Know What You Think with Kristina Keats CW 04 – Transcript

ThinkingJohn: Tsarpalas: Okay, I’m here with Kristina Keats and we’re going to call this segment “Know What You Think.” Tina, what do you know and what do you think?

Kristina Keats: Well, what am I thinking about in terms of the segment is that okay, you’ve decided that you want to run for office and there’s something that motivated you. People just don’t decide to run for office for no reason. And that may be an issue that you really know a lot about. You might be running for city council because you’re upset the traffic patterns or spending. It doesn’t matter what it is, but you may be very passionate about one issue. But, when you run for office, there are usually a lot of issues. You may not care about them, but other people do. So you need to sit down and figure out exactly what your position is on every conceivable issue you can think of: taxes, spending, fire, police, education, real estate assessments, abortion, guns, healthcare, you name it. Any issue that you think might be in any way relevant in your race, make a list of all the issues.

John Tsarpalas: And let me interject something here. You also need to kind of know how local government works and is that an issue for what you’re running for. I mean, people often talk about property tax assessments, and you’re not running for the county assessor office; you are running for a village board.

Kristina Keats: Right.

John Tsarpalas: You can say, “I can control the budget in that town so that there will be less taxation on the assessment, but I have nothing to do with the assessment.”

Kristina Keats: Right.

John Tsarpalas: So you need to be able to help steer people into the right thing.

Kristina Keats: Right.

John Tsarpalas: Around here, I mean, people get very confused about we have townships, and then we have school districts that also have the term township on them, but they are a different district, different body. But people think they are the same thing.

Kristina Keats: Right.

John Tsarpalas: You need a little general understanding, first of all, of what government agency, what government body is doing what in your area.

Kristina Keats: Right. Well, Illinois is probably one of the worst in the nation in terms of-

John Tsarpalas: It is; it’s the worst.

Kristina Keats: First off, they have more jurisdictions than any other state and it is just a mess. And they’ve designed it that way on purpose because it’s harder for the voters to track what’s going on. So, yes, it’s right that you need to- that’s why I say- know what the issues are that are going to be affecting your office. But, for example, the issue of abortion, even though it has nothing to do with school board, village board, county board, you still have people who want to know what your position is on it.

That may seem crazy, but voters use it as a values measure. And the reason why they ask questions about that is because they know what they think and it’s an easy issue for them to understand. And they’re not wrong in thinking that it gives them a window into how you think.

So, even issues that you’re not going to be able to affect, like abortion running for school board, somebody is going to ask you about it. And you may be shocked to find out how that issue may in fact be something that the school board has something to do with. Back in Illinois, the local high school had a program called LINKS, where they connected high school girls to abortion clinics without parental knowledge. I don’t think that most parents even knew that it was going on. And it was a volunteer organization, but it was invited into the school by the school administration.

So you may be surprised at how a lot of these issues that you think have nothing to do with what you’re running for may rear it’s ugly head. So you need to sit down first and figure out exactly what you think about every one of these issues. That’s the beginning step.

John Tsarpalas: And a good way to do that not only is to sit down and make a list, but also to talk to some friends. Have them sort of quiz you. Ask them to ask questions of you. Because things will come at that you hadn’t thought of. I’m a big guy, I’m very much in favor of right to work laws. This has to do with unions and paying union dues. And so many people have never even heard of the concept. It was always interesting to me. I always thought everyone knows what this is.

So whatever it may be, you need to get with some friends, go out to coffee with some different people, ask them what issues are on their mind, what are they thinking, what would they want to know, and do a little practicing that way in advance.

Kristina Keats: In a safe environment.

John Tsarpalas: Right.

Kristina Keats: You know, people who aren’t going to not vote for you because you made a mistake on what you said. So get your list as complete as you can. And you can always add things. Because when you are out talking to people… I remember when I was running and, you know, you get abortion all the time, guns some times, education. And then one time I knocked on a door and the lady wanted to know what my position was on historic preservation. I had no idea.

And it’s okay to not know everything because when someone says to you, for example, “What’s your position on historic preservation?” you can guarantee that that is something they are passionate about. So it never hurts to say, “Well, you know, I really don’t know that much about it. You must know something about it. Why don’t you tell me what you think?” And just by listening to someone, they can end up supporting you because you are willing to listen to what they say, even if you don’t agree. You don’t have to tell them that you don’t agree. But you can listen to them.

And one of our future podcasts, we’ll be talking about once you have your position, then you really have to think about how you talk about it. Because one of the mistakes that new politicians do is that they think everybody agrees with them and they just say whatever they think. And in the process, they alienate a lot of people. And many times you can say the same thing in two different ways and one way you get thirty percent of the people to agree with you, and the other way you can get sixty percent of the people to agree with you. And you’re saying the same thing. But you really need to become sort of an amateur psychologist and try to figure out when you say something, how people could possibly hear it. You know, it may not be all the way that you said it.

And also this is why you can to be out meeting people one on one a lot, because you can test phrases and see what kind of reaction you get. I, in my years of running campaigns, had come up with a lot of phrases that I thought were just terrific, just a terrific phrase. And then I tested it out at the next train station, and I find out I’m really making people angry or unhappy or make them dislike my candidate. They hear it a way that is completely different than I thought we were saying it.

John Tsarpalas: Right.

