall. In short, what’s right and what’s easy aren’t always the same thing. I firmly feel we spent two years doing the right thing. Lord knows it wasn’t cheap or easy. But I know Jon will spend much more time doing the right thing over the easy one.
I don’t know how much time over the last two years I spent behind a camera for this campaign, but it was a lot. I wouldn’t have changed a minute of it. Naturally, I have to post the photos we accumulated, with thanks to my good buddy Chase Fleece and my momma’.