Crazy Days at State: The Life of a State Election Candidate

By Trey Peat – Staters Union As all of you know, the process of running for state office starts with filling out an application on Sunday. After that the experience is a roller coaster. It starts out slow, like your cart being pulled to the top of the ride. Monday morning dawns with candidates doing their standard jobs: writing bills, debating in court, and applying for grants. However, as the day goes on candidates gradually realize that they are slowly losing their only chance to do campaigning to influence caucuses. Candidates are torn between their duties to their teams whether it be the House, Senate, or County Commission and their campaign goals. Many miss out on campaigning, but some slip away from their duties and buy a quick ad. As Monday draws to a close candidates go to a party meeting with all of the other delegates running for state office and realize just how much competition they have. They hurriedly post their ads on doors and elevators, head up to their county for bed, and stay up late prepping speeches and creating platforms. Tuesday dawns, candidates go to breakfast and take advantage of their last chance to informally campaign. They circulate to every friend and acquaintance possible to tell them a bit about their platform and gain a few votes. Now to morning assembly, the parties split and walk to Umberger and Cardwell while candidates mentally rehearse speeches. The caucus begins, candidates take to the podium: some slip up, others ramble, a few speak with quiet, composed passion, and one projects the rage and precision of a Tomahawk cruise missile. After speaking, candidates relax and listen to speeches, the speech is done, there is nothing more they can do. At the end of the caucus the victors are announced, only six of the multitude remain for each party. Those six walk to lunch, triumphant and celebrating with friends. As the day goes on, during lunch and music rehearsals candidates start to realize how much work they have ahead of them. The party representatives ponder questions like, “what do I need to do about the budget?”, “how do I know how much money bills will cost?”, and “what happens if a bill is passed later that cannot be funded in the budget?” By the time operations arrive and delegates have a million urgent questions, there are only two hours as a group to set a party platform and prep for the debate. All gather in a conference room as an IT Specialist and several other counselors hurriedly present both parties with a computer. There are technical problems accessing the documents, as counselors work on the problem others tell candidates how the budget is organized and answer a few of the multitude of questions delegates have. After only about 20 minutes of parties looking at and discussing the budget and how to solve the budget deficit, 2:00 p.m. hits and it’s time for the party committee meeting. The Federalist candidates hurry into a room with the party chairmen and head. They quickly discuss and create a platform. They decide whether or not to support the hydroelectric dam, the K-12 education bill, Kansas Health Act, marijuana legalization, and more. The Federalists discuss various current political issues to create a standardized position. The Treasurer and others decide what departments to cut to solve the $2 million deficit. Compromises are made between contradicting platforms, and before they know it, it’s time for recreation. The commissioner of insurance and attorney general candidates continue the discussion of law enforcement policy and welfare regulation into a volleyball game. Recreation comes to an end and candidates go to dinner, and before they know it, it’s time to go to McCain Auditorium for the debate. The Nationalists and Federalists walk to the debate together, but out of earshot of each other. Parties hurriedly review their platform and make updates in response to emerging news. As the candidates arrive to the auditorium they are rushed backstage to get ready. The master of ceremonies tells everybody about the structure of the debate, where they will be sitting, what order the candidates shall speak in, and a few friendly reminders to abstain from profanity and not exceed the allotted speech times. Staters begin arriving. As the counties file into McCain Auditorium, there are pep talks with party heads and governor candidates encouraging their parties. As cheers of “Eisenhower”, “Kennedy”, and “Pershing” echo backstage, the Nationalists grow quiet and compose themselves, while the Federalists get pumped up and boost confidence. The crowd grows silent as the color guard enters the stage and candidates grow quiet as well. The curtain rises and the master of ceremonies begins speaking, simultaneously candidates nervously edge towards the curtain, gaining a glimpse of the stage, microphone location and a few Staters. The MC introduces both of the parties and candidates anxiously await their name. Candidates hear their names and walk onstage to thunderous applause, the names of their home counties and blinding lights. They wave to the crowd hearing friends screaming their names. Once all candidates are on stage, they take a seat, and the MC calls forward the Federalist Secretary of State. As the debate goes on, candidates have to think quick on their feet. They leave the stage unsure of the effectiveness of their response and not knowing how it was perceived. Some candidates receive consoling handshakes and grim but supportive looks from their running mates, others return to their running mates to receive fist bumps, high fives, and looks of optimism and exhilaration. Later in the debate, attacks become increasingly aggressive as marijuana, the dam, and guns come up. Several candidates inadvertently use profanity while they are thinking quick on their feet and immersed in a passionate speech. The governors respond to their last questions, the debate comes to a close and candidates exit backstage. Backstage, as parties gather and discuss the debate, the candidates are full of anxiety and uncertainty. The Federalists and Nationalists are asked to be in an interview for the broadcast media. They quickly compose themselves and enter the interview. Candidates reveal their strongest and weakest parts in the debate, however they maintain the facade of confidence of victory. The interview concludes and candidates have a dark, quiet, contemplative walk from McCain to Goodnow and Marlatt. In the first moment alone without a million policies to think about, delegates for state office climb the stairs to their county. Exhausted, candidates open the doors to cheers and congratulations from their county. Receiving an adrenaline rush candidates smile, thank their county, and submit their personal vote. After reflections, while getting ready for bed the delegates are clapped on the back by friends while submitting votes, told “you got my vote” by fellow countymen as reflections conclude, and reassured “you’ve got it in the bag” by members of the city on the way to the shower. Those delegates feel the support of their Boys State Family. In ways unlike anytime else they feel connected to their community, even Staters who share that, “I did not vote for you because I could not support your position on (insert policy)” because the candidates realize the immense mutual respect that binds them to their Boys State Family, bridging political gaps and differing opinions. Delegates realize the respect for differing views that has facilitated all that has been accomplished. Each one falls asleep knowing that they might not have won the election, but still filled with happiness. This is what Boys State is about and how it changes you. I have learned so much from the Boys State experience and, as is specifically shown in this article, running for Commissioner of Insurance. I have found immense respect for people of differing opinions and learned to love the political process. Everybody here shares a passion to improve their community and engage in open minded intellectual conversation to achieve a mutually beneficial result. This respect and ability to discuss gives our country and generation the ability to create a bright future. Having the discussions to create policy like we have at Boys State will be long and arduous, but outside this week we must engage in politics as we have at Boys State. We owe it to those who have come before us and will come after. After we leave Boys State and the simulation, I hope Staters go forward and engage in politics and their community to create the change they have so passionately strived to affect in our constructed government and communities. I dream of someday seeing a 2017 Kansas Boys State Delegate on my election ballot.]]>