Happy New Year to everyone! I can’t believe that we’re almost through January! With the current political climate in our country, I decided to interview a candidate running for the Kansas House of Representatives. Change happens at the local level, and Matthew Calcara is ready roll up his sleeves and get busy! In fact, he has already been hard at work since he began his campaign back in April. He is ready to help change Kansas into a better place for all people. In addition to campaigning, Matthew volunteers with the Kansas Voter Registration Project, helping people in Kansas and Missouri register to vote. He’s also volunteered with Kansas Equality PAC and other local organizations by building websites. For more information about Matthew and his campaign, visit https://matthewcalcara.com/
You’re a Kansan, born and raised. After high school, you attended the University of Southern California. What brought you back to your home state?
In a word: family. Almost my entire family lives in Kansas, and after a while, I just missed being around them. Plus, I had never intended to live in Los Angeles my whole life. All that sunshine and lack of actual seasons is just not normal.
What do you like most about living in Kansas?
The people. I am convinced that Kansans, as a rule, are some of the most amazing people on our planet. Even living in Los Angeles, I tended to have a lot of Kansans as friends because they were just fun and interesting and good-hearted people whom I was happy to be around.
In 2017, you began your candidacy for the Kansas House of Representatives, District 30 (representing Olathe and Lenexa). What pushed you to run for office?
The election of Trump got me more involved in politics, but what got me to actually run for office – instead of just volunteering for organizations like Equality Kansas and the Kansas Voter Registration Project – was the realization that I could run and should run. For that, I have the organization RunForSomething, which helps first-time millennial candidates run for office, to thank. They helped me see it was do-able if I was willing to put in the work and how badly we need people to step up and run at all levels.
What do you offer that is different from other candidates?
You mean aside from the fact that I would be the first openly LGBT person ever elected to the Kansas Legislature in [the] 150+ years of our history as a state? I’ve managed millions of dollars’ worth of digital projects in my career, with a special focus on getting news and information online and making it accessible. That should be helpful for a state government that seems allergic to transparency and afraid of the 21st century.
What is the biggest issue that Kansas is currently facing?
The [Gov. Sam] Brownback experiment has drained the state budget even more than people realize. We’ve emptied every state account with money in it, practically, from tiny funds meant to expand 911 location services in rural areas to the Department of Transportation, which has switched from a six-year road-replacement schedule to a 50-year one. Unless we fix the budget — and fast — we will be paying the costs of deferring so much maintenance for decades to come.
What big changes do you believe we need to see in Kansas in the coming years?
I think the best thing we as Kansans could do would be to raise our expectations of government, of our legislators and of ourselves. Our national government was once the envy of the world, and our state government the envy of our nation. We can do so much better, and we deserve so much better.
What advice would you give to someone interested in becoming involved in a political campaign?
Please, please do. Now is the time. Getting involved is easier than you think it is, and you can have a far bigger effect than you think you will. Find a candidate you like and offer to help their campaign — that’s a great first step. But the most important job in politics that no one has ever heard of is the precinct committeeperson. Contact the chair of your county’s Democratic (or Republican) party and ask if you can become one.
What do you like to do when you’re not campaigning or volunteering?
You don’t get to have any free time when you’re a candidate, unfortunately. But, theoretically, I really enjoy traveling — I was a travel writer for many years — and trying new restaurants since I can’t cook to save my life. I also play Ingress, the nerdier, adult version of Pokémon Go. Appropriately enough, I am on the blue team known as the Resistance.
What is your ideal date?
Nov. 7, 2018 (the day after the election) because I will get to sleep in.
[Ha! Ha! Not quite what I meant, Matthew, but cute!]
Okay, now for a fun question. If you were a winter Olympian, what would your sport be?
Probably skeleton or luge. Because after you’ve run for office, hurtling down a steep icy mountain track at 80 mph on a tiny sled seems like a piece of cake.