Joanne Terry: No regrets, grateful for the opportunity to run for office

Last November, I decided to enter the race to be the U.S. House representative here in District 8 for several reasons. But no reason was more important than ensuring that our incumbent didn’t run unopposed. Without opposition, any representative would feel free to go as extreme as they want.

So, while I didn’t win, I feel I was successful in representing the other 35% of us that don’t want this district to succumb to Trumpism, and about 22% of those are not registered as Democrats.

I believe in representative government, but representative of the people, not the national political parties.

South Patrick Shores resident Joanne Terry is grateful for having had the opportunity to run for Congress.
South Patrick Shores resident Joanne Terry is grateful for having had the opportunity to run for Congress.

I had hoped for rigorous debate of the issues and how they impact us locally, as well as nationally. I remain confident that I had the right message and platform to build a majority coalition of centrists across the political spectrum who are tired of the fear-filled political ads, tired of being bombarded with conflicting, often misleading information, and the over 10 texts and 70 emails per day that I received from races across the country.

By election day, I was ready to tune it all out!

My biggest challenge was getting my message out to people who wouldn’t even look at me, let alone talk to me, just because I’m a Democrat. While money helps (I had less than 10% of the incumbent’s total), I don’t think that’s the whole problem, especially in local races. Even if I had outraised and outspent my opponent, I can’t force voters to talk to me if they don’t want to. Voters must want to listen to balanced debate, even if they’re exhausted by media overload and without preconceived ideas based on party affiliation.

I knew there was partisan bias in my race, but I underestimated my ability to overcome it. When I introduced myself at public events, the first question many people asked was “What party are you?” not “What’s your platform?” This was true of both sides.

Some Republican responses were: “I only vote Republican” or “I moved here to get away from Democrats,” or “You should be ashamed of yourself for being a Democrat” — and many heads just turned away without even saying “Hi.” Some who did engage asked, “Why are you a Democrat?” And the people who got agitated because we agreed on so much, would go back to “All Democrats are socialists” or “Pelosi won’t let you vote that way.”

Just to be clear, I am not a socialist.

Some Democrat responses were “You’ve got my vote,” “I’m scared for democracy,” “Our incumbent won’t do anything for us” and even a few “We don’t need another moderate in Congress.”

Candidate for Congress Joanne Terry waving to voters at Kiwanis Island on Merritt Island on election day.
Candidate for Congress Joanne Terry waving to voters at Kiwanis Island on Merritt Island on election day.

On the bright side, several Republicans and NPAs I used to work with contacted me to voice their support because of the GOP extremism. Several Republicans told me the state of the Indian River Lagoon convinced them we need a change. A few Libertarians voted for me. And I had many people, on all sides, say they were relieved to have a moderate in the race. And a few Democrats became convinced not to attack Republican voters anymore because it just feeds the culture wars and makes things worse.

I remain frustrated that so many of us let partisan media and social media echo chambers, on both sides, tell us what to think based on party, instead of getting to know the candidates. My dream is that all our races would be non-partisan, that candidates only get money from voters in their district, and that we represent the district with positions on individual issues, not all-or-nothing party platforms. Here in this district, we are best served by environmental policies labeled “liberal” and pro-business policies labeled “conservative.”

We are hurting ourselves by letting the national rhetoric dictate our decisions. Our increasing wealth gap and homelessness is what will increase crime here, not the fact that California and New York voters choose to elect Democrats.

I am honored that nearly 120,000 voters chose me to represent them. I thank them for the trust and confidence in me to serve this district. I hope our representative considers us in his decisions during his eighth term. We will be watching and will continue to make our voices heard.

Joanne Terry was the 2022 Democratic candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives in Florida’s District 8.

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This article originally appeared on Florida Today: Congressional candidate: No regrets, grateful for the opportunity to run