Commentary

Op-Ed: Trying to Run a Positive, Inclusive Campaign in a Divided Country

Op-Ed: Trying to Run a Positive, Inclusive Campaign in a Divided Country
Courtesy Lisa Smith
When I first submitted my paperwork, I thought it was refreshing, running for a local office where you don’t claim a political party. A nonpartisan race seems like a needed change from the divisive partisan politics that have crept into every corner of our society over the past few years. When I told people I wanted to build a volunteer team that spanned the political spectrum from Bernie to Trump supporters and that I would only allow positive campaign messaging, people called me crazy.

Challenge accepted.

During my first team meeting, it only took fifteen minutes before differing opinions started rearing their ugly heads. But after some slight course corrections, we were able to talk it out. To this day, we have managed to all stay together and work toward the greater good of our community. What a great feeling it was to see people from both sides of the aisle working together because they believed in my service and values, not political ideology or the latest rumor.

Then came door-knocking. I had a pep in my step, excited to share my ideas and experiences with neighbors. I’d see people outside working in their yard or playing with their kids. I’d walk up with a smile on my face and say “Hi, I’m Lisa. I am an Air Force Veteran and social worker ready to step up and serve our great city.”


Without missing a beat, the first question out of nearly everyone’s mouth: What party are you affiliated with? While I explain that I am not, and cannot, run with a party affiliation and Arvada City Council is a nonpartisan race, that often does not seem to be the answer they want.

You have to pick a side. People want you to pick a side. And often, they look disinterested when you tell them that logic, data and feasibility determine if I support a policy, rather than just blind adherence to the political sides.

The truth is, I don’t fit perfectly into a political bucket, and certainly not into one of the extreme ends of the spectrum that the media has convinced us represents the mainstream views of the other side. I’m a former military cop, I believe in using the power of government to lift people up, our family owns guns and hunts, I think all our schools are drastically underfunded, and I believe that small businesses are the lifeblood of our community. Which party is that?

Running a purely positive race has been just as challenging as running a nonpartisan one. I don’t go many days without seeing a negative, unsubstantiated claim from an opposing surrogate on social media, or hear slander behind my back. Don’t get me wrong: This is the United States, and our First Amendment thankfully protects the right to intelligent dialogue as well as the crazy, uninformed stuff you see in the comments section of any political social media post.

I don’t want to live in a country where we can’t speak our minds; I’ve seen too many people put their lives on the line to protect that right. But I also want to live in a world where we treat each other with respect, assume positive intent, and try to understand the other person’s point of view.

As future leaders in this community, we set the bar and tone on civility. We need to demonstrate leadership and the courage to stop being negative or divisive — or else we don’t measure up to what our cities deserve in their elected officials.

My fellow neighbors, when you look at your local ballots that arrive in the coming weeks, I hope you don’t just ask, “What party are they with?” but look at who the candidates are, what they have accomplished, and how they want to tackle our pressing local issues.

Thank you for voting and coming in with an open mind.

Lisa Smith is a candidate for Arvada City Council. Find out more about her campaign here.

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