When Failure is Not an Option

Host, Ken Harbaugh, interviews political leaders, influencers, and other history makers about the choices we confront when failure is not an option. Choices like Alexander the Great made when he landed his troops on the shores of Persia and ordered his men to burn their boats.

Listen on Apple Podcasts Listen on Spotify

Chairwoman Shontel Brown: Bipartisanship and Ohio’s 11th District

| S:1 E:50
Chairwoman Shontel Brown: Bipartisanship and Ohio’s 11th District

Shontel Brown is the Chairwoman of the Cuyahoga County Democratic party, and was both the first woman, and the first african-american, elected to the position. She recently won a heated primary in Ohio’s 11th congressional district, which gained national attention and has been seen as an indicator for the direction of the Democratic Party.

Ken Harbaugh:

Burn the Boats is proud to support VoteVets, the nation’s largest and most impactful progressive veterans organization. To learn more, or to join their mission, go to VoteVets.org.

Shontel Brown:

When I'm in the community and I'm talking about when I'm crossing paths with people, first and foremost, you've got to meet folks where they are and you have to recognize that this is hard work and that those who again have been disenfranchised. And when you see people that are working so hard to take away something, remind them that people don't try to take things away from you that don't have value, right?

Ken Harbaugh:

I’m Ken Harbaugh, and this is Burn the Boats, a podcast about big decisions. On Burn the Boats, I interview political leaders and other history makers about choices they confront when failure is not an option.

My guest today is Shontel Brown. She is the Chairwoman of the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party, and recently won a heated Democratic primary in Ohio's 11th congressional district. That race gained national attention and was seen as an indicator for the direction of the Democratic Party.

Chairwoman Brown, welcome to Burn the Boats.

Shontel Brown:

Hey, thank you, thank you, thank you. And Shontel is more than fine, we are friends, so I'm glad to be on this show. Thank you so much.

Ken Harbaugh:

Well Shontel, it's good to have you. I don't think I really did the primary justice in my intro because it was rough to say the least.

Shontel Brown:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Ken Harbaugh:

I was rereading an economist article about it, which described it as vicious. And I don't want to rehash all of that bad blood because what I want to get to is this: How do we heal? How do we repair whatever damage was done? The larger question is about how big can the Democratic tent be and what do we need to do to fix it?

Shontel Brown:

Well, that is loaded. Listen, I took some steps actually today and I'm a big girl. Politics is a contact sport, right? But we really have to, in my opinion, come together after a candidate wins the party nomination. In our case, I am the Democratic nominee and I expect, desire, and hope that those who perhaps didn't support me- and let's keep in mind while it came down to two dynamic women, there were 11 other people in this race. So for those folks that didn't see me as their initial choice, I'm humbly and respectfully asking with bold expectations that they join me so that we can get some work done. I think, what has to happen in order for that to become a reality is something that I tried to practice during the campaign, which was really focusing on the work, focusing on the issues, putting personalities and partisan- I shouldn't say partisan, but labels if you will, aside.

As an elected official, when I am working for the people and they call and they say, “Shontel, how can I get some rental assistance?” Or when they ask “When is the next food bank happening?” Or “Can you assist us with how to get a PPP loan?” They never ask are you progressive or moderate, right? And so while those labels, some people wear very proudly, the label that I embraced the most, the most endearing to me is Democratic, humble servant. I'm a public servant. I'm a person that works for the people. And so that's really, to me, what it has to be about. And so I took some steps today. As a matter of fact, we had a unity breakfast and then a unity lunch to just try to coalesce and bring folks on board. And find out what their issues are for those that didn't support me and see how we can potentially move forward.

Ken Harbaugh:

Well you are the Democratic nominee now.

Shontel Brown:

Yes.

Ken Harbaugh:

Headed into the general. How do you communicate to those who may have preferred one of the other 10, that the stakes are just too high to sit out the general or to hold a grudge. When we look at the direction of the Republican Party today, is that part of your message in trying to convey just what we're up against?

Shontel Brown:

Absolutely. It is definitely a part of the message. A gentleman who has been around the Democratic Party for quite some time, Mr. Tom Longo, he said to me, very simply “Shontel,” and this was prior to winning he said “after you win,” which I appreciate his prophecy in that. But he said, “we have to recognize that the biggest challenges we face are in the Republican Party, when we look at the condition of our state and how we have come out of four years of insanity.”

