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Say ‘nice to see you’, not ‘nice to meet you’ – early campaign lessons for Stanford, Erica

In her first entry for our new Election 2017 Candidate Diary series, National candidate Erica Stanford recounts the decision to stand for East Coast Bays, the mounting pressure with just over five months to go and the struggle to remember names and faces.

The last time I kept a diary it was 1995. I was 16. Barkers’ track pants and beefy tees were on high rotation, Green Day had just released Dookie and, according to 16-year-old Erica, Billie Joe Armstrong rulz 4eva. Flicking through the pages it was embarrassingly full of teen angst, emotion and high school crushes.

It’s 2017. I haven’t bought a single pair of track pants since high school. Green Day has just released Revolution Radio and I am taking my drumming mad nine-year-old daughter Holly to their concert in May. Clearly, Billie Joe Armstrong still rulz 4eva. So, as my Green Day prophecy held true I thought I would stay true to 16-year-old Erica and write a full account of the emotional highs and lows of my journey. I’m not sure which would sell better, the diary of a teenage Shore Girl or the diary of a 38-year-old wannabe politician, but we’ll see how we go.

I love the East Coast Bays. And that’s why I am campaigning to become the National Party MP for my home electorate. I was born here, went to Rangitoto College, got married on the Okura Estuary, and I’m raising my kids here. I am invested and involved in this community and I am absolutely committed to making this an even more prosperous, dynamic, close-knit and safe place to live.

I’m positive about the future under a National government. The last 10 years have thrown up some incredibly tough times, with two devastating earthquakes and a full-scale global financial meltdown. Despite this, we have pulled ourselves out of recession, created jobs and opportunities, lifted incomes and delivered better public services. Our low debt, low unemployment and strong economy means that we now have a lot more choices open to us than most countries. It’s having those opportunities and helping to shape them that excites me about potentially being in parliament.

‘If I want to meet every voter in the electorate before September 23, I need to meet 261 people each day.’ Photo: supplied

Those first few weeks can be daunting. As a new candidate, campaigning for the first time, it takes a certain type of courage to rock up to a stranger’s door and start talking about yourself. Or stop them outside a supermarket and shake their hand. Or to see your giant, oh-so high-def, face on hoardings across the electorate. I am in awe when I see public figures get up at the drop of a hat and give a five-minute, off-the-cuff speech. Putting yourself in a position where these things are a daily reality is not normal for most people. And it was certainly not normal for me.

What is normal for me is being terrible with names and faces. Both of these things feel like they might be important in this game. My husband is constantly whispering in my ear people’s names as they approach (he has even made flash cards of MPs for me, bless him). One of the first lessons I have learned while campaigning is to always say nice to see you rather than nice to meet you, to avoid those embarrassing situations where you’ve clearly forgotten the first time you met someone. So far I have to say that everything is going exceptionally well: I have only introduced myself to MP Chris Bishop twice.

Getting that first door knocked on, that first flyer handed out, that first speech made and that first hoarding up have made it all feel real; it feels like the campaign has really begun. But I have to say that I draw a lot of confidence from the overwhelming response I am receiving on the ground. I have had nothing but kind and supportive words, encouragement, and offers of help, even from the drunk guys that called me late on a Saturday night after rediscovering the flyer I had left with them earlier in the day. I have total confidence that their mad props and big ups will turn into votes come September. After two months of campaigning, I am absolutely loving getting out and meeting people, listening to their stories and asking how I can help.

Things aren’t always easy. The hardest thing in all of this has been coming to grips with the time I will have to spend away from my kids. This weighed heavily on me for a long while. My husband, and I spent a great deal of time talking it through and working out a plan to make sure that the impact on our family through the campaign and beyond was as positive as possible. I have to say that the kids have taken it all in their stride. They constantly amaze me with their enthusiasm and excitement about the changes in our household. They have, however, voiced concerns about Dad’s rock-hard, chicken nugget dinners. It’s not to say I don’t get twinges of that ever-present mother guilt. I took my son Alex to his first school visit last week and there were a few tears shed. Needless to say, they weren’t Alex’s.

Erica Stanford and family. Photo: supplied

I am infinitely grateful. I have an incredible support team around me and one of the things you realise very early on is that an electorate campaign is a massive task and is most definitely a team game. My campaign team turn up to meetings, plan the year, fundraise, organise my flyers, spend hours knocking up hoardings on Saturday mornings, and generally look after me.

MPs and senior ministers have called, emailed, written, and visited me to offer encouragement and support. It’s not every day that you get a call from the deputy PM just checking in to see how you are getting on. Nikki Kaye joined my campaign team on a 6km walk for the Motutapu Restoration Trust and then very cleverly cashed in that favour (with interest) by signing me up for a 10 km run in the Masters Games. Her support and advice on work-life balance and being a young female politician has been nothing short of amazing.

It’s high pressure and it’s high stakes. The reality is, that at this stage in the campaign most people haven’t met me and I have a lot of work to do. I am, most likely, no different to other new candidates in that we all need to fit campaigning in around life. I have a job, two children, a husband and a household that needs to be run. Life is a crazy mix of continuing my full-time work, school pickups, kids’ activities, homework, meal preparation, meetings, campaigning, finding time to exercise, feeling guilty about not exercising, and picking up the shredded toilet paper that constantly litters my house, because, you know, this is the perfect time to adopt two house-destroying kittens, isn’t it?

Looking back at what we have achieved so far in this campaign, I am blown away. This year we have put together a campaign team, fundraised, skinned the campaign car, delivered our first flyers, published articles, door knocked, and campaigned outside supermarkets and on main streets. I have engaged with thousands of people in the community, delivered speeches, visited businesses, RSAs, retirement villages, organisations and schools, organised public meetings, erected hoardings, printed T-shirts and campaigned at events. The campaign is well under way!

Recently someone posted a comment on my Facebook page asking, “isn’t it a little early for #CampaignTrail?” It’s a fair comment, but for the first time in 30 years the name MCCULLY, Murray will not be on the East Coast Bays ballot paper. That’s a big deal. If I want to meet every voter in the electorate before September 23, I need to meet 261 people each day. If I have a day off then the next day, it’s 522. So the time for #CampaignTrail is now. But you know what? I absolutely love it.

I am STANFORD, Erica and I am the new National Party candidate for the East Coast Bays.


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