Phoenix, AZ

I Ran for a Public Office I Didn’t Know Existed

Vanessa Torre

I Googled it after I said yes.

I spent every weekend in January doing the same thing. I would wander the parking lot of the nearby Costco in North Phoenix asking people if they were a registered Democrat or Independent and whether they would like to sign a petition to get retired NASA Astronaut Mark Kelly on the ballot of the US Senate, representing Arizona.

Well, I’d do this until I was asked to leave. That would take about two hours.

As nerdy as it may be to say, it was exciting. I met some wonderful people, recruited a few volunteers, had a couple of good discussions, and only once got yelled at when a woman got six inches from my face and yelled, “Make America Great Again.” I told her to have a nice day.

Tangential side note: When canvassing in the middle of the day, the smell of Costco pizza will turn you into a small child in a Dicken’s novel asking for more porridge. It’s cruel how good it smells.

If there is one thing I have learned about volunteering for political campaigns it’s that the campaign will love you for it and they will keep your number on speed dial. This feels good.

After a few weeks, I got a text message from the Arizona Democratic Party asking if I would be interested in running to be a precinct committeeperson. I’m not sure if it’s my inability to say no, my need to belong to something bigger than me, or merely being flattered, but I said yes.

Then I had to do a Google search to figure out what I just agreed to do.

A precinct committeeperson is the lowest ranking political office a human being can hold. Sounds about right for me. I’ve taken a liking to underachieving in the latter part of my years. Essentially, they do exactly what I have been doing all along but you get this rush of adrenaline that your name will actually appear on a primary ballot.

As it turns out, there are a lot of seats open for precinct committeepeople and no one knows they’re out there. There were six seats available and three people running. I filed my paperwork and got a congratulatory call three days later. My name was never on a ballot.

My campaign turned out the same as when I ran for House of Representatives in 8th grade. I won because there were more seats than people interested. Not a bad situation for one of the least popular kids in middle school.

Apparently, I have a penchant for wanting to do work no one else wants to do.

I never had any aspiration of getting into politics, no matter how small the office might be. I’m a behind the scenes kind of girl. Turns out, I still am. I like sitting on my couch in my pajamas doing the work.

After my first legislative district meeting, it’s business as usual except for one thing. I feel part of something.

I sat on Zoom call with about 60 other people, all with the same common goal of moving the ball down the field to turn a red state blue. In Arizona, that’s an uphill climb. There was a lot of passion on that call.

Especially now, when we’re living in a world of division, anger, confusion, and frustration, being surrounded by people who don’t want to complain about how things are but want to change them, is unifying.

There’s nothing self-important I feel in getting to have a tiny little title. But the work I do feels important. I feel recognized. I feel like when I meet other people who do what I’m doing, there is this understanding of, “I know you. You get it.”

Having my name on a ballot was not something I considered. However, when I take a minute and look around at the world we’re currently living in, I couldn’t have imagined that either.

The truth is that the world is, indeed, bigger than us and our political climate is fraught. We change our world when we cast a ballot but the work starts long before that. Someone has to do it. It might as well be me.

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Flaming pinball, nerd, music lover, wine snob, horrible violin player. No, she won’t stop taking pictures of her drinks. IG: vanessaltorre Twitter: @vanessaltorre

Phoenix, AZ

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