And now we have a little sense of normalcy now, thank God for President Joe Biden and Vice President Harris who have put civility and decency back into our politics. I am eternally grateful for that, but when we look at what's at stake, I mean, our voting rights are being attacked every day, right? Attacked throughout this country, and even here in our own state, when we look at gerrymandering, when we look at how the lines are considered to be redrawn there? These are all in the hands of Republicans who just aren't playing fair. They are certainly the epitome of, ‘if we can't beat you, we will cheat you.’ And so it is insanity at its highest form and a lot of hypocrisy there too, so I think that we have a prime opportunity as Democrats to show the people who is the party that has stood for a working rights, civil rights, voting rights, all the things that have made us the party of the people, if you will. And that to me is a sense of urgency that is undeniable, especially when we are in times of a pandemic, unprecedented times, dealing with unemployment and this virus, so many things that people on the other side of the aisle just seem to dismiss as not a part of our reality, but things that we are feeling here in my backyard every day.

The urgency is there and we have to recognize, a house divided cannot stand. We have to unite so we can overcome the challenges and the very, very many egregious laws that are being passed by Republicans to make sure that we protect our democracy for the greater good of this country.

Ken Harbaugh:

You referred to that little sense of normalcy that the Joe Biden administration has restored. But do you worry that that might lead to a sense of complacency at least among Democrats?

Shontel Brown:

No, absolutely not. I think what he has restored and is continuing to- and that normalcy, but also fighting so tirelessly to bring back is bipartisanship, right? And the reason I think that that is important and we share the same value is that right now we have a slim majority and we could really take advantage of that. But how long will that last, right? With the way that the Republicans are playing the game, that majority could easily switch in 2022, if we aren't vigilant, if we aren't active, if we aren't engaged. And so what President Biden has understood and long understood giving his tenure and experience is that sustainability is achieved through that bipartisanship.

Now, granted, if you don't have folks that are willing to work collaboratively, that creates what we see as gridlock, but I think over time we can get back to a place where folks are really putting the people first and not overly concerned with their partisan politics. And I like to believe that even though we were in a Democratic primary, because there was such a stark contrast between me and my primary opponent, if you will. And I was very intentional about focusing on those issues that people want to see more of that, the division, the polarization has become less palatable and people are suffering so much that they want people who are not just so rooted in this all or nothing approach because they recognize all or nothing usually ends up with nothing, so we got to be able to sit at the table and if it takes making some incremental steps, then I think people are willing to do that because you live to fight another day, right?

Ken Harbaugh:

Right. Right. And the fight will never be over.

Shontel Brown:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Ken Harbaugh:

And I'm all for bipartisanship when there is a party acting in good faith on the other side.

Shontel Brown:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Ken Harbaugh:

But I'm just wondering with the state of today's Republican Party and certain members of the Ohio Delegation. I mean, how does one bring oneself to work with them? I mean, you have active seditionists that you are going to be sharing a plane ride with down to DC. How do you work with a man like Jim Jordan who has done everything he can to undermine the legitimacy of the Biden election, to the point where the Democratic leadership refused to seat him on the January 6th commission, for cause, for good reason. How do you work with a guy like that? And the cabal of seditionists around him?

Shontel Brown:

Listen, let me be abundantly clear. I recognize that this work is going to be hard. It's not all kittens, rainbows and sunshine, right. But I also recognize there is no cure for those who are willfully ignorant, and those that just do not want to work towards a better and brighter future for everyone. The beautiful thing, or the thing that at least encourages me a little bit is that in Congress there are 435 people, and you need 217 to agree with you to get something passed, so I'll be hyper-focused on the 217s. The name of the game is addition, so I'm hoping that we can get some folks that will hopefully recognize the importance of the great work that's being proposed by this administration. Who's willing to make some investments, once in a lifetime investment to reverse course on decades of deteriorating and declining infrastructure that is as much needed. The 480 bridge that we enjoy, it is not a Republican bridge, it is not a Democratic bridge, it is a bridge that we all need to get from one side of the city to the other. And so, because of that, we have to make sure that we are putting people in a position to be able to be prosperous and safe. And that to me goes beyond our partisan politics, so for those who are again, unwilling- that are so loyal to a man or a party that they are willing to even sacrifice themselves. I recognize that's somebody that I probably won't be able to work with, but I'm hoping that there are many more who share my same values, and love, and principles as it relates to being a public servant. And hopefully we can find some common ground and get some things done from there.

