An open letter to anyone thinking about running for office:
My name is Micah Welintukonis. I was medically retired from the Army almost two years ago after being shot, then subsequently taking a direct hit from a suicide bomber on July 9, 2012. Some of the injuries I sustained were over two dozen pieces of shrapnel in my left arm, shrapnel in my abdomen and face, and a mild concussion. I was awarded the Purple Heart, the Army Commendation with Valor, and the Combat Medic Badge for my actions that day.
Thankfully no one on my team died that day, but tragically our Afghanistan counterparts suffered losses. The media covered me a lot before I chose to run for office. I was invited to the White House twice, and attended President Obama’s State of the Union Address. Now, despite having made some impressive achievements that should be newsworthy, and despite their mission statements to provide fair and quality news reporting, coverage of my campaign is minimal at best.
I am running as an unaffiliated candidate for governor of Connecticut, and will petition my way onto the ballot. The bottom of the ballot. Connecticut law places the major, and then the minor, political parties at the top.
So I want to whole-heartedly share some things I have learned campaigning over the past year to anyone considering running for office, but especially to my fellow veterans who are sick of politics.
Do not sell out and pick a side. We certainly did not in our lines of work. Why do it now if you are for all the people?
Do not be frustrated when the media does not cover you. They only cater to their politically sided audience. Be like the weather — constantly change your tactics, do not just pound people with what is wrong in government. Be like the sunshine, and present good solutions. For example: Here are the facts; we owe this amount, but we could pay for it by doing this.
Stay grass roots and use social media. My advice on internet trolls: warn them, publicly, that if they do not want to have a constructive adult conversation, you might block them. Do not be afraid to tell them to, “Have a nice day!” and find another candidate. Do not worry; they are so extreme in their views, they only have a few friends who might sympathize with them. Challenge them to run for office. Provide them with the resources to do so, like a government web address, too.
Have a sense of humor once in a while.
Not everyone will like or love you, but more people will respect you for your honesty and sincerity. It is okay to say, “I don’t know,”or, “I didn’t know that.” Heck, that is why there are so many specialties in medicine, because one person does not know it all.
Use the military decision-making process. Determine what is the problem or mission, conduct a mission analysis, develop courses of action, analyze those courses of action, compare your courses of action, and approve your course of action.
Do things those rich candidates will not. Ride the bus, or other public means of transportation. No other candidate will do that, it is beneath them.
Be like a pit bull on Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. Your competition is not doing them. They only care about supplying people with false promises, and generic ideas so they can collect donations for their campaigns.
Collecting donations: It’s like pulling teeth, but you need them. People will not understand that $10 or $20 can make a huge impact, as a $10 donation from each of 500 people becomes $5,000. That might get you a billboard for a month.
Buy your flyers and other advertising materials from local businesses. It’s a bit more expensive, but it is worth it. You are reinvesting in your community and that is priceless.
Do not stray from your heart, and why you want to change things. There will be days you want to give up, and throw in the towel. Do not, because in the end, win or lose, you will still have won. Your friends, family, and the people will know that you stood on a foundation of values, morals, and ethics. If the people are really tired of the same old polititricks, then who knows? You or I may just win.
Best of luck.
Micah Welintukonis retired from the U.S. Army as a Sergeant First Class. He served in Kosovo during his first stint of active duty in the 1990s. Later, as a member of the Connecticut National Guard, he deployed to Iraq for Operation Iraqi Freedom. A few years after he returned to full time service and deployed to Afghanistan as a senior manager and senior medic.