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  • Writer's pictureTommy Zurhellen

The Perfect Candidate

Monday, September 11th

Dear Friends:

Indulge me for a moment. Close your eyes and imagine your perfect candidate for office – any office. What do they look like? What do they sound like? What issues are they most passionate about? Do they have unshakeable conviction on the issues you care about, like Pat Ryan? Do they possess the ability to truly listen to your concerns, like Michelle Hinchey? Do they have the public speaking skills to fire up an entire room, like Antonio Delgado? Maybe a combination of all three?

One thing’s for sure: everybody is going to imagine a different perfect candidate.

Early in my campaign journey, I had lunch with a wealthy donor who seemed excited about me running for County Executive. Even before I finished my chicken sandwich, they promised a lot of financial support, and I walked out of there feeling thirty feet tall. (I thought to myself, this campaign stuff is going to be easy!) But after a couple of months of not hearing from them, I called to ask if they were still interested in supporting my campaign. It was clear they had changed their mind. “Don’t quit your day job,” that same person said to me before hanging up the phone. Ouch. Later, I was told second-hand that they thought I was “too progressive” for their tastes.

Around the same time, I was working to earn the endorsement of a local climate action group. I thought we had a great Zoom interview, sharing ideas on a wide variety of subjects like sustainability, farm-to-table initiatives, shutting down the incinerator, and much more. I saw a lot of common ground between us. But shortly after the interview, I got an email saying I would not receive the group’s endorsement. Basically, they told me I wasn’t progressive enough.

You’re too progressive. You’re not progressive enough. When you withhold support from a candidate because they don’t “match up” to the perfect candidate you have in your mind, that’s very dangerous, because you’re just helping the opposing candidate to win. We’re all supposed to be working together for real change in our county, right? But that’s darn near impossible when some folks hold back support because they’re waiting for their perfect candidate to magically appear, year after year.

This Saturday I had the distinct privilege of attending an event in Millerton featuring Senator Kirsten Gillibrand as the keynote speaker. All of us were genuinely enthralled as she delivered a true master’s class on how to win local elections. One point she made stuck with me the most. “No candidate is perfect,” she said. “The people who show up to run for local office are the best chance we’ve got. We need to do everything we can to get them elected.”

Friends, there is no such thing as the perfect candidate. If you are waiting for the perfect candidate to show up each year, you will be waiting for the rest of your life. We all agree Pat Ryan, Michelle Hinchey, Antonio Delgado, and Kirsten Gillibrand are incredible public servants – but the fact is, none of them are running for Dutchess County Executive this year.

I am your candidate for County Executive. And unless you want Sue Serino fighting for the issues you care about, I’m the only choice you’ve got.

Let’s say you are most passionate about protecting a woman’s right to choose. You might look at me and say, that’s not someone I can get excited about. That guy sure doesn’t look like my perfect candidate! But in reality, I am the only pro-choice candidate in the election for County Executive. I am the only candidate endorsed by Planned Parenthood. I also proudly serve on the board at Grace Smith House, which protects women and their families from domestic violence. My opponent is anti-choice. I am as passionate as you are about protecting women’s rights, even though you didn’t see that at first glance. Don’t I deserve your support?

Do you remember the feeling you had inside when you woke up to discover Donald Trump had defeated Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Presidential election? If you were like me, you stayed in bed that morning with tremendous sadness but also a lot of guilt churning inside. I knew I could have done more to show support for Hillary, but I didn’t. Looking back, we can all agree four years of Hillary would have been much better than four years of Trump.

You get what you pay for, I guess.

Let’s not make that same mistake this year. Let’s not wake up on November 8th with that sour feeling we could have done more to get our candidates elected. We have a real opportunity this year to bring real change to Dutchess County! But we can’t do it unless we all work together.

Time is running out. Election Day is less than two months away! Stop waiting for the perfect candidate and instead, support the candidates who are working hard to fight for you. We need everyone to chip in if we are going to win this fight. Please consider a donation today using the secure Act Blue link below. If everyone who reads this email today donated $50 we would be in a great position to win this election! Please give what you can. Thank you for your support!

I’d like to give a huge Thank You to all the amazing people who have been so supportive of my campaign from the very start! You know who you are. I am so humbled by your energy and enthusiasm, whether you have seen me as your “perfect candidate” or not. I can’t tell you how much your honest support means to me.

And as always, thank you for listening! See you next time!

Respectfully, Tommy


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