Ken Harbaugh:

Well, I hope you're right. And I hope there are enough of them, but we're going to talk about the diverging trajectories of the Democratic Party and the Republican Party, because at the same time that you won your primary, signaling a path of moderation and hope for bipartisanship, in a nearby congressional district, the full-on MAGA candidate won the Republican nomination in the Ohio 15th, which signaled exactly the opposite trajectory for the Republican Party. Are you paying attention to that yet? I know you've got to win the general, and it's not your job to understand the Ohio 15th and everything that's going on in other districts, but do you worry that something really sinister is happening within Republican Party politics that is going to make it really tough to bridge the gap once you're in DC?

Shontel Brown:

I do worry a little bit. Again, I recognize this job is going to be hard. It's going to come with its own set of challenges and that you have folks that are seeking to no longer even run for office because they, I guess perhaps maybe you see the writing on their wall, i.e. Senator Portman. We disagree on a lot, but at the same time, he sees some things happening. And so for me, I believe that there are still some folks out there that are like him, that aren't willing and ready to just throw in the towel.

But it's a crazy, crazy dichotomy. I mean, for me to be in one race in the way that the turnout was, and then to see in the 15th, you've got such an extreme. Yeah, I'm a little bit concerned. Even more so than going to Congress, it concerns me about our state. You know, Ken it's like, what's going on here? We got some work to do really, all that I see is that we've got work to do. I think that there have been some missed opportunities that we could really capitalize on, that we missed out in some of the past elections, like not penetrating some of those parts of the state that happened historically, solidly red, because I believe that we can make them less red. And I think that that's Senator Sherrod Brown's philosophy too. And so if we concentrate just on some of those, some of our big communities and leave some of those others behind, then they're not hearing a different message and that's all that they know. So we've got to make sure that we're getting our message out so that people potentially can recognize there are some other options, because I think if they are anything like me- I'll admit this: it's rare that I watch Fox News, right? And when I do, I'm like, “Oh my God, that's interesting.” I'll just say that cause we might have some folks listening. I was just like, “Oh my God, if I believed everything they put on there, I'd think we were crazy too” right?

Ken Harbaugh:

Yeah.

Shontel Brown:

They have to be able to touch and see folks in reality and what we represent. And I think that they might be in for what I would believe a pleasant surprise is that we can probably win some folks over with some practical policies that actually would benefit them and their lives.

Ken Harbaugh:

Well, of course we can.

Shontel Brown:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Ken Harbaugh:

And to anyone who keeps repeating this refrain, that Ohio is a deep red state. I just point to Senator Brown.

Shontel Brown:

Yeah.

Ken Harbaugh:

He won not too long ago and he is still popular. And if we can amplify that message. And if we can reach those parts of the state that you described, that need a different message, we can actually pull it off.

Shontel Brown:

We can't take them for granted. We can't take them for granted and we can't just assume that they've heard our actual message. Because if we haven't knocked on the door and introduce ourselves and talked policy, then they don't know. And people don't know what they don't know until they hear it. So for me, even in my race where folks, again, the other candidate is described as being a fighter. And I'm like, well, just because I'm not on the news or just because the work I've done hasn't made headlines, it doesn't make it any less valuable. In fact, my track record is a lot longer and I'm a champion. I'm not just a fighter because it's one thing to fight, but you have to be able to deliver. And I think on the other side right now, this season of celebrity that has become the soup du jour where everybody wants a little bit of taste of fame and wants to have their name in the headlights. It has really hindered us from getting some real work done, so we have to get back to the basics and the ground game and grassroots, and really making sure that we're touching people, meeting them where they are. And I think once we get back to those things and not being hyper-focused on, again, the things that might get you a couple of likes on social media, or trying to go viral, but really focusing on people, then we have a better shot. And that's the formula of my friends. Again, Tim Ryan and Senator Sherrod Brown, they've done it well, and they have done it repeatedly. And it's a formula that we should all be following if we want to win.

Ken Harbaugh:

Well, let's talk about that formula in your career with your long track record of public service. You were the first black woman elected head of the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party. That's right?

