Rep. Paula Hawks came to town last night to talk about her run for U.S. House. The local press noticed two big things that I did: Hawks the optimist, and Hawks the teacher.
AAN’s Kathy Jensen opens her report on the campaign event with Hawks’s final words: “Two more weeks, folks—we got this!” This was not forced optimism: Hawks did not sound like a woman facing her doom weakly inviting her supporters to waste their efforts alongside her. Smiling and laughing as easily as when I’ve visited with her at the Brown County Fair and other events, Hawks sounded every bit the happy warrior. Her opponent, Rep. Kristi Noem, has higher favorability than she had heading into the 2014 election, which Noem won easily, but Hawks can also look at a new Remington Research Group poll that, while strangely not polling our House race, finds less funded and less well-known Jay Williams pulling 36% of the vote against better-liked fundraising monster Senator John Thune. If Williams can approach 40%, Hawks can break through it and head for 50% by hammering Noem on Trump and the Agriculture Committee and driving all over kingdom come to connect with voters (Mitchell, Yankton, and Vermillion Thursday!) while Noem hides from Indians and teaches her son to boil water.
Connecting… that reminds me: When Paula connects, we see the teacher in her. I’ve commented before on Paula’s teacherly ease in front of a crowd. I saw it again last night, particularly in her communication with a fourteen-year-old home schooler who asked why young voters feel as if their vote doesn’t matter and what candidate Hawks is doing to change that. Hawks suggested young apathy may come from the top, from the adults who discourage democratic participation by claiming the elections are rigged and votes don’t matter, and from the media and corporations who treat kids as consumers of electronic distraction and not citizens who might be interested in serious political information. Nonetheless, Hawks said she’s seeing more 14- to 20-year-olds getting involved with politics than she has in past elections. She said emphatically that the home-schooler’s generation will shape our nation and exhorted her to get informed and involved. (I’ll note that this same home-schooler and her parents also attended the panel discussion on education with us Democratic District 3 candidates last Wednesday—trust me: this girl is getting informed, and she plans to get involved.) Hawks is still the teacher: taking young people’s questions seriously, helping them find answers, and always encouraging them to see their worth and their potential.
Optimism and respect for young people—that’s why we need more teachers like Paula in politics.