Monday, May 31, 2010

Real men pay their bills

As most all of you know, I've spent the past 5 years or so being a politically inclined girl. This time last year I was campaign manager for the republican candidate in the Tupelo, MS mayor's race. My diet consisted of ritz crackers and vodka and sprite. Maybe more vodka than anything. I can put a yard sign in a yard wearing Jimmy choo heels, and I own more cocktail dresses than I do jeans. I know voter turn out percentages in the last 3 years in Desoto County, all the poll locations in Desoto and Lee County, but I failed college algebra twice. I'd rather organize a GOTV (get out the vote) phone bank than balance my check book.

To say I adore campaigns is a gross understatement. But my only issue with campaigns is:
The candidate.
My favorite politco of all time (God rest his soul) Lee Atwater once said "The biggest pain in the a** to a staffer is and always will be, the candidate"

A volunteer asked me during a campaign how I felt about the candidate. My response was the token "*Blank* is an incredible conservative leader. His is very proactive in the community and has a consistent record of keeping taxes low"
But what I REALLY wanted to say was "Earlier he was walking past my car to the office and I had to force myself not to hit the gas pedal"
Ok so I really didn't wish him bodily harm, but you get the picture.

Candidates can really push a staffers buttons. I always ran into issues of being taken seriously by a candidate. Now a lot of that is my fault. Being 4'11, wearing bright colored dresses, and showing cleavage probably wasn't the best way to taken seriously, but hindsight is 20/20.

Even though many of my candidates nearly made me a crazy person *well, the jury is still out*
they always did the right and honorable thing by paying their bills and never left anything unfinished once the campaign was over. Not only am I thankful to these candidates for always paying me, but I am also thankful to them for the learning experience in working for them, and for all the memories I've acquired along the way.

The last campaign I worked on was a different story; maybe because the stakes were higher. I was pregnant with Ben, married to Chris, and I was no longer willing to throw myself headlong into a campaign without boundaries or concern of how my long hours and sleepless nights would be affecting my relationship with my precious husband, or the health of our unborn child.

Instead I decided to draw healthy boundaries, be precise in my work, keep good records, and spend my working hours wisely. I enjoyed my work on this campaign for the most part. I allowed myself to get sucked into the "ah shucks I don't have any money to pay you but I will soon, and I love the Lord and hate taxes so please give me your blood, sweat and tears".

Everything was going fine until Valentines day, when I was admitted into the hospital with extremely high blood pressure and the possibility that both the baby and I could be in severe danger. Throughout my time in the hospital I (as usual) had my blackbery by my side and kept in contact with the candidate and the rest of the campaign staff.
I was optimistic and yet annoyed when the doctor informed me I had to be on bed rest until my blood pressure went down.
I had been home about an hour from the hospital when the candidate called me. I explained to him what was going on, and that above all I had to get my blood pressure down.

To which his response was to get my blood pressure even higher. "if you have the baby, how will you be working out your work schedule? What exactly is your plan? " he continued to question me until I felt my head spin. I wanted to reply "Well. My plan is to keep my child in my stomach for as long as possible thanks." but I patiently informed him I would work out a plan, and if I had to resign I would leave him with a specific plan as well as give him
two weeks notice and be available to answer any campaign questions.

In the end that conversation and several that followed left me with the realization that my blood pressure was only going to get worse, and my candidate was selfish. He really didn't care about me, or "the people". He cared about winning.
I was at a cross-roads. At that point in my life there were two things vastly more important than yard signs, polls, press releases, and bus tours. Those two things were my husband and my baby boy.
I decided to say goodbye to what had been my life for the past couple of years and focus on what was truly important. I emailed my candidate and resigned. He responded well and politely asked how much he owed me, having not written me a single paycheck in the four months I had been working for him. I tallied up all the hours of work and consulting, took the sum I would normally have charged, divided it by a fourth, and emailed him my invoice. I also sent him a fundraising plan, all my contact list, and other information as well.

A few short weeks later my health continued to go down hill and on March 14th Baby Ben was born. Since Ben spent 3 1/2 weeks in the NICU I did not notice the candidate had not paid me or responded to my invoice, emails or previous phone calls. However as the unexpected bills started to pile up and the Baby was finally able to come home, you bet I noticed he had not paid me for my months of work. I sent yet another email, and an even more detailed invoice.
I got back-Nothing.

It was hard to swallow but now that my invoice is 3 months overdue I have decided to give up on that amount of money and move on. The important thing is I have a sweet husband with a good job who provides for me, and a precious baby who is healthy and gets cuter and cuter every day.
But- I will not be voting for Henry Ross for MS Congress District 1 tomorrow. Real men pay their bills.