Why I’m Running for Office

**This document was one of the first things I wrote when I first had the inclination to run for office.  I needed it for when I told my wife what I wanted to do. And you know what she said?  She simply said, “I’ll support you in whatever you want to do.” So this was my original list of reasons I wanted to run for office.  I’ve cleaned it up a little in the months since, but the reasons haven’t changed. I hope they never do.

And yes, writing short documents is an issue for me. If you plan to read this entire thing, you may need to go grab a beverage.

12-14 Minute Read

My Naive, Romanticized Expectations of What Government Should Be

The national motto of the United States is “In God We Trust.” In GOD we trust. So why don’t our leaders act like it? Why do we shrug at government corruption and say, “Well it’s too far gone now. You just have to learn to accept that.” But what if I don’t want to accept that?

The state motto of North Carolina is “Esse Quam Videri,” “To be, rather than to seem.” I’ve always thought that, for me, this meant that I needed to be someone genuine, not someone on the outside that I am not on the inside. In other words, even if I’m not perfect, I should embrace who I am and do everything I can to be better today than I was yesterday. I think it can be interpreted differently, but my interpretation is pretty admirable. I want to take that person into public service. And I expect a group of those people to already be there.

The North Carolina Constitution states that “The General Assembly shall provide by taxation and otherwise for a general and uniform system of free public schools, wherein equal opportunities shall be provided for all students.” We parents often say we would do ANYTHING for our children. So why is it okay to offer them an inferior product in our public schools? Very few government programs can have a positive impact on an entire society. Good, quality public schools can do that. It’s the one aspect of our lives where the only group profiting should be our children. And in doing so, the state of North Carolina flourishes. To me, it all starts with education.

I had a college professor when I was getting my Masters in Teaching to ask me if fair was always equal. I went home that night and wrote an entire paper on it to share with my class the next day because I slaved over that question. I intensely needed an answer to that question. I never found one. The only answer I could come up with is that fair is NOT always equal because equal is not always possible. But fairness is always the goal, even when equality is not possible. The job of our government is to seek fairness for all citizens whenever possible, and to make laws that encourage all citizens to thrive. And once they’ve done that, stay out of the way and let the people live their lives.  To me, that is the job of government.

Short Version of Why I Want to Run for Office

1) Somebody like me - independent and refusing to align with a party - needs to be in Raleigh to be the voice of every North Carolinian who is sick of politics as usual.

2) Since North Carolina’s children are the ONLY people we should consider when making education decisions, can we REALLY not find a way to make those decisions from a bipartisan place?

3) The most important players in education outside of students are teachers, and they are being roundly - and often rudely - ignored.  We say there are too many tests, and we’re ignored.  We say these kids have too many screens in their faces, and we’re ignored.  We spend more time with kids than their parents do most days.  Who do you think has the best “data” on a student, a computerized diagnostic test or their teacher?  You already know the answer to that.  So why are we being ignored?

4) Someone needs to challenge the constitutionality of “school choice” vouchers for religious private schools AND whether charter schools are knowingly or unknowingly contributing to inequality and segregation in our schools.

5) It’s time for somebody to stand up to the malice and hate that is growing between our political parties and combat it by modeling the civility and respect we should demand from our fellow Americans.

6) The exhumations of past political figures, administrations, and legislation seems to be the only game politicians know how to play against the competing party. Of course, they aren’t just exhumed as fact or in a historical perspective. The past is embellished, changed, exaggerated, disfigured, hyperbolized, or bedazzled until no one even knows who was responsible for what. Stop doing this. Just legislate the issues and do what is best for today and tomorrow.

7) The use of negotiation and compromise MUST return to our state and federal governments.

8) If you donate to my campaign, thank you.  If you intend for your donation to be a payment requiring me to vote how you later instruct me, however, I would like for you to keep your money.  I want to be forever independent from the political ransom that comes with partnering with special interest groups and political parties.

9) Even if I lose badly, when I’m one day lying on my deathbed, I will regret not running for office. I will also regret doing this and not doing it MY way.

Long Version of Those Nine Basic Reasons

1) Somebody like me - independent and refusing to align with a party - needs to be in Raleigh to be the voice of every North Carolinian who is sick of politics as usual.

I’m tired of politicians. I’m tired of them putting party over country, I’m tired of them caring only about themselves and their next election, I’m tired of them refusing to budget our money responsibly, I’m tired of them appeasing only their donors and special interests, I’m tired of them not being accountable for the decisions they make, I’m tired of this Hatfields vs. McCoys party system, and I’m tired of their refusal to put term limits on themselves.

I’m also tired of the gaslighting, the photo ops, the BS, the sugar-coating, the pandering, the patronizing, the embellishment of half-truths, the suppression of difficult truths, the outright lies, and politicians talking down to citizens like they are father figures and the citizens are in need of their discipline.

