I remember well the thrill I felt when I stumbled across the article announcing that Carolyn Long was in the race at last.
My first volunteering endeavor experienced a sputtering false start when I surveyed the panel of candidates who were running way back in the spring of 2017. I figured at the time the only one with a sliver of a chance to unseat the incumbent was the female veteran, Dorothy Gasque. I became quickly disheartened after a pair of meetings with her in which some in-depth conversation made it clear to me she was not educated on any issues, not even the cornerstone of her candidacy, campaign-finance reform, nor was she a competent communicator or leader. While my disappointment brewed, the election dropped off my radar for a few months and I considered giving up on getting involved… and then along came Carolyn. I had not met her yet, but I’d already researched her after hearing from Dorothy’s campaign about a rumor she might run, and if true she would prove to be their worst nightmare.
On my way to work one morning, I listened to a replay of the first Democratic multi-candidate forum which recently aired on the radio. (You can listen to it here.) Nothing makes rush-hour traffic over the I-5 bridge feel like a relaxing stroll through a park better than a political debate. Carolyn was fantastic under side-by-side scrutiny with her opponents; her articulate answers to the hard-hitting questions made the others seem like play-acting.
But I had jumped in so quickly with Dorothy only to be heartbroken by the let-down that my husband heavily cautioned me to give it more time before taking the leap again. A few weeks later, in February, Carolyn Long held a Town Hall at the Camas Public Library, and I was able to convince Patrick to kill two hours of a Saturday evening attending with me. As he was on crutches following a recent ankle surgery, I assume he thought he’d starve to death without me to wait on him if he didn’t just come with me.
The room was nearly full by the time we arrived, and Patrick crutched his way around chairs too close together to an end seat near the back. The first thing I noticed about Carolyn Long was that she took the time to personally introduce herself to every single person filling that enormous conference hall. Luckily she began his before we arrived, so it only took her another 15 minutes to finish making her way around the room.
Eventually the chatter in the throng of attendees died down to hushed whispers, and Carolyn returned to the front of the room to face us, beaming a wide, genuine smile. She began by introducing herself, providing a short summary of her rural, working class background and what had finally compelled her to run; it became evident to the entire room very quickly that she was the candidate we’d all been searching for. I could feel the palpable relief in the crowd around me as their bated breaths were released in soft sighs of relief, but there was something else, something more difficult to describe mingling with the realization that this was the real deal. It was a kind of budding exhilaration rising in the air around us, and you could hear it in the excited voices of each constituent as they each clambered to ask the next question, and gushed their words in rapid-fire. Everything she said made us laugh, or cheer, or applaud and whoop exuberantly. She was bright and charming, her positions made sense even if they weren’t what we thought we wanted to hear initially, and almost as important was her persona – she combined the qualities of strength and confidence with compassion and humility in a mixture that set her apart from both condescending politicians and unprepared newcomers alike.
The most compelling piece, though, was her message. She recognized that voters were weary of the bickering back and forth, the grandstanding, and the arrogance. Because her background was rooted in teaching civil discourse and real legislative problem-solving to the next generation of public servants with a myriad of views across the entirety of the political spectrum, she firmly believed that she knew how to end the stonewalling polarization between the right and the left in Washington DC. It has to start with their leadership, she explained; the leaders of both parties in the House and the Senate need to model how grown-ups should behave when they really want to accomplish something. Neither side is working for their constituents when they refuse to communicate or listen. She wanted to end all of that, and the message was music to the ears of everyone in that room. Finally, a grown-up had stepped on stage.
I thought Patrick would be frustrated with me for how long the meeting had lasted; typically he begins to kick my foot when he’s done socializing and wants to go home, but I assumed the cast had inhibited his kicking abilities. It turns out he was as energized and motivated as I was on our drive home. When I questioned whether her pragmatic approach would appeal to progressive voters, I expected him to convey doubt; Patrick is a very left-leaning progressive himself. Instead, he scoffed at my worry and assured me that most voters knew this is what it takes to actually get things done. He admitted he had not been excited for the town hall initially, or for this election at all really because he expected it to be more of the same polarized garbage on both sides- fist pounding with big promises, but in the end just a lot of disappointment. Now, though, he felt that spark of hope again, the same hope we felt halfway through the 2016 primary when we still thought Bernie had a shot. Only this time, our candidate didn’t have baggage, and she knew what it takes not just to have an opinion, but to turn that position into policy legislation.
As soon as we were home, I pulled up Carolyn Long’s website and signed up to volunteer, checking every single box along the way. Carolyn was going to win, I knew, and I wanted to do everything I could to help her get there.
I was all in.
To learn more about Carolyn Long, visit ElectLong.com or follow her campaign on Facebook at Elect Carolyn Long. This blog is not affiliated with the campaign and is my own independent creation; all opinions expressed throughout are solely my own.