Representative Kelly Luxenberg is currently serving her first term as State Representative for the 12th district of Manchester, CT. She serves on the congressional committees on Children, Aging, and Labor & Public Employees. She grew up in Manchester, and attended Manchester Public Schools before going on to study international relations at Seton Hall University. Representative Luxenberg was interviewed by HYPEster Kelsey Barringham for HYPE’s Public Office Blog Series. This series focuses on interviewing public officials from different towns that HYPE members have an interest in running for public office. Our goal is to provide assistance by offering someone for members to reach out to.
What are three tips you have for getting elected?
1. Getting involved on the local level is important for anyone looking to run for office. All politics are local, and getting involved not only helps you make connections but it also helps you to understand what community members care about. One way to get involved is to join a committee. Joining a committee allows you to have an influence in your town or neighborhood, and this influence can help you have a positive impact prior to you holding an elected office.
2. When deciding to run for office you should also find an issue and make it your focus. Your issue can really be anything you potentially have the power to change, but choosing something that both you and constituents care about can make it easier for constituents to connect to you as a candidate. Whatever issue you choose, make sure you are an expert on it. Understand how your issue impacts your community, what your approach to solving the issue will be, and be able to justify why you chose the approach you chose. To be an expert you need to also understand what the opponents to your approach will say, so you can counter them with facts.
3. Many successful political candidates also take advantage of volunteer opportunities before running for office. Volunteering for a political campaign can help you better understand the process and give you ideas about what strategies to implement in your own campaign. While volunteering with a campaign can be especially insightful, volunteering more generally can also allow you the chance to start learning about what issue you would like to make “your issue”, and it gives you the chance to make connections. Building connections is crucial for anyone running for office because campaigns are all about building relationships. In a campaign you need to build relationships with constituents, and connections you make through volunteering might be able to help you get better access to the constituents in their network.
What made you want to run for office?
Prior to running for state representative, Kelly served on the board of education in her district. She knew she wanted to continue serving her community, but took a break from elected office when she had her daughter. "My husband actually held my current representative seat before me, so prior to running I was very familiar with the position and what the job entailed. When I decided to enter my name into the race in 2014, there was no real front runner yet and only men were running, so I felt it was the right time for me to run." Kelly is actually the first women to serve as 12th District State Representative for Manchester. "I wanted to be an advocate for women and families, and I also wanted to strengthen our health care system. After my father suffered a heart attack, health care became a central concern for my family and I wanted to make sure those dealing with medical issues and their families had an advocate on their side in the Connecticut general assembly."
How far in advance did you choose to run?
My personal experience was really an anomaly when compared to most running for state representative. Since my husband and I had already gone through the campaign process when he ran for the position, we knew what we were getting ourselves into and we did not need as much time as most probably require to plan out a campaign. My prior experience serving on the board of education for Manchester had allowed me to make many connections which also contributed to making the campaign process smoother. I had experience serving as a candidate surrogate for my husband, so I was used to making phone calls and going door to door to meet constituents. Someone who has less experience with campaigns should likely take more time when planning a campaign so they can learn as they go what strategies are best for getting yourself out there and your message heard.
What do you think potential candidates should know before deciding to run for office?
It is important for a candidate to understand that the position of state representative is a 24/7 job, especially when in session. You really need to know what you are getting yourself into and be willing to put in the work needed to do a good job. While every elected position is going to be a little bit different, it’s important to remember that you are there to serve your constituents and no matter what the position, it will require hard work. Candidates should also think about if they are ready to open their lives up to public consumption. You really need to have a thick skin as an elected official. When I was on the board of education I too often let comments from the Manchester PATCH and other sources get to me. I have since learned not to take the negative comments to heart. There are always going to be people who don’t like what you are doing, but you need to not let the negativity impact your ability to do your job.