As you know, I’ve decided to run for Congress. I’m doing it because I believe we need better leadership. I believe Chris Collins — and leaders like him — are in politics for themselves and not to serve the people. It’s like some sort of country club membership they use to network, or some medal they want pinned to their chest. As a result of this mentality, our region has suffered.
Well, I’m doing it. We had several hundred people show up to my campaign kick-off. It’s been a whirlwind of activity. But to be honest, it’s been a bit of a challenge. I thought what I have experienced so far might be of interest to you all. As I have done for the last two years with these letters, I will write this like an open and honest journal entry.
Politics is blood sport
Even on the local level, I have been amazed by how politics works. It’s miserable. Common sense ideas are less important than affiliations to ties — family ties, business ties, commercial ties. Outside Grand Island, I’ve been berated for not being “progressive” enough. Oddly enough, on Grand Island, some claim I’m far too “liberal.” I guess such labels are relative. God help an America that is more focused on being divided against itself — in some cold civil war of talk radio and cable news talking points — than it is on uniting, defending and building itself.
My emails and some records from Town Hall have already been subjected to a FOIL (Freedom of Information Law) Request. That law that allows people access to public documents. I’m all for this law, and open access. But guess who sent the demand? A political action committee in Virginia whose stated mission is to “Destroy Democrats.” Why does a committee in Virginia want to task the Town of Grand Island employees with collecting my boring emails?
And there are the calls. Weird calls. Suddenly, more people than ever are trying to get ahold of me. While I appreciate people reaching out, many just ask random probing questions. Some of the worst calls are from supposed “expert political consultants.” They all want a piece of me, and of my wallet.
I had a guy say he wanted to work with me for $10,000 dollars a month and full health care! I thought, “for what?” Basically, he wanted to sit next to me while I called people I know and asked for money. Mind you, most of these “consultants” have never won a political race, and most don’t even have experience working for politicians of note. It’s wild.
The bosses and kingmakers
I also need to travel around meeting various leaders from all manner of political organizations. Some are wonderful people, toiling away for years thanklessly without pay, as they fight for what they believe. For example, I had a dinner last week in Darien with some of the best people I ever met. Check out My Saloon in Darien if you can; it’s a fun place.
Not all of these people, however, are so pure. Some are just in it for a small bit of power themselves. Yuck. Many of the questions they ask are so delicate that if you miss one point, one catchword, or one party catchphrase, they become incensed. You must carefully parse your words in a series of “how many devils can fit on match head” interrogations. Never mind what you really stand for. You have to say it just right. They want a product, not a person. I feel like I’m enduring a bleaching, poking, and refining that is making me more plastic than wood.
Will some of the people who want to tweak and reshape me appreciate this piece? No. But I’m as honest with them as I am with you. I can beat Chris Collins. It just depends what I need to give up to do it. I won’t give up being Nate. I won’t sell out Grand Island. And yes, frankly, that worries me too. Thank you to all the kind people who have visited to wish me well and ask me not to run. I’m touched and grateful. This is the greatest place on earth.
“I’m worried about you, Nate,” one ambitious potential handler recently said. “There is a way of doing things. It’s not just about results. Process matters. But you seem like the type of person who would streak at a Bills game to make a point.” I looked her and thought about it for a moment before answering. “If that’s what it took to get the job done… yes. Yes, I believe I would!”