… Any Club That Would Have Me as a Member: Thoughts From a Hesitant Politician

We’re less than four weeks away from the 2022 midterm elections and all indications are that I will be elected to represent the Chittenden 15 District to the Vermont State House of Representatives. I’ve been running unopposed since announcing my candidacy and, absent any well-orchestrated write-in campaign, it appears as though I’ll be heading to Montpelier in early January.

I can honestly identify myself as a once-reluctant candidate. I have had the privilege of being represented in Montpelier and in Washington DC by a long history of amazing people and the fortune of having those people align with my own beliefs. I’ve never really had to worry about my representatives acting in a way that did not feel supportive or in my best interest. This, along with a general hesitancy to interrupt my life of leisure, has kept me from ever really considering running for office myself. This is a tremendous privilege. So many people do not have their best interests supported by their representatives.

I align with the Progressive caucus of the Democratic party. I’m also fortunate to live in a state (and specifically within my city) where the Progressive party is a legitimate option. When asked to step into the role of State Rep by my local Progs, I ultimately came to the conclusion that it was time to step up to the task of actively keeping the caucus represented.

Running unopposed and as an absolute newcomer to the world of political campaigns has allowed me to develop what I feel is an objective viewpoint of the process. I’ve never done this before, so I’ve had no real need to do what has always worked or according to how things have always been done. While I feel an obligation to introduce myself within my district, I haven’t felt the pull to actually “campaign” from a persuasive “pick me” perspective. This, paired with a level of introversion and social anxiety to introduce myself out of the blue to strangers, has kept  me from really playing the campaign game at all. When you add the layer of a still very present COVID pandemic, I’ve been absolutely hesitant but nonetheless committed.

I’ve never understood a lot about how we approach the campaigns to elect our representatives and I don’t like what our perpetual campaign season has evolved to become. I deplore the concept of campaign lawn signs even though I put them in my yard. I think we use far too much paper and overwhelm mailboxes with mailers that, in all likelihood, end up directly in the trash or recycling bin. We require candidates to raise ridiculous amounts of money to battle one another with literature, t-shirts, and other forms of media. Countless text alerts and solicitations continue to show up until we opt out. It’s a broken system and, although it wasn’t part of my original platform, campaign finance reform is becoming a primary issue for me that I intend to question once I’m seated. I think everyone deserves the easy access that an unopposed candidate has.

Running unopposed means that I don’t necessarily need to play the game within that broken system. And I’m beginning to wonder if I have an obligation to actively and publicly disengage with “campaign strategy” in ways that are visible and transparent so that we can all begin to seek an understanding of what it might be like if no candidate had to play the silly games, raise the money, or respond to the aspects of the campaign machine that are unhealthy.
I’ve been overwhelmed with texts and e-mails from all over the country from those who would seek to profit by convincing me that I need their assistance to broaden my reach. I can’t figure out why an organization in an entirely different state should collect the money donated by my generous supporters just to overwhelm those in my district with more robo-texts. Similarly, I’ve been approached by individuals here in Vermont who claim that they can help me in a variety of ways with a workshop or coaching. The monetization of the campaign cycle is unfortunate and, in my opinion, entirely unnecessary. “Troy, we can guarantee delivered banners and video ads 1-to-1 to any segment of your voter universe. Our tech is by far the most efficient and most effective marketing spend in the final weeks before an election.” I pulled that from solicitation I received as I was writing this blog post. The area code of the person listed as my contact is for St. Louis. Headquarters for the agency who sent the e-mail are in Kentucky.

Shortly after my candidacy announcement, I began to receive questionnaires by countless organizations attempting to convince me that their endorsement would be necessary. I align well with some of these organizations, and my platform will serve their missions well. However, I have decided to disassociate my campaign from the click factory that this endorsement process has become. That cycle performs as follows: an organization reaches out to all campaigns and encourages us (often with repeated solicitation ahead of a deadline) to complete a questionnaire that will take anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes to complete. The solicitation is often pitched as leading to one of only a few coveted endorsements. Once endorsed, the candidate is encouraged to flood their own social media platforms with news of the prized endorsement, thereby driving clicks and follows to the organization. “Troy, please respond to the short survey sent to you on behalf of the Northeast Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association.” This was an actual pitch. I have nothing against hearths, patios, or barbecues … I have one of each … but please do not base your political decisions on who the NEHPBA is endorsing. The net result of candidates responding to this collection of pitches is that the legitimate issues are completely diluted from attention where it most certainly is warranted. We need a factory reset.

If you’ve read this far, thank you for hearing my thoughts. If you want to discuss my approach to what remains of this campaign, please reach out to me via this website (TroyHeadrick.com) or via e-mail at TroyHeadrickVT@gmail.com. Especially if you live within the Chittenden 15 district. Please know that, even if I am a hesitant (or still-reluctant) campaign participant, I am committed to serving you to the absolute best of my abilities once I hit the ground in Montpelier.