Write-In An underdog campaign to create change

By July of 2020, the Pandemic was already hitting hard in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Businesses were struggling, workers were unemployed, and the threat of the spreading sickness loomed. It was the final spark that brought to life a deeper calling for politics in longtime resident Tom Morris. He had seen a decline in Bowling Green’s civic growth, and decided to take action. When the current Mayor Bruce Wilkerson ended his re-election campaign, Morris saw an opportunity.

Tom Morris officially launched his campaign for the office of Mayor. Falling just behind the deadline to get his name on the ballot, he began a vigorous campaign as a write-in candidate.

What are the chances of winning a write-in campaign? If the United States Senate is taken as an example, the odds are slim.

Source: www.senate.gov, Reuters

Tom Morris faces similar odds in his fight to become Mayor.

Morris was inspired to run by his dissatisfaction with Wilkerson. The former mayor faced a series of minor ethics scandals before ultimately dropping out of the race citing only health concerns, giving his endorsement to fellow Republican Todd Alcott. Despite this change, Morris decided to push forward with his campaign.

Though the mayor's office is officially considered non-partisan, Morris is an outspoken democrat with a focus on progressive issues, some that are controversial or unpopular in the political arena of Bowling Green.

He is a staunch environmental activist, and that focus is something he hopes to bring to the city.

“Climate change should be on everybody's mind and we should have policies to address that."

Morris knows that climate change can be a hot topic that can make or break many votes, and especially turns off conservative voters.

“I’m extremely concerned about the lack of public officials even mentioning it… they're afraid to. It shouldn’t be controversial,” Morris said. “If it costs me votes, so be it, I wanna talk about it anyway.”

Morris is an advocate of renewable energy and even installed solar energy on his own home, as well as other houses he rents in the community.

“It’s doing the right thing to get away from carbon based fuels and in the long run is also a money saving thing.”

He also does his best to continue recycling despite the city’s significant cuts to their recycling program. A focus of his campaign was restoring this program in Bowling Green.

Social Media platforms such as TikTok, Instagram and Facebook have become vital ways for campaigns to connect with voters.

The democratic party of Bowling Green promoted the campaign in several virtual town hall events on social media for democratic candidates for mayor and city commission, as well as state representatives and senators from Bowling Green.

Morris’s first true foray into local politics was volunteering for Jeanie Smith, a local democrat and middle school teacher who ran for state senate in 2018. That year he also began serving on the executive board of the local democratic party.

“I really got involved in her campaign, we did what seemed like miles and miles of canvassing. It was really then when I was on the inside of a campaign and saw what happened. It was a good learning experience.”

Smith’s campaign ended in a loss, gravely disappointing her many supporters and volunteers, including Morris. This disappointment gave him inspiration to further his work in local politics, and he began to conceive of a run for public office himself.

Morris spent most of his career as an engineer, leading teams in various problem solving tasks and handling crisis situations, giving him the skills to take on the role of mayor. “I see a lot of public service as problem solving. I have skills in bringing people together, in being a coordinator and problem solver,” Morris said.

Morris’s family threw their support to his campaign, with his wife Stephanie Morris phone banking and writing postcards among other work, and his son Zac Morris helping to spread the word through social media videos, yard signs, and other tasks.

On November 10, 2020 media outlets officially called the race for Bowling Green’s mayor. Todd Allcott had won by a wide margin, earning 14,494 votes to Morris’ 2,588.

Despite how the Mayor’s race ended, Morris says it won't be the last time he runs a campaign for public office.

“I’ll at least be sure to get on the ballot next time.”