Politics often is described as “the art of the possible,” but for two first-time candidates from the UCR School of Business, it’s also about the art of service.
Second-year MBA student Joshua Rivera ran for the Mount San Jacinto College Board of Trustees. Turner Stanton ’17 was in the running for Town Council in his hometown of Danville, Calif.
Although the outcomes were different—Rivera won his campaign, while Stanton finished just 2 percent short—both novice politicians say the experience was rewarding.
“[My campaign] won in several ways,” says Stanton, who grew up in Danville. “We wanted to leave Danville better than when we started. … This was not a campaign for Turner Stanton; it was a campaign for the youth, the seniors, the businesses. The end result wasn’t what I fully wanted, but the experience was worth it.”
For Rivera, running for the board of trustees provided an opportunity to give back to MSJC, where he attended after his service in the Navy and before going on to undergraduate and graduate studies at UCR.
“At the end of the day, the amount of effort I put in, if it helps just one person, that’s what I’m looking for, to help them,” Rivera says.
The UCR Spirit of Service
Both candidates credit their experience at UCR with preparing them to seek office, as well as creating an appreciation for serving others.
Stanton was a School of Business ambassador, representing the school at functions, welcoming new students, and working on a professional level with the dean and other leaders. He thrived in an environment where he provided a voice for students, including those who were the first in their families to attend college.
“I just felt that internal fire burn helping somebody,” says Stanton of serving as an ambassador. “I thought, ‘I could do this 24/7.’ I am a public servant, not a politician.”
During his time as a UCR undergraduate, Rivera landed an internship with a mentorship program in Washington, D.C. He also connected with the school’s veteran community, and he is proud of how that program has grown.
“Higher education itself is a journey, and UCR has had a profound impact on my own journey,” he says. “Shout out to all my professors who were along my path. They have been there for me, to guide me, to say, ‘OK, Josh, that’s what you’re thinking, what if you look at it in this light?’”
Campaigning In a Pandemic
Running for office is not for the faint of heart, Stanton and Rivera say. This was especially true during a pandemic. Both described long days and nights of campaigning, often in difficult conditions, over several months.
Stanton, who has experience working on campaigns for other candidates, described the challenges of campaigning when ringing doorbells was not an option. Voters still need to see candidates, so that meant virtual events and keeping a distance at public events, like the farmer’s market, talking to voters through a mask.
Rivera, who never experienced the campaign trail before this year, credited the support of a strong team as he came to recognize the challenges of relying on virtual connections with voters.
“One of the things I’m good at is judging a room,” he says. “When you have the extra layer of a computer screen, you can’t talk in the same manner. On the flip side, I now have a reference point for campaigning.”
Advice for Aspiring Candidates
Both candidates say all the hard work, the long days, and the relentless demands of campaigning are worth it. The decision to run comes down to personal motivation, they say.
“If you want to do it, do it for the right reasons,” Stanton says. “If you are doing it for an agenda, do not do it. You have to do it for the service aspects and helping others. The thing about public service, if anyone wants to consider it, you have to be all in. It can’t just be a nice hobby.”
Rivera, who never expected to be in the public arena, made his own decision to run after a friend asked him, “If not you, who are you waiting for?” He says he would pose the same question to anyone wrestling with that decision.
“Whether you think you can or you can’t, you need to know you can,” he says. “To the next person thinking of this, I would say, ‘You can create change. You can do it.
“‘All it takes is throwing your hat into the ring.’”