I haven’t risen to this level of politics all on my own. Far from it. While my life experiences, schooling, and relationships all factored into where I am today, one person stands out in particular, in terms of how I decided to start down this path of public service.

 

As you’ll soon see, the story I’m about to tell necessitates protection of this friend’s identity, so I’ll call him “Bill.” He certainly planted the seeds that grew into my will to do what I’m doing now.

 

Bill and I have known each other since childhood. My mother even took him into our home at one point when his life got tough. So years later, when we were both in our 30s, it felt very natural and comfortable to go into business with him, working in real estate investment, a partnership that lasted many years.

 

Eventually Will decided to branch out in the industry, and I decided to move on from it, but we kept in touch. I knew he had purchased an apartment complex with a pretty bad reputation including drug use and other illegal activities. Bill worked hard and invested a lot of time and money to clean and renovate the complex and make it appealing enough for new paying tenants.

 

Unfortunately, a local Republican politician had something else in mind. This politician began running ad campaigns focusing not only on the surrounding neighborhood, but Bill’s property in particular, describing it as “run-down” and “unsafe” and declaring that he would be the one to “clean it up.” When Bill approached this politician and explained how the ads were untrue and hurting his chances of attracting quality tenants, he was met with smug apathy. The Republican candidate essentially said, “so what” and asked Bill to leave. That’s when my friend made it his personal mission to keep people like that out of politics, people willing to step on the little guys to further their agendas.

 

In order to find the best way to do that, Bill decided to learn more about politicians like the one he’d dealt with. He purposefully mingled with the people he needed to in order to get invited to a Republican social event. He didn’t know exactly what to expect, but was about to find out even more than he’d bargained for.

 

At the gathering, Bill watched a presentation that shocked him. The platforms presented included prioritizing corporate interests over workers’ rights, suppressing wages, and modifying public education curriculum to reframe or downplay significant historical events. It didn’t take my friend long to realize he wasn’t the only one in attendance very uncomfortable with these agendas. He conferred with several others who felt similarly, and the group agreed to meet up on a different day and time to start brainstorming.

 

And this is when Bill contacted me. He recounted his experiences from the evening of the Republican event. What he told me was hard to believe, even as the proof sat right in front of my eyes. And then, Bill said, “John, your mother took me in when I didn’t have a mom, so I know the values you were raised with. I know you can get along with just about anyone, and you have the ability to talk to people that I just don’t have. We need you.”

 

Bill had helped me through some very difficult times in my life, grieving the death of a loved one, coping with being transgender and coming out. I suspected what he was asking of me now would involve labor, challenges, and backlash on par with everything I’d experienced, but I couldn’t deny the truth in my friend’s words. He’d ignited a spark in me, and even if I’d wanted to at that moment, I knew I couldn’t say no.

I haven’t risen to this level of politics all on my own. Far from it. While my life experiences, schooling, and relationships all factored into where I am today, one person stands out in particular, in terms of how I decided to start down this path of public service.

 

As you’ll soon see, the story I’m about to tell necessitates protection of this friend’s identity, so I’ll call him “Bill.” He certainly planted the seeds that grew into my will to do what I’m doing now.

 

Bill and I have known each other since childhood. My mother even took him into our home at one point when his life got tough. So years later, when we were both in our 30s, it felt very natural and comfortable to go into business with him, working in real estate investment, a partnership that lasted many years.

 

Eventually Will decided to branch out in the industry, and I decided to move on from it, but we kept in touch. I knew he had purchased an apartment complex with a pretty bad reputation including drug use and other illegal activities. Bill worked hard and invested a lot of time and money to clean and renovate the complex and make it appealing enough for new paying tenants.

 

Unfortunately, a local Republican politician had something else in mind. This politician began running ad campaigns focusing not only on the surrounding neighborhood, but Bill’s property in particular, describing it as “run-down” and “unsafe” and declaring that he would be the one to “clean it up.” When Bill approached this politician and explained how the ads were untrue and hurting his chances of attracting quality tenants, he was met with smug apathy. The Republican candidate essentially said, “so what” and asked Bill to leave. That’s when my friend made it his personal mission to keep people like that out of politics, people willing to step on the little guys to further their agendas.

 

In order to find the best way to do that, Bill decided to learn more about politicians like the one he’d dealt with. He purposefully mingled with the people he needed to in order to get invited to a Republican social event. He didn’t know exactly what to expect, but was about to find out even more than he’d bargained for.

 

At the gathering, Bill watched a presentation that shocked him. The platforms presented included prioritizing corporate interests over workers’ rights, suppressing wages, and modifying public education curriculum to reframe or downplay significant historical events. It didn’t take my friend long to realize he wasn’t the only one in attendance very uncomfortable with these agendas. He conferred with several others who felt similarly, and the group agreed to meet up on a different day and time to start brainstorming.

 

And this is when Bill contacted me. He recounted his experiences from the evening of the Republican event. What he told me was hard to believe, even as the proof sat right in front of my eyes. And then, Bill said, “John, your mother took me in when I didn’t have a mom, so I know the values you were raised with. I know you can get along with just about anyone, and you have the ability to talk to people that I just don’t have. We need you.”

 

Bill had helped me through some very difficult times in my life, grieving the death of a loved one, coping with being transgender and coming out. I suspected what he was asking of me now would involve labor, challenges, and backlash on par with everything I’d experienced, but I couldn’t deny the truth in my friend’s words. He’d ignited a spark in me, and even if I’d wanted to at that moment, I knew I couldn’t say no.