Week 3: Interviews and Community Outreach!

Toby C -

Hi everyone! Welcome to the third week of my project!

Last week, I talked a little about the substance abuse advocacy work that I’m doing with MATFORCE. I spent two full days at Cottonwood’s Teen Maze event, which is a gathering of health services like the Yavapai Health Department, the DEA, GOYFF, and other organizations who have 10 or so minutes to educate middle schoolers on topics like safe relationships, nutrition, and alcohol. My booth covered the science of marijuana, so I gave presentations to groups of 10-20 8th graders, followed by an activity with marijuana simulation goggles in which the kids tried to guide toy cars safely down a race track. It was a great outreach event, and a fantastic opportunity to practice my public speaking skills: a valuable tool for political candidates.

I also conducted the first of my interviews this week! I had the chance to speak to Joseph K, who ran as an Independent for the Washington State House in District 23. We had an amazing conversation, and he provided insight on the behind-the-scenes of running a political campaign.

In recent years, District 3 had seen an increase in the number of Libertarian candidates, and his district claimed one of the highest percentages of third party candidates across Washington, and even in the country. This encouraged Joseph to run as a third party, Independent candidate. His background is in biology, which is uncommon for political candidates; however, he was involved in political organizations on campus as an undergraduate, and those connections gave him access to resources like phone banks and voter/call lists, which he didn’t end up utilizing.

He stated that his campaign was almost exclusively self-funded; with the help of some friends, he put up signs, launched a website, utilized social media, and attended a lot of community events. I was surprised to hear him say that the vast majority of people he spoke to shared a lot of the same concerns, despite being from different parties.  He estimated that about 9/10 of the people he approached talked to him for a few minutes, and that virtually all of them were friendly conversations where they really connected.

When talking about his motivations for running for office, he shared that he started his campaign with low expectations, and his primary goal was just to get to know people. As many others did during COVID, Joseph said that he felt a lack of human connection, and he wanted to explore the frustration and tension within his community, and that was his primary motivator for starting a campaign.

Even though he didn’t end up winning, we talked a little about what he might do differently if he were to launch a bid for office in the future, which sounds like a real possibility for him. One thing is starting a campaign as early as you can; by the time Joseph was seriously considering candidacy, the filing dates had already passed, and he instead ran as a write-in candidate. He also said that much of his time was spent on the streets and talking to people, which aligned with what he was trying to do, but that he also wishes that he accepted invitations to the debate stage.

There are some questions I thought about afterwards that I’d want to ask in my future interviews, including: what was the process that went into developing your platform? What were the eligibility criteria and paperwork for qualifying as a write-in candidate? It was a great first interview, and I’m excited to conduct more! 

I had mistakenly previously stated that I’d be meeting with the town manager of Prescott Valley this past week; I’ll be meeting with him next Wednesday about the T21 legislation project, and we’ll see if we have time to talk a little about his experience with elected politics. Until next time!

Joseph K and Toby

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