Serendipity: On the campaign trail

Politics was never a passion of mine. I remember my dad engaging my grandmother in lively, good-natured political discussions. Even as a child, I knew her party of choice, and I also knew my mother did not believe in asking people how they voted. Political talk seemed complicated.

Impressions change and some four years ago, I went to my first political fundraiser. My good friend Marie’s son, Michael, was running for a seat on the East Peoria City Council. My husband and I enjoyed a nice evening with the Mike Unes for City Council group. Mike was a hit with us and many voters, and was the election’s top vote getter. Now he’s a Republican Candidate for State Representative in the 91st District.

I read his bio sheet, watch his television commercials, and feel sentimental as I remember him coming to our home, and knowing him as one of those kids I was happy my son chose as a friend. I’ve been to more than a few social events with him. This puts a different slant on politics for me.

I’m not in his district so I can’t vote for him, but I’m interested in talking to him. Not as much about his platform or voting record, as the path he took from a kid I remember seeing at church to a man now running for office.

He tells me the campaign trail is interesting and an “incredible learning experience. Every day is an eye opener.” He says current events have always fascinated him. A Communications major at Bradley University, he once wanted to be a sportscaster. The past ten years he’s worked for Heinold-Banwart, and is currently the accounting firm’s Director of Recruitment and Network Administrator. He and his wife Natalie have two daughters and two sons. He beams when he talks about his family, and he’s a hands-on dad, be it pitching practice or potty training.

Since the campaign began, he’s knocked on over 2,000 doors. “I believe in personal contact. I love meeting new people.” He says he and Natalie planned ahead financially so he could take an unpaid leave of absence for the campaign. “We live within our means,” he says, adding, “I treat government budgets as if it’s my own money. We are stewards of taxpayers’ money.”

Mike says he returns phone calls, and he implores people to vote the person, not just the party. “I’m in this for all the right reasons, and I know what I’m capable of doing.” He believes in his work ethic, and he’s grateful for his family and the opportunity to run for office. And he’s aware of the impossibility of pleasing everyone, but says, “I do what I think is best for the district.”

His sincerity is unmistakable and he’s upfront about struggles. Achieving a balance of quality time between work and family is difficult. He says there are pressures in running for office. And he talks about how he was “extremely” shy growing up. “I had to work very hard at that.” His efforts obviously paid off handsomely. Even the most gregarious person might find it taxing to visit over 2,000 households.

Politics aside, it’s a real pleasure visiting with someone who loves his work and believes passionately in it. The pleasure is even greater if you had the opportunity to watch the transformation from child to productive adult. Much success to you, Michael!

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