Thursday, July 24, 2014

Running for Congress . . . in 2016

Click below for the statement I delivered to news media.

This is what 2,000 signatures looks like, complete with rain smudges, Popsicle goop from the Ralston July 4th parade, and other evidence of the human condition that I can’t quite identify. This stack represents about a hundred hours of circulating petitions at parades, farmers markets, door-to-door in neighborhoods, and among family and friends. I thank those who signed the petitions. I am eternally grateful to those who helped me obtain these signatures. 

There are more petitions still out there. Before submitting signatures for approval we probably should hit the weekend farmers markets one more time to get another 700-or-so signatures and have plenty of cushion. But I have told helpers to stand down. I will not submit signatures to get my name on the ballot this year to run for Congress. I will wait for the 2016 Republican primary.

I hate the idea of waiting. However, it takes the help of many people to wage a successful campaign. There comes a point when you have to consider whether it’s right to ask people to help on a long shot when there may be a sure thing just beyond the horizon. 

My view of the national situation has not changed. Spending is out of control. Obamacare is a dysfunctional mess. The IRS bullies taxpayers while the tax code and excessive regulations hamper our economy. The border is in chaos. All because we do not have true leadership in Congress as well as the White House.

As I said, my view of the national situation has not changed. What has changed is my view of the primary election. 

I thought petitioning into the general election was the best way to challenge an entrenched incumbent. I saw the primary as unwinnable. The national retention rate for members of Congress is around 90% because primaries tend to favor incumbents. Dan Frei almost proved me wrong, and we’ve had some surprising results across the nation in primary elections, but I still was skeptical about a primary.

What changed my view were dozens of conversations over the last two months. I discovered that there is decisive support for me to win the 2016 Republican primary. I had not anticipated that. I have had to eat some humble pie and admit that my perception of the primary may have been wrong. The numerous promises of support for 2016 have convinced me to wait until then.

I admit that my initial reaction was: Why don’t we all mentally flip that switch now and get it done now instead of waiting for 2016? The reply was that not enough Republicans would make the leap of logic I was asking them to make. I was warned: You’ll never convince some Republicans that it would be in their best interest to vote for a nonpartisan petition candidate instead of the Republican on the ballot.

Another factor in my decision was pro-lifers. People with whom I have walked through the fire defending the Culture of Life were pleading with me not to run this year for fear that my candidacy would allow a pro-choice candidate to win. That weighed heavily on my heart.

I am not endorsing Lee Terry, but I will vote for him – one last time. However, my view of the race has not changed. Brad Ashford is the type of liberal/progressive Democrat that Terry normally would clobber. There is doubt because so many voters have given up on Terry. The national Democratic Party has gotten interested because it can see that Terry is on a downward trajectory. He lost Douglas County in 2012. He lost ground within the Republican Party in this year’s primary despite spending nearly a million dollars against an underfunded newcomer.

I tried to convince those worried about splitting the vote on the right that, because Terry is so vulnerable, the safe play is to rally to me. A lot of them are willing to rally to me – in the 2016 primary, not this year.

Some friendly critics asked: Are you doing this for your ego or because you want to improve the country?

It takes some degree of ego to run for office, but the answer is no, I didn’t disrupt my life – take a leave of absence from my job, lose my radio gig (which I loved), and discombobulate my family life – for an ego trip. I have four children and our country is running up an immoral debt burden for them to pay off. I want to do something about that.

OK, the friendly critics said, but there’s a good chance you’ll fail at this petition campaign. Even if you pull it off and win, some people will be mad at you forever because of the way you did it. You’ll create a permanent rift.

That was the clincher. You’ve heard of a Pyrrhic victory. You win a battle, but at such great cost that it feels like a defeat, perhaps because you ended up destroying the very thing for which you were fighting.

I don’t want that. I don’t want a permanent rift. My goal is to unify and solidify the conservative majority in our district. There is a conservative majority. I’m talking about Democrats and Independents as well as Republicans and Libertarians. What’s missing is a catalyst to energize the conservative majority that should dominate these elections. In 2016 we’ll bring that conservative majority back to life.

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