If I am elected, I will tell the glorious but sometimes bitter truth and never be ashamed of my past (nor will I run from either,) I will offer no BS, I will compromise and negotiate on EVERY issue, I will find the simple answer before I ever look for the difficult one, I will never badmouth an opponent or someone who disagrees with me, and I will protect freedom and the Constitution at all costs. My hope is that you will find me to be a breath of fresh politician air. I am not only independent, I am anti political party. I will not belittle or condemn ANY belief on any subject; I will simply praise the freedom we have to debate it and seek common ground even when there appears to not be any.

The extremes of any argument are simply the limits set forth by those who feel most strongly on a topic. But the answer is not usually an extreme. The answer will fall somewhere between the extremes, whether that is directly in the middle or weighted to one side or the other. The extremes are simply there to mark our boundaries.

Lastly, I am running for office with this document as my vow. If I become tainted by the political life and anything in this document changes because of the nastiness of politics, I will quit. My legacy and integrity are MUCH too important for me to ever treat them like negotiable instruments.

2) Since North Carolina’s children are the ONLY people we should consider when making education decisions, can we REALLY not find a way to make those decisions from a bipartisan place?

Education needs an untainted and mostly unbiased voice in our legislature. The only bias is that I admit fully that I strongly believe in public education, not charters and vouchers, but within the realm of public education, I am most definitely not biased about governing public schools one particular way or another. I think there is undoubtedly room to improve, there is room to make lots of changes, and there’s even quite a few rumblings that we need to be forever adventurous with public education.

But I AM untainted and unbiased in that even though I have been teaching seven years, I do not belong to any education unions that could be seen as controlling my decisions, I have never been to the May rallies, and though I would be foolish to not seek or accept their endorsement, any education organizational endorsement I might receieve will only be accepted with their understanding that I might not always vote the way they might want me to. I believe in most of what our biggest public education advocates believe, but I don’t necessarily believe in every method for achieving those beliefs.  I don’t believe fully aligning with any outside agency is the message - or goal - that I want to achieve in the General Assembly. My message is simply different than that. It’s not more or less important than theirs; it’s just different. I simply want education decisions to be made in a bipartisan setting, and I believe the best tactic for that is to go back to the basics of what public education means to our young people and rethink the entire strategy as one. In such, I propose we start over very simply.

In most data that can be found about the cost of living and affordability of North Carolina, we are typically right in the middle of all 50 states, so it makes sense that we would use the US average for how much we should spend per student for one year (and since we’re the ninth most populated state, that is being VERY undemanding.) The most recent data I found (2018) for the average of how much all 50 states spend per student on public education was $12,756 (the median is $12,298, so I’d be fine using either number; it is also worth noting that we are the sixth LOWEST in spending per student.)

We’re not going over $12,000 per student in year one (not when we’re $3,000 short of that number currently,) but we can make a plan to get there in five to ten years. So find that year one number and find a way to make it happen. The 2018 number for North Carolina was $9,367, which is $3,389 less (or 26% less) than the AVERAGE state in the US (Education Week, 2019.) The ninth most populated state - a state yearning to bring in big manufacturing and technology companies annually - being 44th in student spending is abysmal and embarrassing. So we simply HAVE to find a number much bigger than $9,367.

Once we find it, here’s my suggestion (and it’s only ONE suggestion; there are literally millions better than what currently exists:) Give each county their money based on how many students they have each year and let them figure out how they want to spend it. It’s simple and bipartisan and it puts the power - and the accountability - on the county to make the best use of every dime (especially when added to local supplements.) I think some counties would amaze us and set the bar really high. The integrity of teachers (I promise you, it’s high) means every other county would try to exceed that bar. They’d be empowered.

You would see counties getting rid of unnecessary positions, you would see them stop making up positions for principals that are tired of the school setting and just want to sit back and coast to retirement making $100,000+ per year. You would see them offering different resources for the school with 80% poverty versus the school with 20%. You would see them offering programs and classes never before seen on the high school level because they know it’s good for the students’ futures. You would see them offering supplements to teachers to teach at the Title 1 high school with the 40% teacher turnover rate because there are truly very few people on Earth who can handle those students. And yeah, maybe counties would find a way to pay teachers more. And why would this all happen? Because the school board and lawmakers in each county intimately know the needs and desires of the schools in their county. And a LOT of our counties want to be GREAT at public education. A bunch of mostly part-time lawyers in Raleigh have no idea how to run schools.

I truly believe you would see great things. And then everybody would try to catch the ones at the top. GREAT things would happen if the counties and schools were empowered to find their own greatness. And that would be amazing for ALL students. How can you possibly pin any one political party to that endeavor? Wouldn’t they both want credit? Or better yet, couldn’t they all just say, “Hey, we made education great for the kids of North Carolina. We did a good thing together.”