Shontel Brown:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Ken Harbaugh:

First of all, congratulations. Second of all, that was 2017. I mean, that's kind of late and it's kind of appalling that in Cuyahoga County, it took until 2017. Have you thought about, I don't know, the meta implications of that, or are you just charging ahead and leading with the gavel you've been given?

Shontel Brown:

I think you know me, I just charge ahead. We've got a windshield that's bigger than our rear view. You're right. And so we have to look ahead and what I do applaud is just the people of Cuyahoga County for trusting me to come into that role and that position of leadership in its 200 year history, is when I was elected. And so I'm humbled, appreciative, grateful, but I also recognize to whom much is given much is required. And what I mean by much is responsibility because it is an unpaid position, so it is a volunteer position, and it is a labor of love. And so I guess you could call me a glutton for punishment, I don't know. But I really do it for the love of the people and the work, because what I saw in the opportunity that was presented to me by Secretary Fudge, she actually tapped me on the shoulder and asked if I would consider. And she was kind and gracious enough to say “It is unpaid, so if you say no, I understand.” But it took me about a month to come to the conclusion like, “Yes, I'll actually do this. And I'll throw my name in the hat, what do I have to lose?” There's so much to gain in being able to empower people and help them to understand that the vote is the greatest equalizer that we have when it comes to this country, especially when it comes to power. Whether you are black, white, rich, poor, gay, straight, Democrat or a Republican, GED to PhD, we all get one vote. And so the fact that so many states, including our very own are working so hard to suppress the vote, only amplifies its value to me. And so being able to convince folks who have felt marginalized, or felt disenfranchised, or feel like politics isn't working for them. It has been my mission even before coming into the chairpersonship of that, to make sure that people fully understand their political power. And that was why I was super excited to lead our state's largest Democratic County Party of the 88, and we are not the most populous, so it means a lot to me that we're able to deliver the most votes from the precinct to the presidency under my leadership.

Ken Harbaugh:

A lot of the headwinds that we face though aren't just about messaging and mobilization. Some of them are structural in the way the system of gerrymandering is tilted against Democrats.

Shontel Brown:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Ken Harbaugh:

We have a state house that as we speak is trying to figure out how to deny enfranchisement as much as they can. What do you think about that? And in trying to convince your constituents that their votes really do matter, how do you also maintain a sense of realism about the constant efforts to diminish the power of those votes?

Shontel Brown:

Well, I think you said it. When I'm in the community and I'm talking about when I'm crossing paths with people, first and foremost, you've got to meet folks where they are and you have to recognize that this is hard work and that those who again have been disenfranchised. And when you see people that are working so hard to take away something, remind them that people don't try to take things away from you that don't have value, right?

Ken Harbaugh:

Yeah.

Shontel Brown:

And so that's one of the things that I try to convey to folks. And then the other thing is that I try to bring it down to the simplest most everyday aspect of their lives, starting a conversation now sometimes with what's important to you? And seeing where the conversation takes me because as a semi seasoned legislator, I can generally, and about 9 times out of 10 draw whatever is important to somebody back to politics. When I'm in classrooms, the question I ask our students is what would you like to be? And the first thing they always say is rich. That isn't a career, but what we do tie our wealth to, our taxes, how we make money, investment opportunities, how much you can make, how much you can charge, all of that is decided by somebody in government. And so that's why I try to make it something that they can stop and think and say, oh my gosh, this is really having an impact on my life.

With the stimulus checks that came out, many people were quick to provide their information so they could get a stimulus check, but too many were unwilling to do the same thing so we could be counted in the census, so helping people to understand the connections and the correlations, how we now have lost a seat because we didn't have enough people counted in the census. Just bringing those lived examples that they can see, touch, and feel in their everyday life, and how it closely is tied to politics and elected officials that represent them, that they may not even know exist.

One of the things that I was disappointed to learn when I became party chair was how few people knew what our elected officials' roles were. So I took it out of my own spare time to just create what I ended up calling a ‘voter guide’, where it was created in a nonpartisan fashion where it identified every office, including the president. Although he wasn't on the midterm, but it did include every office that was going to be on the midterm ballot, no names, just the office, so it went from President, to US Senator, down to Congress, to Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Senator, State Senator, State Rep, Secretary of State, Auditor, Attorney General. And I identified about three or four things that were their key responsibilities, so that people could know what they should expect from these individuals. We do an amazing job of telling them who to vote for, but not such a good job of telling them how they impact their everyday life.

