Guest Post: Why I ran

**Note from Melinda: This guest post is from Shana Althouse, a tremendous former student of mine who is also a neighbor, and for whom I campaigned in advance of the Fall 2010 elections. Although she wasn’t elected to the Kansas House in that cycle, I know that Shana will continue to influence policy and our community, and I am honored to have her share her thoughts here about running for elected office as a social worker.

“Don’t Stop Believing” – Journey
You might think that a person who ran for the Kansas state legislature would have quoted Kathleen Sebelius (former Kansas Governor, now Secretary of DHHS) or Dennis Moore (retired Congressman from Kansas’ third district) for political inspiration. While I do admire them both, it was Journey’s song, “Don’t Stop Believing” that ran through my head last summer when it was 100 degrees and I was walking door to door to meet the voters in my district. Yes, I had a theme song, and it carried me to Election Day. Why did I have a theme song? The reality is, running for public office requires you to find a way to keep going, and a reminder of why you are running. For me, my motivation was that I sincerely believed I could make a difference. If not now, when?

When I first contemplated running, I had just heard my state representative talk about how the demographics in our district were changing. I live in a Republican county, but Democrats had been picking up seats all around my district and voting trends were leaning Democratic. I thought, “really, hmmm.”
In the summer of 2007 I hosted a healthcare round table at my house. One of the attendees had run for State Representative in our district previously as a Democrat. I mentioned to her that I had an interest in running for public office someday. The next week I received a call from the President of the Johnson County Democrats and we met for coffee. It wasn’t long before the state party was calling and asking if I was going to run. I decided it was time to take this seriously and I needed my husband to be okay with this. I had managed a political campaign in 2008 and I knew my husband had to be totally on board or it was a no go. It was not an easy decision for us. When you run for office, you do not get paid and it is a major time commitment. We have two school-age children with busy social lives. We had a lot to factor into our decision. We finally decided to go for it and, since I would be finishing my Master’s in May, I would forego the job hunt to focus on the campaign.

My decision to run was strongly influenced by my profession. As a social worker, we advocate for those who often are not able to advocate for themselves—children, working families, the homeless, people with severe and persistent mental illness. Now, more than ever, we need strong leaders who can work on behalf of those who are disenfranchised. We need more public officials, not more politicians.

The support I received from my colleagues was tremendous. Many social workers donated to my campaign and offered to go door to door with me. The biggest disappointment, though, came from our local KNASW chapter which chose to donate to and endorse my opponent. This was purely a political decision, influenced by other representatives. KNASW could have easily chosen to donate to both candidates, especially considering the fact that one of us was actually a social worker. If our profession is to encourage more social workers to make the commitment to run for office, we have to be willing to support each other actively and enthusiastically.

I will never regret or doubt my decision to run for public office. I have met many amazing individuals who have tirelessly devoted their lives working for the betterment of our society. I remain engaged through community organizations and may consider running again someday. I know that my presence in the campaign raised critical issues for our district and shaped the tone of the debate. For now, though, I am truly enjoying spending more time with my family and friends!

4 responses to “Guest Post: Why I ran

  1. Pingback: Get Political Fund » Blog Archive » Guest Post: Why I ran | Classroom to Capitol

  2. Thanks for sharing this. I had been interested in and tried to follow your campaign. I knew that you were facing a strong incumbent: a woman, a parent, a physician (who had graduated from KU Med, located in your district,) wife of a physician, living in Mission Hills, successful enough (financially) to walk away from her practice, involved for years in local schools and a MODERATE republican. Ugh, yours was clearly an uphill battle. And honestly, during that same campaign season I was busy with several other battles about which I was much more intimately familiar and invested.

    I am disappointed to hear of the lack of support you had from the KNASW. I had been on the KNASW PACE committee through several campaign cycles and had to step away during the past session due to other obligations. Were you even contacted by anyone from the KNASW PACE committee?

    I’ve been a Precinct Committee Person in the 21st (Prairie Village) & most recently the 19th (Overland Park) District. And I too have on several occassions considered running for a state office. But I know enough about my self. It would be all consuming. And in fairness, (and wonderful relief) my districts, have been generally well represented by both (house and senate) incumbent democrats and moderate republicans. Neither is this is not a matter about which I am willing to change my (and my wifes) residence.

    Several years ago a good friend of ours was running for the (20th district) house position held by kevin yoder. Watching yoder work, I became quite disinfranchised with the populations gullibility for self-serving partisan rhetoric and tolerance for flagrant and even maliscious misrepresentation. Of course yoder has now gone on to become our congressman.

    (yoder a recent college graduate (political science and law) chose to move to the 20th because there was no incumbent and he had political and fiscal support to run: filing within a week of establishing his apartment residence there. He had secured a campaign chest in excess of ten thousand dolllars before he even had secured a permenant job! A significnt majority of those funds came from out of state: as a matter of fact in his first campaign budget disclosure form he only had two contributors who even lived in his district! He is a well organized career politician.)

    Last March I accompanied a group of BSW students to Topeka where we sat in on several committee hearings. The students were appaled by many of the legislators ignorance of even general issues and important details as well as the transparency of the partisan comentary. One student commented, “Mr Bachman, YOU could do better than that.” ( I wasn’t totally sure if that was offered as a complement or not.) But my response to that student, and the others leaning forward in conspirational form on either side of me was, “Yes, perhaps. But so could each of you.”

    So now, back to you, Are you going to run again?

    Gary Bachman

    • I forwarded this to Shana so that she could respond, but I just wanted to comment on two pieces–first, how important those precinct committee positions are (in terms of shaping the direction of the parties, cultivating leadership, bringing new voices into the process) and, how much I LOVE your response to your students! I have been a precinct committeeperson too, and have often thought of elected office as a part of my public service future at some point (when my young children are a little less young!). Your good representation, of course, is dependent on those Democrats and moderate Republicans having a constituency that pushes them to positions that are consistent with progressive values, and that’s an invaluable service you’re providing, too!

  3. And this was just published in yesterdays Chronicle of Higher Education. It offers some interesting statistics ( In Kansas for example, 25% of our current state legislators never graduated from college. 16% never even tried.)

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