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Photo courtesy of the Sidie family
Freshman Eva Sidie opens yet another Snapchat of her dad’s yard sign. The light blue sign with “Jay Sidie for Congress” and a corresponding blue jay has become a recognizable symbol around the city, and for Eva that means an abundance of texts and snapchats asking if she’s related to the familiar name. She’s always proud to respond with a smile on her face; yes, Jay Sidie is her dad and he’s running for congressman of Kansas’ 3rd District.
The next question Eva’s asked is always “why?” Her dad’s not a politician, he owned an investment company. He has an MBA in finance, not a degree in political science. How can he be running for a high level political office? But to Jay and Eva, the campaign only seemed fitting.
“It kind of made sense,” Eva said. “He’s always loved politics and loved talking to us about them. He’s even involved in our neighborhood politics.”
It was that interest in politics that drew Jay to the congressional race. Jay had watched Kansas, under the direction of Republican Governor Brownback and Congressman Kevin Yoder, drop from 12th in the nation in personal income growth in 2010, to now 49th this year. He witnessed the public schools his two daughters attend receive budget cut after budget cut, and saw a government that he felt was failing to take action.
“I’ve been kind of selfish and have been focusing on my career, on my family, on my social life and have let somebody else worry about the politics, the economy and the schools,” Jay said. “But it reached a point where I felt I needed to step up.”
Initially, Jay thought maybe he’d help make phone calls to raise money for the Democratic Party of attend a few city meetings, but the Democratic Party of Kansas had other ideas. They needed a replacement to Republican congressman Kevin Yoder, and Jay was just the kind of fearless, everyday citizen the Democratic Party was looking for.
All it took for Jay to say yes was confirmation from his wife that he was perfect for the job. That was in March. Since then, Jay has won the democratic primary and is now gearing up for the general election on Nov. 8.
With the vote soon approaching, Jay now spends every day in his campaign office getting ready. Prior to his congressional campaign, Jay would work at an investment company from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m., leaving him with plenty of time in the evening to help with homework and cook dinner. He’d spent every weekday for the past five years working out through P90X with a friend of his over his lunch hour. He’d play tennis on the weekends and coach his younger daughter, Lola’s, soccer team.
Now, Jay works from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., leaving his daughters without their math tutor and his wife to cook dinner by herself. He spends his lunch hour at campaign meetings and his weekends at different parades and community organizations. But to Jay, all the sacrifices are worth it, because of the faith he has in his campaign.
“I spent four days with political analysts who did a lot of number crunching for me,” Jay said. “And according to their numbers, they said I’d have a great chance of winning.”
Even though Kansas appears as a dominantly conservative state, many of the registered Republicans are considered Republican in name only, or RINOs. This means that they’re actually moderate and vote for the person, not the party, but they register as republicans in order to vote in the republican primary. These votes are Sidie’s target audience.
However, the main obstacle in Jay’s campaign has been fundraising. A majority of his time is spent making calls to ask for donations.
“I haven’t even asked my parents for money since high school, and now I have to call up my friends and ask for money,” Jay said. “But I’m not asking for money for me, I’m asking so I can help the District.”
Even though asking for money pushes him out of his comfort zone, Jay has to do it in order to keep up with his opponent’s campaign. Yoder’s campaign is funded by five major lobby groups, including City Bank, Payday Loans and the gun lobby. However, Jay’s campaign is fully funded by citizens, with the average donation coming in at around $167, according to Jay.
According to Jay, he believes that the source of their campaign funding is what represents the difference between the two: Jay is a man of the people, Yoder is a man of Washington. Jay recalls a veterans’ 5k that he ran this past summer. A volunteer of his, who has now taken Jay’s place as soccer coach for his younger daughter, Lola’s, soccer team, had asked him to participate. When he arrived to the race, ready to run with 800 others, he saw that Congressman Yoder would be handing out the awards and speaking at the end.
“We put up pictures of the two of us at the race on my website and said, “who do you want for your congressman? The guy that runs with the people, or the guy that runs his mouth?” Jay said.
It’s this kind of stereotypical politician that Jay says motivates him during his campaign. To get ready for the general election, Jay will continue reaching out to raise more money for TV ads, radio ads and mailings. This is all intended to get his message across: put the businessman and citizen in Washington and get rid of the professional politician.
Jay considers himself the opposite of a politician. He spends his evenings with his family, his wife in the kitchen cleaning up and his daughters running around the house. He sits in his family room wearing a T-shirt that says “your mom drinks decaf” adorned with a “Sidie for Congress” pin.
“When I’m 80-years-old I want to sit around and talk about when I was a congressman and what impact I had, instead of wondering what would’ve happened if I had run,” Jay said.