Kristina Keats: And there’s no book or phrase book that we can send you to that says, “Okay, this is how you should talk about everything,” because this is where you’ve got to really learn how to read people and just test it.
John Tsarpalas: Yup.

Kristina Keats: It’s the only way. And by the way, Frank Luntz, who works for Fox News and was the mastermind behind the Republican ’94 takeover of Congress with the Contract with America and came up with the way to present that, says the same thing. He says, “I’m not a genius. I try things and then I listen to how people react.” But the more you do it, the more you can zone in on, you know, where the language might be not as good as it should be. And we’ll talk and give specific examples in one of the private podcasts about how to improve your message.

John Tsarpalas: Right.

Kristina Keats: We’ll go into a lot of detail. But to begin with, you’ve got to know what you think.

John Tsarpalas: Right.

Kristina Keats: Before you can go out there.

John Tsarpalas: Right. And all politics is local. And it’s funny how one town… I mean, we worked four towns in our old township work and one town can be one way and another town be another way on an issue. It’s really interesting how different people are. And I’ve done a lot of petition work. It was interesting, in and around Chicago area, if I was very aggressive with the petition, I did well. If I was more polite, I didn’t do well. But if I got kind of way out of the Chicago area, literally out in rural areas, it was just the opposite. You had to be very polite and gentle. So it depends on where you are and what you are doing. It’s amazing how regional, how local everything is. And that old saying “all politics is local” is just so true.

Kristina Keats: Right. Well, and the other things like in certain areas where I’ve worked, if someone signed your petition that means that they are supporting you. In other areas, that has no correlation whatsoever because people are polite; they’re nice. They’ll sign your petition even if they have no intention whatsoever of supporting you. So you have to kind of figure that sort of stuff out, too. What kind of area do you live in?

John Tsarpalas: Yeah. Just test it. Practice.

Kristina Keats: Right.

John Tsarpalas: The best thing to do is to get out and go talk to people, door to door. Around here we like to work commuter train stations in the mornings. It’s a good place to meet people and talk to people. And they’ve got a few minutes to kill before they get on a train. Just do it. You’ve got to be out and you’ve got figure it out. The more you do that, the better you’re going to get at crafting the proper wording. And then don’t be afraid to pull some friends together into a room and see what they think. And kick it around and rehearse and practice, because practice makes perfect.

Kristina Keats: Right.

John Tsarpalas: And, Tina, you were the master at that. You did a lot of that around here. We always brought people together in your living room and Tina’s-

Kristina Keats: Well, and you have to have people who are willing to tell you what they think, you know?

John Tsarpalas: Right.

Kristina Keats: And you know who your friends are, who will do that. But absolutely. Use everything you’ve got. You need everything you’ve got.

John Tsarpalas: Yes, and then some and a little bit of luck.

Kristina Keats: Right.

John Tsarpalas: But first of all, you’re going to learn a lot. You’re going to grow as a person. And hopefully you are going to win election and make a difference in your community. Because so many of these local organizations- schools, village, whatever- they need good leadership. They need wisdom. They need people that have common sense; it’s so lacked in so many places.

Kristina Keats: Right.

John Tsarpalas: We just have to keep helping people here and keep inviting them to come back. We’re going to keep giving them ideas and it’s just going to keep growing from there. So thank you, Tina.

Kristina Keats: Okay, thank you and good luck.

John Tsarpalas: A couple of final thoughts on the discussion that Tina and I just had. First of all, as you are thinking about the issues you are running on, think of positive answers. You don’t want to be negative in your answers. You don’t want to be about “no.” You want to be about “Yes this. This is a positive. This is why it’s going to make your life better, voter.” And always remember when you are talking to a voter, it’s about how it’s going to improve their life, how it’s going to make their life, their families’ world better. Why is this good? Let them know the reasons.

So think of those reasons and think of little stories. If you could meet people on the street when you are talking to them and you’re talking about the situation and a story comes up, save them. Use stories. People remember stories and stories are a great way to get across your point. Liberals are great at pointing out and having a story of some person who is suffering and we have to help them. Conservatives tend to not have those stories; we’re more about the facts. But those stories do sell and they are important. And those stories are there; we just have to look for them.

Most government programs- the more government we have- hurts people. And we don’t point out how it is hurting people. And then we’re not saying it in positive ways. We’re not pointing out how if we do this and don’t do that, we won’t hurt people and we will have this positive effect. We need to always spell out the positive effects.

Something else we touched on was rehearsing with other people. It’s important to rehearse with other people. Pull a small group together in someone’s living room and go through issues. And have them give you their ideas and their feedback. But, again, remember to try to come up with positive answers. Fairly brief answers- you don’t want to go on and on. You don’t have a person’s ear for that long. So try to keep it short and sweet. And we’ll get into issues in detail in further podcasts. But this will give you something to start thinking about, about what you believe, what you’re interested in running for and those issues.

If you’d like more information on Tina or myself, you can go to, and the show notes and the transcript for this particular podcast is at Feel free to email Tina or myself at my email address, And I will forward emails to Tina because she is retired and she doesn’t want to deal with it.

Please spread the word. We would love to have this community growing of people we can be helping train to run elections, run for office, and just to be more effective activists. It’s the only way those of us who believe in limited government are ever going to stop this leviathan is to get involved and get involved at the local level. That’s what we’re all about. Until next time, I’m John Tsarpalas. Thanks!

Kristina Keats: Sit down and figure out exactly what your position is on every conceivable issue you can think of.

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