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My First Foray Into Local Politics

Running for public office can be a rewarding experience, if you learn the right lessons. It’s a crash course in local government with few downsides but, perhaps, a bruised ego.

In 2012, while living in Rockford, Illinois, I did something I never thought of doing before. With little money and little experience, and with a lot of personal reservations, I decided to run for public office. While I ended up losing the race, I gained valuable insight and experience into local politics, and I saw a side to the process that most people never see. I hope demystifying this process will encourage others to get involved.

It began with a casual suggestion: We need people like you to run for office. Then, a thought: Why not? I chose to run for a seat on the Winnebago County Board in the Republican primary election. 

In Winnebago County, Illinois in 2012, an aspiring candidate only needed 25 signatures for his or her name to appear on the primary ballot for the position of County Board Member (other elected positions require hundreds or thousands of signatures, and it is always a good idea to get twice as many as you need). After introducing myself and announcing my intentions at a community meeting, and being greeted by rowdy applause, I decided to commit myself to the race. Three other candidates, including the incumbent, joined me in declaring their intention to run.

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