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Getting to know citizens one door at a time

There are many reasons why people decide to run for public office. A person may feel passionate about a certain cause. For some, it's power and money. I decided to run for Newstead town clerk last fall because I felt I could do more for the residents than my opponent was currently doing for them. I think everyone should be more active in local government because it can be a rewarding experience.

Living in a small town, I knew I would receive both positive and negative feedback concerning my candidacy. The first time I went grocery shopping after announcing, I spent twice as long in the store as I normally did. People came up and asked me questions about my stance on topics. I was shocked that so many people wanted to know what I thought.

That day gave me a glimpse of what going door to door would be like. The most effective way to run for office is going door to door and personally asking people for their vote. It is also the most time-consuming part of a campaign.

I spent three or four days a week for nearly four months knocking on doors in Newstead. Despite all that time, I still only did three-quarters of the town. Door to door is great, because you meet and speak with so many people. You hear their concerns and share your ideas.

Sometimes the weirdest things happen. Early in my campaign, while knocking on doors all afternoon in the hot summer sun, I had an elderly woman invite me into her house to take a break. She made me a sandwich and gave me a pop. We talked about what I wanted to do as an elected official. She explained her concerns and wished me good luck and I went back on the trail. After that experience I thought this door-to-door thing was going to be easy.

I soon found out I was wrong. A couple of days later a woman who opened one of the many doors I knocked on told me she couldn't vote for me because I'm Catholic. I asked why that matters to her and she said, "You will take orders from the pope." Completely shocked, I said, "I'm fairly sure the pope will not call me and tell me how to perform my job here in Newstead." She looked at me, clenched her teeth and slammed the door in my face.

Early in the campaign I found a note in my mailbox telling me that if I ran on the Democratic line, I'd never be a member of the "in crowd" and would never have the opportunities Republicans have in our town. That energized me even more. In a town where Republicans outnumber Democrats roughly 3-to-1, I knew I had my work cut out for me.

I gave it my very best and was proud of the campaign I ran. In the end, I fell about 376 votes shy of victory. At first I thought I'd let down those who supported me, but I quickly learned that wasn't the case. I learned that you could win even if your opponent has more votes.

The number of people who congratulated me and urged me to run again was unbelievable. People look at you differently when you put your neck out there because you truly believe you can make a difference. Some Republicans had some nice things to say to me as well. I truly think everyone should get involved at some point -- it's what makes our country the greatest.

Justin Rooney, of Akron, learned a lot about people and himself knocking on doors during his campaign run.

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