The dust has settled. I’m getting my required background check and fingerprinting to join the Board of Education. But I wanted to send out one final post. Kind of a retrospective, behind-the-scenes look at the journey. Here are 5 moments that I think were deeply significant.
1) The launch of VoteCartella.com
I spent the first 4 weeks feeling pretty chipper about the election. I got my brochures going, set up my website. I had a nifty logo. And heck, my opponent had submitted his petition to run at the last possible hour – so I started to think maybe he wouldn’t really run a proper campaign.
“Cartella has a website up!” Shani called down from the bedroom. My stomach dropped.
In 4th grade, I was in the cafeteria when I got word that Todd Arthur was going to beat me up after school. I was struck with mortal terror. The rest of the day I didn’t listen to a thing any teacher said in any class. The fear and dread were all-consuming.
That’s how it felt when I first saw Mark’s website. Mortal terror. That whole site – the photos, the messaging, all of it – it was all there with a single objective: beat me.
I barely slept that night. And for at least 5 days I couldn’t look at Mark’s website. I was terrified. That’s embarrassing, but it’s true. I never let it stop me from doing my thing, but man was that something I didn’t expect.
2) Nancy and Amy to the Rescue
So, I like new challenges. I actively seek discomfort. But I had a moment early in the campaign where I was freaking out. I was trying to get PayPal to work but I needed an EIN number. And I couldn’t get my website to line the text up right. And I couldn’t figure out the difference between a Reel and a Story on Instagram.
I texted Amy and Nancy. And next thing I knew I was over at Nancy’s weird and wonderful she-shed and the two of them were telling me: “We got you. Whatever you need. Let us know what we can do.”
They lived up to that promise again and again. They were constants for support, for doorknocking, for organizing, for everything at every step. I absolutely would have crumbled without them. And not just that afternoon.
3) Enter the #SlayTeam
It was back to school night at Central. It was me and a bag full of flyers. And suddenly…9 teenagers arrive. They covered each corner. They were polite. They were upbeat. They were amazing.
I posted a short video of them handing out flyers and that night it got over 10,000 views. It was by far the most watched video of the entire campaign.
These kids care. A lot. They care about the well-being of their classmates. They care about their teachers. They care about their education. And they did not like the idea of their curriculum being policed or their classmates feeling less accepted. So they stood up and took action and it was glorious.
4) The Drummer
The campaign started out being people I knew. I’d beg them to hold events or volunteer. And they did. But then something strange happened. People I didn’t know started to get involved. I would see social posts supporting my campaign from complete strangers. People I didn’t know sent money and asked for signs. Then people started making their own signs.
The culmination of that phenomenon came at a campaign event I had at Inkwood Books. I arrived to find a drummer setting up on the sidewalk outside the store.
“What is this?” I asked.
“Ben wants to help you draw people in,” his sister told me.
I hadn’t organized it. I hadn’t requested it. I didn’t know until that moment it was going to happen. But suddenly I had a drummer – and it’s hard to beat a campaign that has an official drummer.
5) Three Lost Ladies
The original plan for Election Day was that Alex and I were going backpacking in Zion National Park. But 4 days of rain closed the canyon and we postponed. So instead, we drove north for a hike in Harriman Park up near North Jersey. He and I usually do a lot of hiking in the fall, but the campaign has really cramped our style.
We started out around 11:00 and Alex made it clear that I was not allowed to look at my phone. No texting, no social media – nothing. And I agreed. I was looking forward to 2.5 hours of just him and me.
About 2 hours in, we came across three women who were at least in their 70s.
“Do you know where the White Trail is?” they asked, then pulled out three completely different maps on their phones.
They were lost and had been in the park for over 3 hours. They had no food and only a little water. They were completely exhausted. And it became almost immediately clear what we had to do.
“We’re on our way out. Why don’t we hike together?”
And so we adopted the lost ladies. Alex went first; I went last. We walked them up steep climbs and across rocky declines covered in slick leaves. We chattered away. We shared our water. It took us three hours to get back to the cars, and it was a delight. Our 2.5-hour hike turned into a 5.5-hour hike, which was just fine with me. Less time for me to pace around the house and fret about the election results.
We were going to cook dinner, but instead we ordered Indian. Shani and I had a beer. I paced.
By 8:15 all three of us were sitting in the living room madly refreshing the Camden County election results site. I sweat through two T-shirts. First numbers came in around 8:30. I had a big lead and that lead never really shrunk. Final results were pretty definitive.
And with that post…I’m going back to blogging about baseball. This has been a blast and I appreciate all the support and well wishes.
Oh wait…here’s a photo of my nephew, Tucker, getting punched in the face.