Political Primer: An Average Joe Runs for Congress

What happens when the guy next door decides to run for Congress? Is politics really open to anyone?

Have you ever wanted to be President of the United States? No? How about Congressman? Me neither. But last year I suddenly found myself running for Congress and in the process got quite an education. At a recent Patch bloggers pizza gathering I was asked to write about my experience.

First, all I wanted to do was call my Congressman and tell him Congress was approaching the deficit problem from the wrong angle. The Republicans were talking about cutting programs.  As a poor kid who started life in the fields of the San Joaquin Valley picking fruit with my grandparents, I knew it was
impossible to save your way to prosperity (if you don’t have enough money for
food, no matter how much you save, you are still hungry). 

The Democrats were advocating raising taxes as a way of cutting the deficit.  I love reading history and knew that you could not reach prosperity by raising taxes.  I believe it was Winston Churchill who said that trying to tax yourself into prosperity is like standing in a bucket and trying to lift yourself off the ground.

It seemed like an easy task.  I called the Congressman’s office and asked for a schedule of town hall meetings.  There were no meetings scheduled. 

I asked for a schedule of speaking engagements in the county so I could buy a ticket.  No scheduled meetings. 

I asked when it would be possible to speak to the Congressman personally. Apparently they are very, very busy. 

It appeared my attempt at saving the country would have to take a different path.

I purchased a website and wrote out my plan. Points of the plan included a flat tax of 12% paid by every wage earner in the U.S. Manufacturing plants could sell products overseas with zero tax on the profits.  Corporate tax rates, on items sold in this country, would match individual tax rates at 12%.

The EPA rules would be rolled back to 1998 and the remaining rules would be reviewed for their return on investment.  An added emphasis would be placed on trade schools.  (The world always needs electricians, welders, machinists and factory workers.  The old saw about everybody going to college only appeals to those without real life experience.)  

Oil drilling rules and regulations would be returned to the states.  My whole idea was to make the U.S. the preferred manufacturing location in the world.  We would have low taxes, sensible environmental rules, cheap energy and a well-trained work force. We are world leaders; we needed to get back to Capitalism which made us the beacon that attracted the best and brightest to our shores.

People contacted me and some even liked my ideas.  The really smart people thought they were too simple, but I’m a big fan of the KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) process. Later the Heritage Foundation would release a report by three PhD’s, which was very similar to my plan.

Next, I set out to find a candidate.  I could picture the person in my mind.  My candidate would be super smart, good looking, charismatic and thoughtful.  People would love my candidate.

To tell you what happened next, I have to go back 30 years.  Bev Nestande was a great woman whose ex-husband was a county supervisor.  Years later, her son would be a state legislator.  She asked me to run for a local office.  I begged off because I had a new child, a new business, and a lot of debt.  Bev said to me, “John Webb, if you don’t run, somebody else will.  Years from now you will not be happy with the results.”

Thirty years later Bev’s words came to me as each potential candidate recited nearly the same litany of reasons they could not run.  Each meeting ended with the person saying, “Why don’t you run? Your family is grown and you have time.”

This was a real problem.  I don’t like meetings.  I don’t like authority and I rebel against the system on a regular basis.  Still, nobody was talking about the right things to fix our problems in this country.

I had several meetings with friends and mentors.  All the people I knew were supportive except for one guy who suggested I had earned the right to go play golf and leave it to younger people. 

Next, I contacted my wife with my idea.  My wife is a great supporter, but a very tough business person who knows how to ask the right questions.  Our meeting was tough because she did not want me making a mistake.  The final question went something like this: “If I agree with you, will you agree to stop yelling at the television?”  She drives a tough bargain, but with that agreement, I understood the decision was mine.

Running for office takes a lot of money.  Running for office takes a lot of time.  I didn’t have a political base. I did not even know anybody who had ever served in the Congress.  I started attending meetings around Orange County talking to people active in politics and asking them about my odds.  The overall agreement was that I didn’t stand a chance. 

I asked to speak to several groups and they declined to have an unknown speak about the unspeakable. With these thoughts in my mind I thought, “What could go wrong?”

The next day I filed the papers to run for Congress.

Next week I will talk about the journey each of you should consider at some point in your life.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Robert Fitzpatrick November 20, 2012 at 12:49 AM
Ah yes... The one party system! The founding fathers of this (once) great nation warned against allowing political parties to grab a hold of the reigns for these exact reasons. Abolish political parties, let individuals run and convey ideas.
Robert Fitzpatrick November 20, 2012 at 12:51 AM
John, your ideas make clear sense and definitely would make sensible improvements in the proper direction. Keep waking people up to the facts, keep educating others and keep up the good fight.
John Webb November 20, 2012 at 08:55 PM
Thanks Robert. I think, like many, I just left it to others for too long. I'm telling the story in the hope a younger, brighter person will read this and it will trigger a reaction that will help all of us in the long run. I appreciate your positive comments.
Joshua Essary November 07, 2013 at 06:03 PM
John, I read this now a full year after you wrote it. A short background of myself, I just turned 31, I'm single, I have a daughter who will be 3 in March. I served two combat tours, one in Iraq, one in Afghanistan, both as an Airborne Infantryman with the 82d Airborne Division. I am a very outspoken, down to earth, very intelligent individual who is about to make a dumb mistake. I have decided as you stated in your blog, that I'm tired of our system being run the way it is, and I have already pledged to my friends and family that I will run for President in 2020. My question to you is do you have any advice. I will not run with a party, I will run as an independent.
John Webb November 08, 2013 at 02:38 PM
Joshua, I would start at the local level. Water Districts, City Councils or planning commissions. I would understand how things work from the ground up. Independents generally do not win elections. I would identify with the major political party which comes close to your basic beliefs and work within that group. You are at a good age and can have an impact on our system. Listen carefully to what the opposition is saying. Listen closer to what your party is saying. Work to move your party to a position where they can win elections. It is inspiring to hear a young person like you wanting to get involved. I wish you luck. In giving back to the community you will receive much more than you give. Enjoy the experience.


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