Ken Harbaugh:

I wrote something down that you just said, and I'm going to ping my producer here to make this the hook for the top of the show. When you said that people don't try to take something away from you, if it's not important.

Shontel Brown:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Ken Harbaugh:

I think that sums up the entire get out the vote effort and the entire Democratic Party project going into 2022. Our power is only there, it's only relevant if individuals exercise it.

Shontel Brown:

That's right.

Ken Harbaugh:

I want to get a little bit of the backstory because your passion about politics is just so obvious in hearing you talk about it, and your journey started relatively young. But if I heard you right, I think you quoted one of my favorite New Testament passages, Luke 12:48, which says that from those to whom much has been given much will be demanded.

Shontel Brown:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Ken Harbaugh:

Is that part of your motivation? Is there a faith tradition that propelled you into this? What kick started your political career?

Shontel Brown:

Oh my goodness. Yes, yes, and yes. All of the above. And what kick started my career was the desire to serve. Matthew 25, right? But for me more specifically in my neighborhood at the time, it was 2011. I had been in my house for seven years. (There's a theme coming. Seven years I've been in my house.) The community was starting to change a little bit, but what was happening in the new cycle was the earthquake tragedy that struck Japan. Because I'm surrounded by seniors and retirees and they have had, we have this relationship where they have treated me like their very own, and I have a heart for people. And I wanted to know, where would we go in the event of an emergency? And so I thought the best place to find that answer would be my local city council meeting, so I went, presented the question, got the answer, but something said, keep going, so you can learn about what's happening in your neighborhood.

Well, like many of our communities, things were good, but there was room for improvement, so rather than complain, I'm a person that believes in being the change that you want to see. And so I decided to run for city council. And as I was introducing myself to my neighbors, they were not shy about pointing out issues that have been going unaddressed, so they said, “What can you do about this tree branch that needs to be trimmed? What can you do about these sewers that need to be cleaned? These potholes that need to be filled?” I said, well, let me see what I can do. And so, because I had continued going to the meetings, the administration took notice and they offered to help me.

And so, as people were identifying their problems, I was able to take that information back to our administration and they said, “We'll help you.” And things started getting done. Tree branches started getting trimmed, sewers started getting cleaned, potholes started to get filled and I wasn't even elected, so I'm feeling good, Ken. Now fast forward, election day comes, the polls closed and I was down by six votes, six votes. I'm like, okay. I'm like, okay. My faith was really tested. I'm like, okay, God, I trust your infinite wisdom. This must not be for me. I was actually convinced I would never run for public office again. I was down, but not out. Disappointed, but not devastated. I figured, okay, I'm getting things done. I don't need the title, I'll just keep doing what I'm doing. But what I did not know is there were 23 provisional ballots in our race. There were three of us in the race. And I learned that I had won by seven votes, 11 days later, so seven, there's that seven again.

That seven really changed the trajectory of my life because as a child of faith, spiritually seven represents perfection, completion, and God. And so that really was like assigned to me that this journey for me was divine intervention. And I really have made that the moral compass, the guiding force, and the foundation in this work that I purposely described as public service, because I know I got here by his grace, mercy, and favor, and I've never lost sight of that. And I got here because I wanted to help people, so I've always had a heart for people. And I get to tell that story at least once a day on the campaign trail, but also prior to that, about once a month, so it has afforded me to remain focused. I've never lost sight of why I'm doing this work. And I got this from Noah, he's a pastor in Lakewood. He said, “Because when you lose your why, you will lose your way”, so I've never lost why I do this work. And so it is a testimony of faith and I really acquainted this last primary as a David and Goliath situation, right?

It was something that I anticipated winning. I say this humbly and respectfully, I've never entered a race with the expectation of doing anything other than winning. And I didn't care what the odds looked like. I heard God's voice as clear as I have heard yours on this show today. And he told me in December, you are going to be okay. I don't know. We knew we were going to have a candidate with National name recognition, lots of money. And we weren't quite sure how we were going to do it, but I was convinced we were going to be able to do it. And I'm just glad my expectations and the outcome aligned, okay? To God be the glory and be everything.

The other scripture that I hold fast to is ‘Faith without works is dead.’ It's not enough for us just to believe that we can get things done and that we're winners, and that we're overcomers, and we're conquerors, but we have to also be committed to doing the work. But at the end of the day, we trust his infinite wisdom and win, lose, or draw. I would have accepted the outcome because I know my God doesn't make any mistakes.

