Since I was a kid, I always enjoyed Election Day. I eagerly waited for results to come in and followed races all around the country. It’s like Christmas Day, I always said. As soon as it hit late afternoon, I’d start tracking the results on the East Coast and continue all night until it was Arizona’s turn.
But this election was different. I was on the ballot. Me! People are now watching to see if I won or lost in a race I had spent over eighteen months trying to win.
One of the weirdest things about being a candidate is one simple truth: the end result isn’t up to you. All the door knocking, messaging, voter contact, fundraising, and field work ends suddenly on one day. And then you sit and wait.
Going into Election Day, I knew where I wanted to be on election night at 8pm, when the first results get uploaded: locked in a room, at our campaign office, by myself. The reason? I didn’t want people to see my face if it was clear that I had lost. Even though we felt good about our race going into Election Day, I consciously put myself into the mindset that I could very well lose. It’ll make a defeat that much easier to face, I thought.
I’ll never forget what happened that night around 8pm. The first results came in, and I was ahead. By a lot – over 4,000 votes in what was expected to be a closer race. I apparently was one of the first people in the office to see it, because it was silent outside the locked door. I was a nervous wreck – shaking, sweating, rocking back and forth. I smiled, but immediately caught myself, and tried not to get too excited. The first thing I thought was, it’s not over yet.
I opened my door and went through the rest of the campaign office. Everyone was excited and optimistic. I kept saying the same thing: it’s not over yet! I then went back to my computer, and kept hitting refresh.
My lead dropped a little, and eventually rose to a final margin of over 3,000 votes. That night a year ago today was surreal, emotional, and one I will never forget.
My life changed from that moment. I knew I had to quit my job in less than two months, and leave a team and a university that I loved working with. I knew I was facing a big pay cut, and worried about how I was going to pay the over $50,000 in student loans I still had due.
On the flip side, I was incredibly excited and eager to get started. Here was an opportunity to not only work on policy, but also the chance to represent the community that I grew up in and loved. I sit here today knowing how blessed and fortunate I am to have this opportunity. As one of only 30 senators for the entire state of Arizona, I say thanks every day for the opportunity to serve my constituents.
I had a quick turnaround from Election Day to getting sworn in in early January. Most days, I would leave my job around 3:30pm and race to the capitol for meetings starting at 4pm. I had a background in policy, so I came in more prepared than most, but it was still a lot to digest. I also wasn’t aware how rare it is to win a senate race in your first bid for public office – I learned I was the ONLY member of the Senate who was new to the capitol. On the House side, there were over twenty.
As I prepared for swearing in, I knew what kind of legislator I wanted to be: available, courteous, respectful, and eager to hear all sides. My door is always open, I would say. And I meant it. I’m here to represent my district, and that means working across the aisle and treating everyone with respect. I wasn’t the type of person who needed the attention, or wanted to be on TV all the time. What I was focused on was the work.
Opening Day was a blur. My family was there, along with friends and supporters. My calendar was completely full that day, which was a new phenomenon for me. I tried to soak it all in, and savor the moment. I wanted to do a good job, and make the people who worked to get me elected proud.
As the legislative session continued, I really can’t put into words how much I enjoyed the process. I looked forward to the meetings I had each day. I enjoyed reading bills and listening to analyses on them. I came in on weekends, usually Sunday’s, to go over bills and prepare for committee hearings. I spent about 90% of my time listening. I very rarely spoke on the floor or during committee hearings. I’m the newest member, and I’m here to learn.
Along with the work at the capitol, I also greatly enjoyed being out in my district. I accepted almost every invitation I received that took place in LD18. I quickly decided that I wanted to be a proactive legislator, not a reactive one. So I set out to do things that were only possible in this kind of elected office, like doing ride alongs with the police and fire departments in my district, setting up business tours with local business groups, and visiting all my public schools.
So far this year, I’ve rode along with the police and fire departments in each of my four cities, went on several business tours (with more to come in December), and started my school visits. I’ve got about eight or so left of the 44 public and charter schools in LD18 – by the end of the year, I will have visited every single one.
I love my job. I really can’t say it enough. I am convinced that I will never have a job for the rest of my life that I enjoy more than this one. So naturally, I want to keep it, at least for another two years.
My voting record this past session reflects the kind of legislator I believe LD18 is looking for:
A rating on supporting our public schools from the Arizona School Boards Association;
A rating on supporting our small businesses from the East Valley Chamber of Commerce;
Most bipartisan voting record in the state senate, according to the Arizona Capitol Times
I’ve learned a LOT over the past year. I’ve learned about my strengths, and my weaknesses.
I faced a lot of criticism this year from members of my own party. Upset about individual votes, or my overall approach to the legislature. Too often, I let the criticism get to me, and spent a lot of hours debating whether I wanted to keep going. As much as I loved this job, I also didn’t want to let people down or cause them to be disappointed in me.
As a first time elected official, I’m still getting used to the fact that everything I say and do is under a microscope, and my actions have impact. I made my share of mistakes, both in words and in actions.
It’s been one year since the day that started it all, and we’re now a little under a year away from the day when my constituents decide whether they want to keep me for another two years.
I got elected in large part because of hundreds of friends, supporters, volunteers, and neighbors. People who believed in me, supported me, and pushed me over the finish line. To win re-election, I’m going to ask all of them, and all of you, for your help once more.
For those who know me, you know how hard I work each and every week to talk to voters and get out in the community. People ask when I sleep, or if I’m going to take a vacation, or if I have free time. My response is usually: nope, can’t rest or go on vacation! I have a job to do!
I think of all the bad bills we defeated by one vote, or the good bills we passed by one vote. That’s what keeps me going. The opportunity next year to add seats and have a more moderate, bipartisan state senate – that’s what gets me excited and encourages me to knock on that extra door or make that extra phone call.
For everyone reading this, thank you for your support and encouragement over the past year. It’s been an amazing journey, and I’m not ready for it to end quite yet.