Besides, I have never subscribed to the notion that Republicans are anti-public education and only the Democrats champion that cause. I’m not buying that because I despise generalizations, so I’m the perfect person to step in the middle of both and be a voice for public education in a sea of lawmakers that only walk into K-12 classrooms for photo ops.

I have written an entire piece on my ideas for public education, including ways to cut current spending in order to not raise taxes, HERE.

3) The most important players in education outside of students are teachers, and they are being roundly - and often rudely - ignored.

Nobody is listening to the most important players in education: the teachers. Not school administration, not county officials, not the legislature, not the state superintendent of schools, nobody. The people who directly affect students everyday, the ones who could tell you EXACTLY what a child knows without an arbitrary standardized test, and the ones who best know the second most important players in education - the parents - are being roundly ignored. Teachers are no longer respected as professionals. And they did absolutely nothing to deserve that reputation.

I have been a teacher for seven years now, and I honestly have not stood up for my profession since my first couple of years because it was apparent that my suggestions only met deaf, patronizing ears that would do nothing but ignore me behind closed doors. Every teacher in the nation knows we test too much and that these standardized tests offer absolutely nothing to a child’s education. Teachers are ignored when they say this; in fact, testing has only grown in the past five years.

Teachers have also said for years that kids don’t need more screens in front of their faces, they need more books, more social interactions, more collaboration. Study after study is proving teachers correct. Some schools are ditching the technology on which they spent tens of thousands of dollars. Why? Because it’s right for students. And it’s yet another way teachers are ignored. I could continue, but I promise you that 110,000 teachers in North Carolina would agree with me. Teachers are ignored. And do you really want the people responsible for our children’s education to be rendered silent and bitter because of this? And please remember. It’s a workforce we’re currently paying in excess of five BILLION dollars a year to employ. That kind of investment needs a VERY loud and empowered voice.

4) Someone needs to challenge the constitutionality of “school choice” vouchers for religious private schools AND whether charter schools are knowingly or unknowingly contributing to inequality and segregation in our schools.

I truly believe the push for vouchers and the privatization of education will eventually be deemed unconstitutional for violating Brown vs. Board of Education (either that or the unconstitutionality of using tax dollars to help families pay for religious-based private schools OR the fact that Article IX, Section 2 of the NC Constitution is essentially being ignored.) I truly believe that, because what we are doing with vouchers and charter schools is legislating inequality and segregation back into our schools. Go search around online and find a legitimate, unbiased article that says charter schools are good for students. You won’t find one. You will find a few biased opinions, but you will not find facts or data to prove it. You will find dozens upon dozens that say charter schools and politics are ruining public education.

And that’s really all that matters, isn’t it? Education is ONLY about what is best for the youth of North Carolina. That’s it. It’s not about what’s best for teachers or parents or taxpayers or Republicans or Democrats. It’s about what’s best for students. Period. And the last I checked, children are born to parents of every single political party, every race, every socioeconomic class, and every ability level. They should all be treated and educated equally. We are spending tax dollars on charter and private schools to which only children from select counties or regions have access. That’s neither fair nor equal.

And you know what else is best for all students? The intangible life lessons, social maturation, and self esteem they acquire in a public school environment that is a perfect reflection of life outside those walls. They need to learn how to live that life or they will struggle in it later on. Nothing will ever prepare students for life the way public education can. We might as well be really, really good at it.

Lastly, I’m well aware that this has already been litigated and the courts say that both vouchers and charter schools are not unconstitutional.  I’m allowed to disagree with that.  And I probably won’t fight very hard against it if public education is fully funded, but the great thing about this land is that I am free to disagree, just as you are free to disagree with me.

5) It’s time for somebody to stand up to the malice and hate that is growing between our political parties and combat it by modeling the civility and respect we should demand from our fellow Americans.

I’m tired of people in this country becoming so quickly and passionately uncivilized and malicious towards people who do not agree with them. We are free to believe whatever we want, and that is what I love most about this country, but with that freedom comes a very real possibility that someone is going to verbally lambaste your ideas or opinions. In a country where freedom rings, that is wrong. In addition, it is childish, mean, closed-minded, juvenile, and shows a very vibrant disdain for the Constitution most proclaim to love so much. If we’re free, and we’re ALL free together, doesn’t that mean we cherish and respect the very document - and the very mandate - that gave us that freedom?

