May 01, 2009 Features & Images » Feature Story

My life in crime…er, I mean politics 

A peek behind the signs of an election

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Of course, there are other requirements your chief election officer at city hall will explain, like naming an agent and financial disclosure statements you have to turn in after the election (more on that later) and deadlines you have to meet, but in a nutshell, that's how simple it is to become a candidate in a civic election - a good place to start your life in politics.

Not that I'm suggesting people run as a lark, which they shouldn't. I just want you to see how open the possibilities are, or could be if people would only engage in them. As for the fakers and charlatans, there will always be a few, but they're held in check by the culture of the campaign (more on that later, too) and those aforementioned voters who hold it all in their hands.

On the other hand, the freedom of being able to run a Work Less Party or Mr. Peanut as a candidate says a lot for our democracy and the satirical ways we can protest the system - something activists in the '70s were good at, but we've seemingly forgotten.

My point is you don't need a party or a slate or some secret organization whose members wear purple robes and fake moose horns to put your name forward as a candidate. Some people are surprised to learn that you don't even need to live in your riding to run, which can unleash some interesting permutations, as was the case in Whistler's last civic election when a candidate from Surrey, who really liked signs, ran as mayor. Again, voters will weed out if residency is important or not.

If you want advice on running, call politicians or politicos you like and respect. Most are happy to share stories, like the 16-year Vancouver council veteran who told me the best advice ever for campaigning: have fun!

 

So why are you running?

'Tis serious business running for office, but if you don't maintain some level of enjoyment you're pretty much doomed. That doesn't mean you have to bounce off the walls with fake enthusiasm, but voters can smell desperation miles away if you want it too badly.

I also learned pretty quickly to stay positive - and patient - and keep reminding myself of why I ran. My attitude for the most part - and it wavers at times, especially when fatigue creeps in - was, Glenda, you'll do fine. Even if you lose you'll do fine, because you're getting your ideas out there.

To me, that was the biggest payback. At every all candidates meeting you speak at, every street corner you stump, you get to explain, argue for, and try and convince people of the values you believe in. The sweetest moment for me last campaign was convincing a woman that no town is an island and we need more density in developed areas to save our good agricultural land for agriculture. I literally saw the light go on in her eyes.

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