Families get called to political action
September 22, 2009
By Warren Kagarise
When voters pick up a glossy flier from a local candidate or browse a campaign Web site, they learn about would-be officeholders. But voters also learn about a key piece of the candidates’ campaigns: families.
Candidates turn to family members in the closing weeks of the campaign to wave signs about busy intersections and chat up the campaigns at community meetings.
Candidates said spouses and children are never far from the action — and drudgery — of the campaign. Hopefuls for Issaquah City Council and school board said spouses greet voters at fundraisers, edit campaign speeches and, if the candidate has young children, to step in as caregiver while the candidate campaigns. Family members are also drafted to plant campaign signs and ring doorbells during voter canvassing.
Candidates said other benefits are less tangible. Families provide a bedrock of support and words of encouragement after a long day.“I don’t think you can do this without a family,” City Council candidate Joan Probala said.
Probala, vying against incumbent Maureen McCarry for the Position 5 seat, said her husband and adult daughter have been crucial to the campaign. Even her 18-month-old granddaughter wore a “Support My Grandma” T-shirt to a campaign event.
“The question is always, “Mom, what can I do to help?’” Probala said.
McCarry said her husband and 11-year-old daughter pitch in between business trips and Issaquah Middle School homework. McCarry said her family provides crucial encouragement during the campaign.
“Our family kind of revolves around public service, and this is another kind of public service,” McCarry said.
She said her family stepped in to critique her rehearsals as she readied to record her pitch for the city Video Voter Guide. Her husband and daughter told her to “practice once a week, at least.” She said her family also stepped in to edit her responses to candidate questionnaires.
All in the family
For Issaquah School Board candidate Wright A. Noel, support from his family comes in handy, literally, when an extra set of hands — or six — is needed.
Before the city’s Fourth of July celebration, the Noel team — wife Carole, sons Wright, 18, Hamilton, 16, Romney, 13, and daughters McKaye, 8, and Talmage, 6 — filled balloons with flour and water to make stress balls to pass out to voters.
As the campaign progressed, the Noel children have continued to make the stress balls. They also display “Vote for Wright Noel” buttons on their backpacks.
“My family is extremely important to me and I didn’t decide to run without talking to them,” he said.
Marnie Maraldo, also vying for the Director District 2 spot, discovered her family took to campaign life.
During a sign-posting session, her children Andrew, 10, and Madeline, 6, took to waving signs like campaign professionals, gathering smiles and honks from motorists.
“I want them to get a big sense from mom, that something may be challenging, but it is worthwhile,” Maraldo said. “You can have a big impact if you take the risk.”
Candidates weigh other issues, too, including the rough and tumble of politics and its effect on family life. Probala said her family realized a City Council campaign could open her up to criticism.
“I have a really smart family that understands the intricacies of politics,” she said.
Noel said his family had a few concerns, too. His sons wanted to make sure he could still coach wrestling at their schools. His daughters wanted assurances they would not have to attend school board meetings, Noel said with a laugh.
Carole Noel, too, wanted her husband to have enough time left for the family. Board members are allotted about 250 hours a year for work with the district.
“I’ve been a lot busier, earlier in my career,” Wright Noel said.
At the time, he was a young father, a bishop at church and working for a national law firm.
Maraldo, too, has enlisted her spouse in the school board bid. Her husband, Tony, has been planting signs around the school district.
“I was down at the end of Issaquah-Hobart Road earlier this week. I’ve been up to the plateau, but I have a lot more to do, though,” Tony Maraldo said. “You don’t realize how big this district is until you start putting up the signs.”
Spouses also serve as a sounding board and a surrogate for candidates. Tony Maraldo said a school board seat was the next step after his wife served on the Newcastle Elementary School PTSA.
“Long before her decision to run for the school board, she was passionate about education,” he said.
Noel promised his family there would still be time for them. So far, he has stuck to his guns. He said he only works on the campaign about two hours a night. And the Noel family made its annual backpacking trip to Alaska this summer.
“The big thing they have done is be who they are. I’ve been blessed with wonderful kids,” he said.
Other concerns are more practical, such as the time commitment a campaign for local office demands.
Before he launched his bid for the Position 7 council seat, Nathan Perea had a discussion with his wife, Darcy, about the rigors of the campaign. The couple has 4-year-old and 11-month-old daughters, so Perea had to be prepared to split time between the campaign and family.
“I had to be ready to come home from the campaign and still have energy to help take care of the kids,” he said.
Perea said he and his wife had the advantage of both being self-employed and able to work from home. He described the campaign commitment — about 20-30 hours each week, he estimated — as “a second job.”
Because his daughters are so young, the girls usually stay at home with their mother when Perea heads out to raise funds or meet voters.
“Generally, bedtime comes before campaign events,” he said.
His opponent, Tola Marts, said his school-age children were eager to help with the campaign — to a point. While Sophie, 11, and Aidan, 8, enjoyed helping as Marts distributed campaign signs to supporters, the younger Marts found door-belling to be a snooze.
Despite the demands of the campaign, Marts said he finds time to spend with his children and wife, Tracy. But the workload associated with running for office occasionally intrudes. Marts said Aidan understood when he had to postpone a hike until next summer because of the campaign. He thanked his wife for filling in when he heads out to campaign.
“Somebody has to stay home and make sure the homework gets done,” he said.