Bristine Breaderquist. Three years ago, at the close of my first campaign, I went to place my signs around city hall and the enormity of the situation hit me: the campaign was over, early voting was done, there was nothing else I could do – no case to make, no doors to knock, and no voters to impress. I was done and I hadn’t worked hard enough. I knew this, deep in my soul. Nevermind that I had knocked on doors 6 days a week for 3 months. Nevermind that I had volunteered with honor and integrity in the city for years. I hadn’t worked hard enough and now I was going to lose so badly, I’d be laughed out of town. I finished putting out my signs, went home, crumpled knees-to-chest on the floor in the corner of my kitchen, cried fat tears, and said I would have to move to Georgetown and change my name…to Bristine Breaderquist (Creativity is clearly not one of my strengths).
The results of early voting come in some time between 7:00 and 8:00 on election night. In 2018, those early results revealed I had predicted 3 of the 4 races completely wrong, including my own. I won with more than 60% of the vote. At that time, it was a record-breaking second-highest vote count for any candidate in Leander (1402 votes). I was stunned that my prediction was so incredibly off. I don’t even know 1402 people. At the time, I’m not even sure if I knew 140. But all these people knew who I was to some extent, and they believed in me, even when I hadn’t believed in myself just the night before. It was humbling, to say the least.
This is what it’s like to be a candidate. You work hard and you doubt yourself. You make predictions and you doubt yourself. You wait for results and you doubt yourself. You win and you doubt yourself.
I tell people all the time that if you ever want to experience every possible emotion all at once, run for office. Your whole life is on display, picked apart and embellished upon by strangers. You are simultaneously praised and torn down for your every decision. Your words are taken out of context and analyzed for hidden meanings. Your relationships with your family are critiqued by intruders. You run into unknown people at HEB who light up and know who you are and appreciate you. You feel unworthy of the praises and indignant at the disparagement. You feel you’re doing great, but also that you’re losing. You feel surrounded by people that love and support you, but you also feel lonely and set apart. And above all else, you constantly feel like you should be doing more. It’s contemporaneously exhilarating and exhausting, and I’ve yet to experience anything else quite like it.
Three years and now I find myself on the eve of another Election Day. This year is so much different. Where last time I did the legwork for myself, this year I have a team of people who are motivated, passionate, and excited – sacrificing their time and treasure to help me get this campaign across the finish line. “Humbling” isn’t even a strong enough word to describe how they make me feel. They are my source of strength, the provenance of my sanity most days, and the constant reminder of why I’m doing this.
This election eve, I feel more at peace. I don’t feel the need to move or change my name if I lose because this year isn’t about me at all. I am so incredibly proud of what WE have built. WE. This campaign is closing out with more than 80 volunteers and around 150 donors. I hope they all read this and recognize what they’ve helped build. We have constructed a movement that will continue in some way, shape, or form whether I occupy the center seat or not. Positive change is coming to Leander because our voices together cannot be ignored.
And let’s talk about those voices together. What I’ve witnessed in this campaign has been life-affirming. So many of you helping with the effort have become genuine friends. I see it. And here’s the crazy thing about it: you’re all so different. From our high school super volunteer to our senior involved in all the silver activities, to the mom volunteering with her 4 year old, the man in a second career, Republicans, Democrats, business owners, veterans, couples, singles – all of you. I see you and the genuine friendships you’re establishing with each other and I cannot express the overwhelming joy I have in witnessing you all so happy in each other’s company. At a time when social media continuously reverberates with the drumbeat of division, you all have defied the trend and shown what I’ve always felt was the real spirit of Leander – comradely, friendship, encouragement, support, community. It’s you. You embody the best of our city and seeing you all come together makes me more proud than anything else I’ve done in politics. It’s this supportive spirit that assures the future success of our aspirations.
So what are those aspirations? They’re simple: we believe in a city government that works in the interest of the residents who have already invested their lives here. That means putting people first at all times and treating them with respect, even when we disagree. It means that developers don’t get a rubber stamp to build whatever they want, that there are checks and balances on our infrastructure to ensure we’re growing appropriately with our population, and that delivering clean and drinkable water in whatever quantity you want when you turn on the tap is one of the city’s main priorities. We believe in taking responsibility when things go wrong, communicating with residents openly and with full transparency, and treating every tax dollar with the scrutiny and reverence as if we paid it in ourselves. We believe that every residents voice has value and that our community is at it’s strongest when contrasting opinions share the same microphone.
Comparing today to three years ago, I’m feeling more content with whatever the results may be, but just as nervous and impotent. The idea of eating anything is met with immediate nausea, and as such, I’ve survived largely on coffee the last two days. I ate my feelings in the form of a KitKat for dinner tonight, literally the only thing I had all day that wasn’t coffee or water. I don’t care about nutrition, I held it down and felt better emotionally because chocolate.
I am constantly asked how I feel about my chances of winning and the truth of how I feel changes throughout the day. The only thing I know for sure is I’m relieved that it’s ending, one way or another.
I didn’t cry about my election tonight and I didn’t hold the fear I had three years ago. Tonight’s tone was more somber, reading poetry and listening to sad music because there’s a part of me that is mourning that time has run out and it feels like something close to a bad breakup – self-doubt, blame, regret, apprehension. My mind is a constant churning of the “could’ve, would’ve, should’ve”s and I know a loss would intensify that guilt.
Tonight, I’ll leave you with this poem from Douglas Malloch. It’s a little bit cheezy, but felt fitting for the moment.
Be The Best of Whatever You Are
If you can’t be a pine on the top of the hill,
Be a scrub in the valley — but be
The best little scrub by the side of the rill;
Be a bush if you can’t be a tree.
If you can’t be a bush be a bit of the grass,
And some highway happier make;
If you can’t be a muskie then just be a bass —
But the liveliest bass in the lake!
We can’t all be captains, we’ve got to be crew,
There’s something for all of us here,
There’s big work to do, and there’s lesser to do,
And the task you must do is the near.
If you can’t be a highway then just be a trail,
If you can’t be the sun be a star;
It isn’t by size that you win or you fail —
Be the best of whatever you are!
Thank you all for being the best of whatever you are. I see you, I hear you, and I appreciate you more than my meager words can ever convey.
All the best,