The Journey

Two weeks away. It’s hard to believe.

This campaign has been a journey. One of my most significant learning experiences. The greatest challenge. Filled with plenty of ups and downs. And I wouldn’t change any of it.

I remember the exact moment when I knew — for sure — I was going to run. I was at Tom Mackin’s announcement that he was running for mayor. It was midsummer. Warm. Calming. My life was pretty low key. (Which is incredibly rare.)

I like to try new things. Take on new adventures. I have many interests. I see these traits as a positive. I think it’s a genuinely rooted need to keep improving. Growing stale isn’t an option for me. I need to better myself daily. There’s that whole idea to try something new every day. I don’t take it that far — but you get the picture.

Back to the gathering. I ran into Rachel Zickar, an inspiring leader in our community. And a friend. I met Rachel earlier in the year at the first women’s caucus meeting held right after the 2016 election. It’s funny that I bring up that night because that’s when I started to consider the idea of actually running a real campaign. At that point, I didn’t think it was a possibility. I had put my name in for the appointment for the seat in which I’m currently running. I just didn’t consider an actual campaign. At least not this year. But during our women’s caucus meeting, I met Rachel and many other wonderful women, including Kerry Wellstein, the host that evening. It was inspiring to connect with so many likeminded women that care.

Rachel and I chatted at Tom’s event, and she casually brought up the idea of me running for City Council. I brushed it off to Rachel, but that’s the moment I seriously considered it as a possibility.

A few days later, some women from our caucus gathered together for a casual evening to chat about politics and sip on wine. I went into the meeting knowing that the conversation would lead to me running. You know when you just have one of those feelings? Well, I did. And it excited me. When the conversation did, indeed, turn to me running for City Council, I expressed my interest. What got me is when Kerry said that no matter the outcome, I’d make an impact. I’d show young people, especially young women, that anyone can run for office. When she said those words, I knew I had to run. I had nothing to lose and everything to gain. With the support of friends and the drive to work hard, I knew that it was a challenge I could — and would — accept.

Soon enough, I was in Bowling Green at the Board of Elections getting my petitions. It was becoming a reality. Over the course of two weeks, I collected nearly 100 signatures. I needed 50 but was advised to get at least double to be safe. Turning in those signatures was exciting. It was all becoming real. I was running for office.

Taking a quick step back for a moment, this is something I always knew I would do. I’ve always had a knack for leadership. I enjoy talking with people. I enjoy learning about different backgrounds and ways of living. Whenever I’m in a position to lead, I’ve always made it my goal to make the best decision for the greatest good. I’m not always right, but I feel like my heart and intentions are always in the right place. So when people ask me why I’m running and I say that this is something I’ve always had an interest in, it’s true.

The moment that it the reality of the situation began to sink in was when I started canvassing. Going door-to-door is one of the most vulnerable parts of being a candidate. First, you’re knocking on your neighbor’s door asking them for a moment of their valuable time. A brief moment to learn about you and why they should consider supporting you to represent them on their City Council. I’ll be the first to admit that I was very nervous the first time I went out to knock. I was nervous to bother people. I was nervous to answer questions. I was nervous that I wouldn’t have the answers.

Another moment of honesty. I’ve never canvassed before canvassing for myself. Many candidates are actively involved in other political campaigns either on a local, state or federal level before they decide to run. Not this girl. Sure, I’ve voted in every election and paid attention to the candidates and their campaign, but I never got directly involved. I never pounded the pavement for Hillary or Obama. And I wish that I did. But, live and learn, right?

After the first canvassing night, I felt comfortable. I was pleasantly surprised that those that answered their doors were very friendly. They were interested in what I had to say, and if they were busy, then they were polite and took my information. That’s been the experience every time I’ve gone out and knocked on doors. And how great is that? We have a fantastic community filled with people that care. And everyone that lives in Perrysburg should be proud of that.

At the beginning of the campaign, I took every single moment as a learning opportunity. I met with as many people on our current Council as I could. I met with as many people involved in the local political scene as I could. It was all new to me. I have never been involved in this process before, and there was so much that I needed to learn. And I quickly started to understand that what matters most is connecting with the community.

As the campaign has progressed, I’ve also experienced the “politics” of a political campaign. It is a competition after all. I’ve experienced what it’s like to go head-to-head with an unprecedented budget. I’ve witnessed personal attacks — not against me, but fellow candidates — first hand. In local politics, that’s just crazy to me. But it happens. I’ve been criticized for saying the wrong thing. (More on that soon) And overall, I’ve had times where I felt like this was all too much. That I didn’t have what it takes to get through this.

But after deep reflection (and a renewed vigor after a super inspiring night with Hillary Rodham Clinton), I quickly realized that I have so many amazing supporters that are behind me 100%. People that believe in what I’m doing. They are excited that I’m running and so proud to help in any way. It’s both humbling and invigorating, and it’s what keeps me pushing through these last two weeks.

Outside of the political challenges that just come with the territory, there are also unique challenges that women face when they’re in the public eye. There’s — as of today — unfortunately, no way of getting around it and that needs to change, but that’s a whole other topic that I will get into another time.

To give you a few ideas of the challenges we women running for office deal with, I’ll lay out a few real examples. I was criticized for wearing running shorts and a t-shirt while going door-to-door one day. Mind you, it was nearly 100 degrees, but next time, I’ll make sure to wear my best pantsuit. Sorry for offending you. (No sarcasm at all in that statement.) I’ve also been told that I will get a vote because I have beautiful eyes. And, one man said that I’m not sure what you stand for, but “you’re prettier than your opponent” so that must count for something.

In addition to comments about my looks or clothing choices, I’ve also felt the need to self-edit on more than one occasion. To not speak what’s on my mind or how I really feel because it might turn off potential voters. This always bothered me the most. I’m a very “what you see if what you get” kind of person. It’s more than honesty. It’s about being true to myself and what I believe in. One of the reasons I’m running is because I care. I care about the community and the people in it. I care deeply about certain social issues, and I don’t think that should be a negative or a reason for me not to run for public office.

I’m very reasonable. I can take what’s in front of me, vet all of the information, perform the research needed and come to a solution. I can leave my opinion at the door if necessary, but I also believe that my views and convictions are part of the reason why people believe in me and support me. That’s why I’ve made it my mission to stay true to myself throughout the entire campaign.

During these last two weeks, I’ll continue to pound the pavement and work hard. I hope that giving you a little bit of insight into my journey helps you understand more about why I’m running and who I am as a person. At the end of the day, I care about making decisions that positively impact the community. It’s not about a personal goal to get into public office or climb up the political ladder. For me, it’s about getting involved and giving back.

See you on the rest of the journey.


Originally published at ashleymcmahon.strikingly.com.