Although he lost his bid to Virginia’s House of Delegates on Election Day, Colin Harris ’13 said that he has gained “a million” stories from his time on the campaign trail — from encounters with community members to a heated confrontation with a llama.
Harris ran in Virginia’s 18th district against incumbent Republican Michael Webert, who has held office since 2011. The election was notable for the relatively young ages of the two competing candidates. Webert received 63 percent of the votes while Harris received about 37 percent, according to the Virginia Public Access Project.
Although Harris raised $166,914 to Webert’s $146,955 in 2013, he was unable to combat the district’s strong Republican base. The last time a Democrat won in Virginia’s 18th district was in 1991, and Webert won his 2011 election with nearly 70 percent of the vote. The Nov. 5 election was the best showing by a Democrat in the district since 2001.
Voters may have been concerned with the rollout of the Affordable Care Act, which could have been a leading factor in the high turnout in his Republican precinct that helped topple his campaign.
Reflecting on his time spent running for office, Harris said meeting the voters of his local community was the best part of his experience.
“Running for office gives you an opportunity to get to know your own community with a level of intensity that few people ever do,” Harris said. “I was inspired and humbled by the basic goodness of people that I encountered.”
Harris recalled an experience he had while campaigning at an agriculture fair, where he attempted to pet a llama that did not want to be petted.
“It made a whistling noise at me and before I could take my hand away it sat right on my chest,” he said.
Harris plans to continue life in his hometown while working for Aurora Flight Sciences, an aerospace company.
“Certainly, I’ll stay involved in local politics,” Harris said. “It’s much too early to say whether or not you’ll see my name on a ballot in the future.”
Harris focused his platform on the issues impacting his community and the balance between county and state governments. He said he was satisfied that many conservatives supported his views of privacy rights and local self government.
When asked about long-term political ambitions, Harris was quick to emphasize his focus on serving the community, citing law school as a possible future endeavor.
Former College Democrats president Mason Cole ’13, who assisted his campaign in Virginia, said that Harris has an expansive knowledge of the issues facing his district.
“Even though he didn’t win, I think by being a serious challenger, it forced his opponent to pay more attention to the key issues that face his district,” Cole said. “This was a great starting point for his political career.”
Harris pointed to Dartmouth’s government department for helping prepare him for the campaign.
“It’s owed a great deal of credit not only in terms of preparing me technically for a campaign and mastering policy information, but also for the ethic of public service,” he said.
In a concession speech, the text of which was published on his campaign’s Facebook page, Harris thanked supporters for their help while expressing optimism for the election results.
“I got into this race not to build my resume or see my picture in the newspaper, but to work for all of you and to move our great political debate,” Harris said. “When viewed from that perspective, tonight should be considered a major, unqualified victory.”