If you’re looking for an interesting job that offers challenges as well as chances to grow and make positive changes for the community you live in, there are going to be many openings in the years to come. The pay isn’t always rewarding, but there’s the potential for great satisfaction. The job is that of public official. There are hundreds of opportunities out there for women, veterans and starry-eyed young people, and this year’s midterm elections proved it.
There are so many success stories that it’s hard to fit them into one column. I love the tale of the 19-year-old New Hampshire girl, Cassandra Levesque, who had led a campaign to end child marriage but was brushed aside by an arrogant state legislator. Unwilling to be rebuffed, she decided to run for the state legislature, and was elected.
Caleb Hanna, 19, a Republican, was elected to the West Virginia House of Delegates on a platform of investing more state funds in career and technical education. Kalan Haywood, 19, a Democrat, was elected to the Wisconsin State Assembly. He wants a state law requiring high school students who are 18 or older to register to vote. Zach Wahls, who as a teenager made a speech that attracted statewide attention about growing up with two lesbian mothers, was elected at age 27 to the Iowa State Senate.
While there are some very successful women holding office in this region — among others, County Executive Laura Curran, Town Supervisors Judi Bosworth, of North Hempstead, and Angie Carpenter, of Islip, and Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas — there’s still a serious need for more women in government. On Election Day, two Long Island women, North Hempstead Councilwoman Anna Kaplan and Suffolk County Legislator Monica Martinez, were elected to the State Senate. Their public positions provided a springboard to higher office, but more women candidates are wanted.
Nationally, the story is much more promising. More than 100 women are projected to have won seats in the House of Representatives. At last count, there were 84 women in the House, so this year’s figures are very promising. The good news is that many of them had never run for office before, and their ranks included military veterans, teachers and business executives. Almost all of them ran on platforms that would provide better health care for Americans.
Another great story is the number of veterans who ran for office. More than 170 veterans appeared on various ballots. Sixteen former service members, including three women, will begin serving in the House of Representatives in January, according to Veterans Campaign, a nonpartisan group that encourages veterans to seek public office. The new female House members include former Navy pilot Mikie Sherrill, a Democrat from New Jersey; former Air Force Capt. Chrissy Houlahan, a Democrat from Pennsylvania; and former Navy Cmdr. Elaine Luria, a Democrat from Virginia.
The problem with the current political system is that most potential candidates think they have to be active party members to run. That shouldn’t be the case. If you have talent, drive and a good story to tell or fresh ideas, reach out to the political establishment. If you’re told to take a hike, consider running anyway.
Running for office costs money, but that’s not always an impediment. Your personal story, platform and personality can sometimes be enough to get people interested in backing you. My very first campaign for public office cost $7,500, and somehow I raised it. This year’s elections attracted the largest number of midterm donors in history. There are currently plenty of small contributors out there, so with luck and perseverance, you never know when political lighting will strike.
If you’ve been thinking about running for office, whether for library trustee, sanitation commissioner, school board member or any other office that appeals to you, next year and the years to follow may be the best time to take the plunge.
Jerry Kremer was a state assemblyman for 23 years, and chaired the Assembly’s Ways and Means Committee for 12 years. He now heads Empire Government Strategies, a business development and legislative strategy firm. Comments about this column? JKremer@liherald.com.