When I decided to run for Congress nearly four months ago, I understood full well how difficult the path before me was. Let alone fielding a competitive campaign, gathering the 1,000 signatures of voters needed to qualify for the general election ballot was nearly an impossible feat. Running as an independent while working two jobs, lacking a political machine or a staff to speak of and refusing to take a penny from corporations, taking on a powerful incumbent and an uber wealthy entrenched politician by the name of Don Beyer was like David taking on Goliath.
Yet it is precisely that story that convinced me to try the seemingly improbable, after all the meekest can defeat the most powerful if they just combine faith with hard work. Over the span of six weeks, I talked to at least 2,000 people in Arlington, Alexandria and South Fairfax as I set out to collect enough petition signatures in order to have my name printed on the November ballot. I ended up turning in 1,452 signatures to the Virginia Department of Elections and found out a week before the deadline that I met the threshold of 1,000 qualified voters needed to become an official candidate for the US House of Representatives.
However, qualifying for the general election was a minor challenge compared to running a campaign that has the wherewithal to reach the sheer number of people who live in my district. While the Democrat and Republican candidates lean on their corporate money and personal fortunes in order to blanket the airwaves with slick ads, flood streets and neighborhoods with yard signs and hire staffers, I faced the prospect of navigating a political season on my own armed with only the belief that voters are ready to reject the politics of canned talking points and “us vs them” rhetoric in favor of a candidate who talks from the heart and resembles their daily walks.
My dad used to tell me all the time that I must do the work necessary then have faith that things will turn out as they are supposed to. I took his advice to heart and did my part, the rest I left up to God and trusted that people who are yearning for authentic change will gravitate to this campaign. After praying for a path forward last Friday, the very next day I received two messages on Facebook from people who heard about my campaign wanting to help in whatever capacity they can. I asked both of them if they could meet up at a coffee shop in Arlington and extended that same invite to someone who attended my town hall meeting at Busboys and Poets and was effusive in his praise about my Congressional run.
Yesterday evening, I met with Luam Tesfaye, Alastair Watson and Justin Boatner in Idido’s Social House and had a great conversation about the vision of the campaign and how we can reach voters in the 8th Congressional District. By the time we finished, all three were super excited about being a part of this truly grassroots campaign and helping to spread awareness about my candidacy. I started the day being a team of one and ended it by having three new people who are now a part of the campaign staff. Over the coming weeks and months, I am confident that our community of four will continue to grow.
This is the change I envisioned all along, I did not want a bunch of high priced consultants, poll takers and speech writers, in fact I am running against that very same bankrupt DC political system that has led our country to the precipice. I wanted a community of thinkers, givers and believers in our common humanity to take on the status quo. Luam, Alastair, Justin and I know that the road before us is extremely difficult, but as I conveyed to them, the success is not necessarily in the outcome but in trying something truly audacious.
I truly believe that we are at an inflection point in our country’s history. The approval rating for Congress is less than 16% and Americans have no confidence in the sitting president, these are flashing red lights that our Republic is on a perilous path. The only way we can reclaim our government is to embrace merit over money and to reject tribal politics. That is precisely why I am running for Congress, it’s time to retire career politicians and empower a public servant who lives your reality and understands your frustrations.
If you are interested in joining the Fikre4VA campaign, email us at [email protected] with the subject header “I’m In”.