“Politics is a messy business, but campaigning prepares you for governing. It prepares you to get hit, and if necessary, hit back.” ~James Carville
Politics is a game, not for the faint of heart. It is a field comprised of players labeled “public servants”, yet it requires those who engage in it, to embody a calculated shrewdness unmatched by other industries. When venturing into the world of politics, particularly as a candidate for office, everything you have ever done or said becomes fair game and potentially public knowledge. A thick skin is necessary, because a public servant is an instant target, expected to take whatever is dished out, in the name of democracy.
When I entered politics as a Congressional candidate in February 2018, I was not prepped for the world I was stepping into. Within the first few weeks of my campaign, I learned there was no loyalty, as it is defined in the civilian world. My award-winning volunteerism with the Doug Jones campaign in no way ensured support from those who worked with his campaign when I decided to run for office in Alabama. Being a Black Democrat who is a member of the Alabama Democratic Conference, a Black political organization, in no way ensured an endorsement from the group. And my professional life could be freely slandered by a blogger tapped by my Democratic opponent, all in the name of politics.
I am forever thankful for the overwhelming support my campaign received, and the 11,134 votes I garnered. But the campaign trail was arduous, and the negativity I experienced took a toll on me. After my primary election, all I wanted to do was rest and spend time in solitude. I replayed so many incidents in my mind and second-guessed various aspects of my campaign run. It was early on in this grieving process that a friend from the trail contacted me with beautiful words of encouragement and an invitation to attend a rally for Alabama’s Democratic Candidate for Governor, Walt Maddox, 3 months later on September 13.
I was very familiar with Walt Maddox. He and I regularly appeared at the same events during the primary season. He was present at my first campaign event, and I heard him speak so often, I could recite his platform. He and several members of his team were bright spots during my first run for public office. For these reasons, I agreed to attend the rally.
When September 13th arrived, and I was on my way to the campaign rally being held about 45 minutes from my home, I realized this was my first political event since being a candidate. It then occurred to me I would likely see my previous opponent and some of the individuals who spewed the negativity I dodged for months. I was instantly invigorated! I looked forward to pulling up and laying eyes on everyone there, particularly Walt Maddox and members of his team.
As always, Walt was engaging and motivating. He is the four term Mayor of the City of Tuscaloosa, who demonstrated compassionate and level-headed leadership after the April 27, 2011 EF-4 tornado that destroyed 12% of the city. His gubernatorial platform is one that focuses on improving healthcare, generating revenue, and creating jobs. This is why Walt Maddox, whose campaign hashtag is #Believe, has inspired many, including me, with his campaign.
September 13th marked the first time I listened to Walt exclusively as a constituent. In those moments, I became inspired to do what I could to ensure his victory in November. Within a few days, I was emailing his campaign manager and others on the team about coming on board. By the end of September, I was hired as the Birmingham Regional Field Director, overseeing field operations in 13 counties, with a few other directors, at our Historic 4th Avenue headquarters in Downtown Birmingham.
Engaging in this side of politics during the same election cycle that I was a candidate has been enriching personally and professionally. It has accelerated my political maturation. I am living the adage, “it’s politics, not personal.” I have stepped back to look at the big picture. I am releasing hard feelings against old foes for the good of a campaign that I truly believe in. I feel gratitude for the opportunities that have come as a result.
Joining the Walt Maddox campaign has helped me understand politics from a different lens and will prove to be a pivotal experience in my career. And it all started when I entered the murky waters of politics as a Congressional candidate. As my skin grows thicker and my vision expands, I am feeling more at home in the world of politics. Hello world; Dr. Dia is here to stay.