The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, December 10, 2010


Jon Golnik reflects on his campaign for U.S. Congress

The Golnik family of Elizabeth Ridge Road. From left to right, Phyllis, Tillie, Zeke and Jon Golnik. (Courtesy photo)

Recent Congressional candidate, Jon Golnik took a break from raking leaves in his yard last week to talk about his experience running for Congressman in the 5th Congressional District. Golnik, who lives on Elizabeth Ridge Road with his wife, Phyllis, and two children, was a first-time Republican candidate challenging the Democratic incumbent, Niki Tsongas.

Although Tsongas ultimately won the race, Golnik talked enthusiastically about the experience. Gregarious, engaging and energetic, Golnik was voluble as he remembered the campaign.

“The whole process has been a wonderful one for me. It’s been a wonderful one for my family. It’s something that I always thought I was going to do at some point, one way or another.”

“For a process that’s made so many people cynical, it’s a process that’s warmed my heart,” Golnik shared. “For every bad experience (I had), I had ten good ones.”

“People are genuinely good. People are genuinely kind,” Golnik said emphatically.

“It was a long process. If you looked at where you were going to be at the end, you probably wouldn’t do it because it’s overwhelming. Fortunately, campaigns – like many things in life – grow incrementally,” Golnik said.

“I come from a very political family,” said Golnik, whose maternal grandfather was a life-long elected official in Connecticut and whose father attended the national conventions in the ‘50s and ‘60s as well as providing grassroots political support out of Golnik’s childhood home.

Golnik’s decision to run for Congress was fueled by a simple observation: “What I was struck by in Massachusetts was that so many elected officials ran unopposed (in the 2008 elections). I just thought that was horrible.”

After researching voting patterns, Golnik realized that Carlisle’s 5th District had the potential for a minority-party candidate to be successful. “It (the 5th District) was 55% unenrolled, 11% Republican and the balance were Democrats.”

As a political newcomer, hailing from a small town (Carlisle is the third smallest town out of 29 in the district), Golnik knew he had his work cut out for him. “I just figured I was going to put together the best team and I would just work hard,” Golnik said. “Working hard has always leveled the playing field for me.

“I’ve always been underestimated my whole life and that’s good because then you can surprise people,” Golnik explained.

Golnik is sanguine about the challenges of being a candidate.“No one outworked us. I remember walking around in Hudson on a Saturday and it was about 102 degrees. I remember saying to myself, ‘What are you doing?! Nobody cares; nobody knows.’ But those are the seeds that you plant. And you don’t want to have any regrets, ‘What if I had done this? What if I had done that?’”

Golnik spent many evenings visiting the Republican Town Committees (RTCs) in each of the District’s towns. “I would go around to RTC events at night,” Golnik described. “I would introduce myself and it was tough to talk to them because they were skeptical. You had to get people to believe.

“We also needed to reach out to the 55% of the voters that were unenrolled,” Golnik continued. “Running a campaign is very much a marketing effort and the product is the candidate.

“So we would go to fairs; we would go to veterans’ events. We would go to 4th of July parades. We marched in a ton of them and that was brutal because of how hot it was. We finally had my wife, Phyllis, drive the car and [my daughter] Tillie would sit in the car because she’s not a big walker and [my son] Zeke would walk with me.

“Public speaking is an acquired taste for me,” Golnik said of the debates. “But when you’re comfortable with the topics and comfortable with the issues, it’s not too bad. And if you have a strong opinion about it, which I usually do,” he said with a laugh, “it’s pretty easy.”

Golnik is positive about how he ran his campaign. “We stayed on message. We ran a campaign that was issues-based. We didn’t get involved in the politics of destruction and that was very important to me. I vowed that I was going to have people say, ‘Hey, that Jon Golnik’s a good guy. Even though he’s a Republican, he’s still a good guy.’”

Golnik is philosophical about losing the race. “The turn-out-the-vote effort that the Democrats had was historic. The Democrats did a great job and you should tip your hat and learn from that.”

While Golnik knows he’ll remain in politics, he’s not certain about another run for Congress. “You have to be smart because it’s a year out of your life,” he said. “It’s tough on your family because as things begin to ramp up you leave the house at 8 a.m. and you’re not back until midnight. You’re running on empty and you’re not yourself when you’re around. You’re nervous. You’re grumpy.”

“I’m a real hands-on Dad,” Golnik continued. “I have a small business and it gives me a lot of flexibility. I get up with them (his children). I take them to school; I can pick them up from school. I have the flexibility. I go to all their sporting events. And all of a sudden, I went from doing that to not being here at all. So it’s taken me some time to reintegrate myself back into their lives.

“But how often do you get to teach them a life lesson that whatever they want to do, they can do it if they get someone to help them and put their mind to it. The sky’s the limit. It (the campaign) was a primary-source civics experience for them,” Golnik said.

In the coming months, Massachusetts lawmakers will be considering how Congressional Districts should be redrawn to reflect current data from the 2010 Census. “We’ll have to see what goes on now with redistricting,” Golnik said.

“We’re going to lose a (Congressional) seat most likely, although I won’t believe that until it’s done. So we’ll see how the redistricting goes and try to enjoy the ride a little bit.

“Really, when you think about it, when you decide to run for office, it may actually be a two- or three-cycle process because 90% of your money is spent raising your name recognition,” Golnik concluded. “We’ll see what makes sense and maybe we’ll do this again.” ∆

© 2010 The Carlisle Mosquito