My Whirlwind Week

Rick Kraft

A HIGHLIGHT of my life happened a week ago. My parents gave me a call from South Pasadena to tell me they read my name in USA Today. I did not know the story on me had run in that paper’s weekend edition. It was an honor to learn from two proud parents that it had been published.

It was a whirlwind week. In seven days, I went from announcing my decision to run for president in the New Hampshire primary to my decision being printed nationally. It will be a week I always remember.

We live in a great country, America. And don’t you let anyone tell you differently. That is why others want to come join us here. I think in the atmosphere we live in today we lose track of our greatness. 

Don’t get me wrong, it is not that we don’t have major problems, but we are each so blessed to be able to live in a land where we can openly share our beliefs or attend meetings with others who are like-minded without worrying about being arrested or having sanctions imposed on us. We are free today because of the countless lives that have given so much to create and preserve our nation over the centuries.

We also have the freedom to run for an elected office, to put ourselves into a position of influence.

I think at some point in time every one of us wonders what it would be like to be president. And at times we have each felt we can do things better than others who have filled this position over the decades.

Let me tell you my story. A year ago, in October of 2018, my wife and I went on a trip through New England to see the beautiful fall trees changing with their reds and yellows and oranges. At the end of the trip, we were staying in New Hampshire and we decided to go visit the capitol building in Concord.

We went on a tour and at one point found ourselves on the second floor of the building at the Secretary of State’s office. The tour guide told us a little-known fact that the 2016 New Hampshire ballot for president had many more names on it than most people are aware. He said there were about 30 who ran for president on both the Democrat and the Republican ballots.

He said all you needed to do to get on the ballot was to be a party member, pay a fee and complete a declaration of candidacy. As we left the building I told my wife “I think I will run for President in 2020.”

She smiled — I have been known to say off-the-wall things before — and we finished our trip in New England.

I’ve been in leadership positions for four decades, including being president of both the New Mexico State Bar Association and the Young Lawyer’s Division. I have led a leadership program for almost 30 years, including teaching various components of leadership. I have written a weekly syndicated column for 19 years sharing motivational thoughts, including almost four years in the South Pasadena Review.

Two weeks ago, after 61 years of not belonging to either party, I registered as a Republican. I overnighted my declaration to the New Hampshire Secretary of State, was registered on Tuesday, and by Wednesday, my name was on Wikipedia as one of three Republican candidates in New Hampshire, with a man named Donald Trump listed right below mine. He had not submitted his Declaration of Candidacy yet, so, two days later, when he submitted his declaration in New Hampshire, he was actually running against me!

A very good friend of mine took a picture and asked me if she could put together a Facebook page announcing my candidacy. Without thinking twice, I said “sure.” What can be hurt by putting together a Facebook page? Little did I know that the page would spread the word of my decision like wildfire.

I got a call from our local paper asking to do a story on my decision to run. By the end of the day the newspaper in Las Cruces, N.M., had picked up the story, used a catchy title, published it with my picture, and put it on the AP wire.

The story went national and appeared across the country on websites from U.S. News and World Report to USA Today and in newspapers from Seattle to Houston. Then NBC and then CBS picked it up, leading to more interviews, and it was carried further in television media. 

I am repeatedly asked why I am running for president. In addition to encouraging people to get out and vote, I share about this being great country where we each have freedom to run for any office of our choice, from local to national, and to put ourselves in a position of influence to make a difference in the lives of others.

On a national level, I would like to see civility return to our country on a leadership level. We live in a country that suffers from a major case of “polarization.”  We are our own worst enemy.

I have practiced law for 37 years. I handle a heavy litigation practice. Because each case has two sides, I regularly go into the courtroom and fight against the other side to seek justice. Both attorneys use every argument we can to fight for what we believe in, but we do it respectfully.  At the end of the hearing the court rules, we live with the outcome and move on. Our efforts have advanced our positions, but we do it respectfully.

I believe the two-party system is healthy for our country and hope that neither party ever loses the accountability the other party brings. Opposition is good and the freedom to speak out is better. The problem is that we spend too much time “infighting” rather than using our energy to “move the ball down the field” and to take care of the needs of our country and our citizens.

So with all this being said, I have learned so much in this single week of my life. I have been attacked for deciding to run for public office. Any of you who have stepped out to run for office know what I am talking about. By deciding to put yourself out there you will wake up the “naysayers” and they will beat you up. But it is America and it comes with the territory.

I pause and think, “Who am I hurting by putting my name on a ballot?” I guess some are offended when others do this. To some degree I think they are revealing more about themselves than me.

I have seen how something I didn’t think would be of public interest rise to the level of national coverage. I have seen the power of social media. In this world we live in, we have the ability to post and have go viral just about anything. 

I have had more kind things shared about me by those who know me than any man could ever hope for. Although the only votes that count will be those cast in New Hampshire, daily I hear others tell me they are going to support me. I am truly humbled by the outpouring of comments I have received.

My goal with my life and my actions is to make a difference in the lives of others. The coolest thing that has happened is an email I just received from a college student in Virginia whom I will likely never meet. He shared his story of how his parents modeled for him the importance of voting, how he has voted in every election from local to national, and how he would like to be elected to an office in Virginia someday.

I sent him back an encouraging and uplifting response.

He closed his lengthy email asking for my autograph and gave me his address. Somehow his story and his request make everything I am doing worth it.

I don’t know what is ahead for me. The New Hampshire primary is Feb. 11. I have an aunt and uncle who live in New Hampshire. She has told me she is going to change her party affiliation to give me her vote. I plan to reach out to others in the state and see what happens.  Our nation’s process is truly an experience.