Today carriejones has a great post on why you should vote and why local elections are so important. I thought I’d just throw in my own personal story.
In 1996 I ran for the Maine State Legislature. (As Carrie is doing now.) I was 25 years old, my husband was away on his first Navy deployment, and I was teaching full time. I had always been involved in politics as my parents were very active in DC local politics. They used to throw fundraisers all the time. This is where I learned how to shake hands confidently and tell someone my name while looking them in the eye with a smile. (Not an easy task for many.) Maine is an interesting place and there are really two types of Mainers. The born in Maine, northern, "ayuh", yankee ingenuity and independence mind, and then the summer-people-who-love-Maine-and-see-it-as-heaven mind. The later type are called people "from away." I am "from away." Moreover, I got there through a husband who was in the Navy. (Keep this in mind.)
First I had to compete against two other Democrats to be nominated. I won the primary handily. I was young, enthusiastic and well spoken. I stayed on message (environment, education, economy) and knocked on many doors. In the general election, I was pitted against another new politician, the son of the local car dealer. This guy had money, and name recognition, and rested on his parents’ laurels. The election got a little nasty when he accused me of being a "Washington Insider" (I left when I was 18) and a carpetbagger (I stayed in Maine for 15 years until our recent move). I knocked on more doors, answering his accusations. (2000 total)
On election day, I visited polls and then waited with my friends for the outcomes. The race was tight. I had won in most of the towns but the last town hand counted their ballots and so we waited. In the wee hours, we got the numbers and I had lost. Lost by 51 votes. We asked for and got a recount but there was no significant change. If 52 more people had voted for me, I would have been elected. That’s not a whole lot. In his term of office, my opponent was only present 25% of the time. He was rebuked for playing water guns in the state capital. Needless to say, he did not run again. So if you think your vote doesn’t count, your wrong. Please register and vote for the whole ticket.