Over the past few months I have compiled a list of words and phrases that people on social media have used against each other. The childishness and hatred of our fellow man has been shocking. Here’s a partial list: loser, dumbass, snowflake, idiot, the Christian Wrong, Demoncrats, stupid, low IQ, anti-American, Deplorables, racist, libtard, f**ktard, ass clown, Dumbocrats, insane, brainless, communist, Repiglicans, baby killers, and lots and lots of interesting wordplay that combine derogatory words like dumbf**ery and create analogies like, “You’re as stupid as a blonde after a botched lobotomy.” Just classy stuff. That’s not America to me. That’s middle school.

6) The exhumations of past political figures, administrations, and legislation seems to be the only game politicians know how to play against the competing party. Of course, they aren’t just exhumed as fact or in a historical perspective. The past is embellished, changed, exaggerated, disfigured, hyperbolized, or bedazzled until no one even knows who was responsible for what. Stop doing this. Just legislate the issues and do what is best for today and tomorrow.

The politics of the past must NEVER die!!!!! And it must never die because we must hate the other side!!!! Everything is either Obama’s fault or Trump’s fault. Or Hillary should be in jail because of Benghazi. Or Bush never should have started the war after 9/11. Or McConnell didn’t let Obama do anything. Or Pelosi refuses to work with Trump and she’s probably a drunk.

Let’s broaden it. The Democrats are huge proponents of public education and the Republicans hate it. All Democrats want socialism and all Republicans want economic anarchy. All Republicans are MAGA hat-wearing, gun-toting, wall-building, bible-toting, white supremicists. All Democrats are baby-killing, socialism-loving, illegal immigrant-supporting, global warming-chanting gays who sometimes identify as their spirit animal.

These two political parties became this way because of political figures or extreme legislation or biased media they refuse to ignore (because that’s so hard to do?) and because of this, the divide has a wall so tall and steep that it is impossible to straddle it, climb it, or otherwise see around it. The generalizations are so broad yet so inclusive of ALL members of either party that every time I hear a conversation about any issue that is attempting to blame past political figures or pin a stereotypical belief onto an entire population of people, I feel less intelligent with every word I hear or read.

And it’s not just everyday citizens who play this game. The exhumations of past political figures, administrations, and legislation seems to be the only game politicians know how to play against the competing party. Of course, they aren’t just exhumed as fact or in a historical perspective. The past is embellished, changed, exaggerated, disfigured, hyperbolized, or bedazzled until no one even knows who was responsible for what. They simply know (well, believe) the other party is to blame. I want to be a champion of us as a country not doing this any longer. It solves nothing. Just legislate the issues and do what is best for today while planning for a civil and successful (and FREE) tomorrow.

7) The use of negotiation and compromise MUST return to our state and federal governments.

The ability to civilly negotiate and compromise MUST return to our legislative chambers. Every debate has a middle ground. We must find it. If a bill is passed to the left or right of that middle, fine, but finding the middle is part of any healthy negotiation. But since our major political parties seemingly MUST ride or die as one - citizens be damned - our legislature has refused that simple practice.

8) If you donate to my campaign, thank you.  If you intend for your donation to be a payment requiring me to vote how you later instruct me, however, I would like for you to keep your money.  I want to be forever independent from the political ransom that comes with partnering with special interest groups and political parties.

I may not be the only one that has ever served with this decree, but I will refuse any campaign donation that has stipulations or expectations tied to it. My vote will never be bound to an obligation - whether verbalized or implied - that I agreed to knowingly or unknowingly by accepting a donation. I will serve citizens on all sides, not special interests. If some special interest group wants to give me a donation with no strings attached, well I’d be stupid not to take it when a campaign for State House can cost a quarter of a million dollars, but I will promise NOBODY that I will vote in their favor should that time arise. Once again, I will serve my constituents, not special interests. And in case you didn’t know this, you are free to look at my campaign finance disclosure statements to see who gives me money and to see how I spend my money. Every dime in and out. It’s public record for all politicians. I invite you to check up on me.

9) Even if I lose badly, when I’m one day lying on my deathbed, I will regret not running for office. I will also regret doing this and not doing it MY way.

It is the right time in my life to listen to all the quotes from all the people throughout history who were much smarter than me and said stuff like, “In the end, we only regret the chances we didn’t take.” I’ve ignored that quote for the better part of my adult life. So here’s my life’s first installment of “Why the hell not?” And yes, I’m going to have fun with this, too. It would be pointless to take the biggest risk of my life and be scared of the journey. And speaking of being scared, I’m actually not scared of losing. If I run the way I want to run, and I do it with heart and passion and enjoyment and my morals and principles are unwavering and on display every day, I have nothing of which to be ashamed if I lose.

 

Sources:

Education Week. (2019).Map: How Much Money Each State Spends Per Student. [online] Available at: https://www.edweek.org/ew/collections/quality-counts-2019-state-finance/map-per-pupil-spending-state-by-state.html [Accessed 18 Jul. 2019].