As a result of the growing dissatisfaction with the major parties, passionate Americans all across the country are stepping up to run for office as independents. Among these candidates is Stacie Banks, running for Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction. We caught up with Stacie to ask her about her experience as an independent candidate.
I have five core principles as an independent, and they are the same core principles I was taught growing up.
There is nothing more important than your integrity. You should compromise in life, but you should never compromise your integrity.
It is always easier to tell the truth. It’s also better to tell the truth. If you are struggling with doing what’s right remember that in the long run, you’ll be happier and healthier when you are honest.
It is lazy to accept any idea or claim without question. Never accept being told what to think by anyone - no matter which side that person is on.
Know your own mind; be confident. When you feel strong, you can discuss and argue without making the other person your enemy.
Keep your mouth shut and your ears open. There is a time to talk and a time to be the decision-maker, but until that time comes, listen.
There are really two barriers to being elected as an independent. The first is institutional and the second is psychological. In terms of institutions, the system is designed for the two major parties. Everyone else has to break in. For example, in Arizona independents can run for office. However, Democrats and Republicans have to collect around 5,000 signatures, whereas I have to collect 45,000. The parties also have infrastructure and existing systems to support candidates. That’s what they do. I have no infrastructure to collect signatures, host events, plan rallies, etc.
The psychological barrier is in the mind of voters. They may be frustrated with Democrats and Republicans, but they have a general idea about what those labels mean. People are more comfortable casting their vote for what they recognize regardless of whether they are happy about it. Independent isn’t really a label. It’s a state of mind, and independents can run the gamut philosophically. That’s why I am so happy to have the Centrist label. It describes my philosophy perfectly, and it helps people quickly identify where I stand.
I decided to run for office because I was completely disgusted by the 2016 election, and I just kept thinking, “How did we get here?” It didn’t even matter who anyone supported. All viable choices seemed flawed at best. I was really feeling hopeless, frustrated, and powerless. It was in that mindset that I saw a great quote from Theodore Roosevelt that I keep framed in my office called The Man in the Arena. In it he says "It is not the critic who counts, but the man in the arena whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood." I decided I’d had enough, and I was going to enter the arena regardless of how dusty and bloody it gets. I really feel like the future of our democracy is at stake. We’ve taken it for granted and assumed it will always be there - we simply can’t make that assumption any more. All of us in the center have to get into the arena or accept that our system is lost to us. It’s really that serious. As an educator whose expertise and passion is public education, running for Superintendent of Public Instruction seemed like the natural choice.
I love baseball, and we are huge Diamondbacks fans in this house. We spend a lot of time at the ball park as a family. We go to as many games as we can during the season, and it’s just a great way to spend time together. Some people think baseball is boring, but there is so much going on all the time. You just have to learn about the game from someone who really understands it. I’m also a data nut, so I love the statistics. When my team is struggling, I start crunching the numbers like I’m the next Bill James.
You might think the obvious response from a candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction would be education, but I would actually address the issue of poverty first. Arizona is one of only a handful of states with a poverty rate above 20%. In addition, more than 50% of our children live in low income families. We know the negative impact this has on educational success. Until we seriously address poverty and low income, we won’t see dramatic improvement in Arizona’s education rankings. We have stressed our school system to the breaking point by leaving it to schools to handle all the struggles children face without the funds needed to do so. This is the root cause of low teacher pay, low test scores, and most of the major struggles schools face.
I have a clean slate. My views and opinions aren’t determined by the platform of my political party. Thus, I can use my experience as an educator to develop a list of priorities and to develop solutions to the real problems in education. I don’t have a separate set of talking points designed to appeal to a base. I have no base of extreme thinkers that I need to court in order to win a primary.
Stacie Gladden Banks grew up in an agricultural community in Arizona. She attended public schools from kindergarten through college. The decade she spent in the classroom as teacher was highly rewarding, but she grew increasingly frustrated by political damage wrought upon public schools. Eventually, she decided she could best serve students by leaving the classroom to fight for real solutions to complex problems.