“Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.”- Dalai Lama

It was a crappy day.  As if it was a divine answer to the proceeding decision I was bound to make.  Beyond the storms raging inside, it was also raining outside.  I had a decision to make and I knew I had to make it fast.  It was January 2011 and I was tired and doubled over in my chair (my back was responding poorly to the weather) talking to a gauntlet of people on the phone.  

“Jason Kander ran an identical campaign in 2006,” I said trying to seem all knowing.

“I’m not saying it can’t be done, all that I am saying is I would be concerned about fundraising because you need to start that now and you have inherent geographic constraints,” the voice on the other end continued, “Steve, I’m not saying you shouldn’t run.  In fact, I think you should.  However, if you decide to run we will need to continue to recognize all the limitations based on your status in the military and insert solutions to minimize the impact of those limitations on an effective campaign.”

“Yeah.  I’ll talk to Barbara Lanning and I will get that one guy’s information from her” (no one could seem to remember his name).

A few hours later I was on Facebook typing in a search query “Will Talbert”.  I sent him a message and got back on the phone.  A short time later I was on the phone with him.  I didn’t contemplate how to approach Will concerning the situation; I just called him when he sent me his phone number.  Something I learned years ago, if for no other reason than it is the easiest thing to remember, be honest.  Besides, living with integrity is far simpler than being a liar.  

“Good evening Will, my name is Steven Fines and I have been asked to run as a democratic candidate for the 36th Legislative District.  I am contemplating a run.  However, I understand that you are showing an interest in running as well.  All I expect to get out of this conversation is to learn a little about you and perhaps we can deconflict this situation.”

The rest is a private conversation.  The words he spoke were of little value at that moment.  While I learned a little about his past and about his draft platform, what was most important at the time was finding out who Will Talbert is.  

Will is a man of integrity.  Admittedly, there was a few times when he began “bullshitting” me.  I would ask him a question and he would begin his answer by putting on his “politician cap”.  Realizing the cap is a wrong fit; he would take it off and become more open.  His conscience doesn’t allow him to be anything less than absolutely honest.  In fact, while Will has never tried to lie to me, I can say with confidence that he is a terrible liar.  Furthermore, Integrity is the most important leadership attribute.  Without integrity, all the other leadership attributes become obsolete and, in the case of elected officials, authenticity suffers.  Without authenticity, a political career is over.

Will is a man of purpose.  I could hear it in his voice.  Will Talbert transcends what it means to be a Missouri democratic candidate.  There is an understanding; for five months out of the year a legislator executes his or her duties in Jefferson City.  However, what a legislator does during the seven months he or she is back in their respective districts will determine the level of consistent progress or atrophy within the communities of that district.  Every community has its own vision and an innovative legislator can enable or detract from that vision.  I have always believed that the legislator is the vital piece in the sustainable progressive puzzle.  So, does Will.  He will not just be a legislator 140 days out of the year.  Will Talbert will be a leader every day.

Will is a man of fidelity.  He was trying to hold something back during our conversation.  After we spoke for roughly an hour he felt comfortable speaking to me about his family.  I will leave it up to Will to tell his life story.  However, I will say he has endured monumental struggles and obstacles in his 45 years as a dutiful father and husband.  He gladly set aside his desires and ambitions to care for his loved ones and he would do it again without question.  He overcame those obstacles in a way that only a man of character can.  In the process, he became the individual and leader I strive to be every day.  To say I admire Will Talbert is an understatement.

Over the course of a short few months, Will and I have become close personal friends.  Other than my beautiful wife, there is no one alive I admire more than Will.  His courage is inspiring.  His intellect is aspirational.  His ingenuity transcends space and time.

Missourians need to stop selling themselves short.  As a social liberal I fight for the right for lesbian and gay couples to marry and for the woman’s right to choose.  As a catholic, Will does not.  So, we do disagree on some core issues.  I confidently say, there is no politician in the United States that will work harder for the working family and the farmer than Will Talbert.  But, in the final analysis, the best statesmen don’t say the right thing every time, but they do the right thing all the time.  So, as you’re shopping for the best politician to buy at the voting booth, look beyond the words, look deeper.  I promise Will Talbert will not disappoint.

We choose our elected officials by superficial means.  Politicians are made up of more than just policy positions and outerwear.  They are made up of enlightened or dark souls that are often hidden from the general public.  That is why I am endorsing a political candidate for the first time since 2003, when I ran Joy Fines’ campaign for the Excelsior Springs City Council.  I choose the enlightened path, I choose a man of character, not just because of his abilities, but also because of his flaws, I endorse Will Talbert as the democratic candidate for the 36th Legislative District.  

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