To run for office requires that a person have certain attributes. First, is that the individual has a true desire to serve the people he seeks to represent. Second, is understanding that there are no guarantees in life. Even though you may be the better qualified candidate ultimately you may still lose. It’s politics not a job interview. In light of recent events surrounding the resignation of Lt. Gov. Sheehy I was asked to write about perhaps the most important attribute that a person seeking or holding office can have. That attribute is having the hide of a rhinoceros.
When you put yourself out there to be a candidate for an elected office some very interesting dynamics go into motion. First, everyone who supports you wants to be your friend. Your ego is stroked at every turn. If you cannot reign in that incredible feeling that comes with being the center of attention it will ultimately destroy you as you will be presented with very interesting choices and dilemmas. It is important to surround yourself with quality folk who are unafraid to remind you that you are not superhuman and you need to use your head.
On the other hand, there are the folks that will not support you just because you have the wrong party label. These folks are looking for a way to destroy you as you a person. They don’t know who you are, they have never met you and yet, you become Satan incarnate and are the scourge of their very existence.
People you have never met attribute things to you that are patently false but feel they have the right to spout off about anything under the sun whether they have a basis for their belief or not. It is extremely important that those same quality people who are knocking you down a notch when your head swells are there to pick you up dust you off and remind you that you truly are a decent human being.
When I ran for Governor I was going through a very difficult time in my life. My wife of 23 years had left me and our children. She just moved out. Apparently people who didn’t know us or anything about the situation took it upon themselves to write to the State Chair and tell him that I was a wife beater and worse (If there is something worse). This was simply not true.
Imagine sitting in your office when you get a call from a person you know and his first question to you is “Did you beat your wife?” I came to find out that a person had written him had written to a college paper claiming that slanderous lie. I told him in no uncertain terms that it was untrue and I also told him that if he did not protect me from this nonsense I would resign immediately and sue the college in question to clear my name. After looking into it closer the college realized there was no truth to the allegation and the story was never published.
The Republican Party chair, at the time, was heard to say on many occasions that I was on some “quest to find myself.” What an ass. One does not run for office to “find one’s self.” Of course he didn’t know me then and he doesn’t know me now, we’ve never met. Regardless, he felt it appropriate to psychoanalyze me. In hind sight we probably should have turned him in to state authorities for practicing mental health medicine without a proper license.
I was laid bare more than once by reporters asking me questions about my divorce. I was used by reporters to gain access to events that they were not invited to and then blamed for “conspiring” with that reporter even though I knew nothing about her actions. A right wing blog wrote all kinds of silly and nonsensical things about me, which gave hours of endless amusement to my staff and irritation to me.
We often expect far too much from elected officials or candidates for elected office. Most folks just want to serve and most want to do it for their sense of civic duty. The few that do it for their own ego or self-gratification are usually found out and marginalized. Then there are those who forget they are under the microscope such as Rick Sheehy. I wish him luck and am truly saddened by what happened to him and his family and sincerely thank him for his service even though I may not have agreed with him and his boss on many issues of the day.