Running for U.S. Senate is a unique experience.
So this Sunday morning, I thought I’d pause the policy posts and give you a sense of what life looks like from inside our campaign.
Yesterday morning I got a call from a national reporter asking me a question about policy.
Happy to talk, but… what he was really doing was inviting me to attack one of my opponents and hoping I’d give him a quote to create confrontation. I didn’t want to do that, so I kept my answer positive and non-combative.
I could hear the disappointment in his voice as he gave me multiple opportunities to wage an attack:
“Ok Senator, but do you feel it’s unfortunate that other people in this race don’t share that view…?”
Most mornings, our campaign team meets via Zoom. Our decision to make this a true 100 county campaign has molded our schedule and put a lot of logistical pressure on us as we try to make the most out of every stop.
That means a communication plan for letting people know we’re coming (not everyone is on social media), leaving time after each town hall for people who want to speak personally, and having a way for people to sign up to volunteer while we’re there.
It also means preparing for the wide range of questions you get at a town hall. But no matter how much you prepare — “ok, I’m good on social security, Afghanistan policy, early childhood, affordable housing, gerrymandering, criminal justice reform, climate change, the filibuster, broadband, apprenticeships, access to capital for small businesses, pandemic relief, and support for teachers, so let’s roll” — you always get stumped.
Like I was recently when a woman asked, “What do you think about the mercury levels in our river otters?”
I had no idea. First I’ve ever heard. So I said, “Ok Ma’am, tell me what I need to know.”
Then she taught me. It turns out there was a report that came out last year that showed encouraging results regarding the relatively low amount of heavy metals in river otters in some parts of North Carolina, and she wanted to make sure I kept my eye on those kinds of metrics because — given that river otters are considered apex predators in their environment — elevated levels of metal in them could be a sign of trouble, not just for them but for all species that depend on that water, including us.
I had never heard that issue tied to river otters before. It was something that really mattered to her and now I’ve got a better sense of it.
With an approach like ours, you get to make a lot of connections like that. That’s a little moment of reality for her and me and everyone who was watching.
I’m not under the illusion that those conversations necessarily scale in a way that tips a statewide election, but they do give our campaign an approach to policy that is more grounded and organically informed — and that *is* the type of thing that can influence an outcome. My bet is that people know the difference between an agenda that’s phoned in and one that’s built from the ground up.
And then there’s the writing. One of the things I love about this approach is inviting all of you to come along with us. The main way we do that is by posting summaries from each trip on our social media accounts, and that means setting aside time to find ways to succinctly express a full day’s worth of conversations and lessons.
So after Transylvania County we wrote about their success with early childhood education.
And after Yadkin and Hoke we wrote about rural health care.
And after New Hanover and Chatham we wrote about water quality in the Cape Fear River.
But, when I come home I also have three kids who want to hang out, so we find ways to do both.
“Will you watch Lion King with us?”
“Sure, and I’m just going to have my laptop open while we do it, ok?”
And that’s what’s happening right now. Owen and Avery are watching the original Lion King and I’m typing this.
(Aside: This movie totally holds up. Hadn’t seen it in years until Avery started watching it on repeat. The emotional impact it has on her is amazing to watch. I can see why it’s been a money-printing factory for Disney for two decades.)
What people watching our campaign don’t usually see is our team and how strong they are. There’s just an incredible amount of logistical pressure on them to make sure everything runs smoothly — and to react calmly when things inevitably don’t.
“Ok Jeff, turn left and you should see the county park for the town hall.”
“Um, I see a construction site where a park used to be and a bunch of people standing on the sidewalk next to it.”
“Okkk, so… this is now a sidewalk town hall — and it’s gonna be great!”
So take this as an invitation to follow along. This is a campaign for Senate, but it’s also a campaign *for our state* and I honestly believe that the more we learn about every part of it, the better chance we’ll have to actually bring people together and serve your interests.
And that’s what this job should really be about.