Democrat Jim Bratnober on why – and how – he’s running to flip his State Senate seat blue in deep-red Idaho.
I’m a first-time candidate for State Senate in Idaho. I’ve never run for anything – ever. My motivation started as a nebulous urge to give back, after raising a great family and engaging in a successful career. While the events of 2016 helped to push me, I guess I was leading up to this for years. My wife was intrigued, but not surprised when I started dropping hints in early 2017. She has instituted the “3-times rule” with our kids – she won’t take it seriously until it comes up 3 times. With me, it was extended to about 10 times.
We live in a very red state. We have had a Republican super-majority for years. As one would expect of any enduring dynasty, policies have diverged from the needs of the electorate and toward the interests of those within the power structure.
Somehow, Republican incumbents have convinced people to vote against their own self- interests. Voters are getting wise, however. Our district is on the verge of flipping. This year we are going to make that happen.
When I asked my district chairwoman about my primary competition, she said, “You have none. You’re it.” That is the state of affairs here. Republicans in many districts are unchallenged in the general election. No one will take them on. Since starting to campaign in mid-January, I sort of understand. If you truly want to make change, you have to win. Running against entrenched incumbents is a lot of work.
Democrats in Idaho have to win the hard way – knocking on doors and meeting voters on their own turf. You need to listen to tirades about how great Trump is, and bite your tongue as invectives are hurled at Muslims, Hispanics and Democrats. And you have to learn how to turn this rancor toward what the State government is doing to them every day. I’ve settled on the mantra: “I’m not running against Donald Trump. I’m running for the people of Idaho.”
The benefits make it worth the struggle. I continue to be amazed that total strangers will give up their Saturdays to knock on doors with me in 100-degree heat. They will contribute their hard-earned cash to someone they never heard of because they know change is needed and trust that you’re the one to do it. Young college students will rally around you and give up their summer to do research and stuff envelopes. And your campaign manager will work 80-hour weeks, putting her future plans on hold just to get you elected. A lot of people will do a lot of work.
These acts humble me. Then I realize it’s not about me. It’s about values, fairness, and the hope for leadership that will change things for the better, for all.
Each day, I wake up wondering if I can ever make a difference. I felt the same thing as a volunteer business coach in West Africa, helping businesses expand so they would hire more employees: it has to happen in small steps. Add one job. Elect one senator. Enact one more policy that helps people, not special interests. So I buckle down and do my job. I attend events to show support for like-minded causes. I make hundreds of phone calls to raise money for salaries, mailings, and rent. And I do my favorite job: knocking on doors and listening to voters.
There is a different story behind each door. There are people in the “Medicaid gap,” whose only health insurance is prayer. Families are trying to get by on the scant $7.25/hr minimum wage. I meet folks who lost everything in the recession. There are a lot of people whose views on national politics are the exact opposite of my own. I work extra hard to get these people to talk about the issues in our state that affect them directly. Candidates and parties divide. Issues unite. Most of them commit to voting for me – mostly because I came to their door and I listened.
The current political situation makes many of us anxious. Arguing with our TVs only makes that worse. The best cure for anxiety is positive action. The current tide of resistance tells me that when we step forward, total strangers will chip in however they can to support us and our message. If you don’t want to see our nation turn ugly, if you hate seeing the attack on the downtrodden, or if you’re tired of screaming at your TV, then run. Run for your lives.
Learn more about how to support Jim’s campaign at his website.