Ken Harbaugh:

Well, if that tally of the first election isn't a reminder that every vote counts, I don't know what is. Yeah, you've got to keep telling that story because it's proof. You are stepping into some very, very significant shoes. And that is our former Congresswoman Marcia Fudge, who is now a Cabinet Secretary. In that role, of course she couldn't endorse as a member of the Biden administration, but someone close to her did. How did you engineer the endorsement of Mrs. Fudge, Congresswoman Fudge's mom?

Shontel Brown:

Yes, we put our thinking caps on and let me say this. We refer to her as Mama Fudge, Marian Saffold is her name, but Mama Fudge is a legend in her own right. She has been very active in the unions, a labor leader for quite some time. The thing about this is that Marcia, Secretary Fudge, has known me. I lived in the city of Warrensville while she was mayor. And when she became the Congressperson, she swore me in for my city council election. Although we weren't tight, her mom lived in my ward, and so her mom who got to see me really grow over the course of my elected office from City council, to County council, Party chair. So she's witnessed and poured into my growth. The Congresswoman and I became even closer in 2014 when I decided to run for County council. And I reached out to her following the protocol as it was presented to me, before you seek a higher office or seek a office, you should seek the blessing of your congressperson, and I did that as instructed. And she said, “If you have the support of Mayor Sellers”, who's been a friend long before politics. I used to work in radio with Kim Sellers, who was his wife a while ago, and so I'd known them for a very long time. And so it was a no brainer for him. He was like, “Oh yeah, I got your back. And the Congresswoman said, well, if Mayor Sellers supports you, then you'll have my support”. And so that race turned out a lot different than my first, so now instead of three people, there were six. And so they were all more qualified, more experienced, more educated, more money. And I was the least of anything you could possibly be, but what ended up happening, we earned 48% of the vote in a six person race. And I thought, “Oh my gosh, that's pretty incredible.” Until God blessed me with another primary where now it went from six to 12 folks, and we ended up, I think with 54% of the vote in that race. And so I attribute all that to hard work.

But yes, Mama Saffold, Ms. Fudge as many people refer to her, watched me grow and so she was happy to do it. And we knew that we didn't want to put Secretary Fudge in any more hot water, because I don't know if you remember, in one of her very first press conferences, I think it was her first press conference, a reporter asked about our friend, Tim Ryan and about him running for Senate and because she's so accustomed to being, she is unabashedly, and unashamed, and proud about her party politics. And she said, “Yeah. And I think we can win this thing.” And so even just that “I think we can win this thing.”

Ken Harbaugh:

Yeah.

Shontel Brown:

They accused her of violating the Hatch Act because of that.

Ken Harbaugh:

Right.

Shontel Brown:

And so from that point on, we were very cautious. And so we thought everybody knows Mama Fudge, let's make it happen. And Mama Fudge was all too willing and proud, and I couldn't have been more humbled and appreciative to have had that support because I think it also helps some folks in our community, the black community distinguish who the predecessor or who they would want, because historically that seed has been Lou Stokes, Lou Stokes blessed Stephanie, Stephanie blessed Marsha, and then Marsha wasn't in a position to do it. And so it was kind of giving that blessing in a way, if you will, to people to let them know who she would like to have succeeded her.

Ken Harbaugh:

Well it was a great ad, and even better politics. Well done.

Shontel Brown:

Thank you.

Ken Harbaugh:

We end every episode of Burn the Boats with the same question. Shontel, what's the bravest decision you've ever been a part of?

Shontel Brown:

I think this. Running for public office is a brave decision. And you know what that's like, and it opens the window of opportunity to be a voice for the voiceless and to really make sure that people who do not have an opportunity to be heard, can get a chance to have a platform, and that's what we use our platforms for as public servants to elevate the needs of those who are suffering or who are in a position that they can not speak up or speak out, whether it's because they don't have that voice, they aren't in the room. We're in rooms. We have a voice. And so running for public office is a brave decision. I applaud anyone who has taken that step to do it because you make the decision yourself, but everyone around you, family, friends carries the weight and shoulders of that race and all that comes with it. And so it's not only sometimes a brave, a little bit selfish in a way because you don't always know some of the obstacles that you will run into, or those challenges, but when you have people, especially those that come knocking at your door, send you mail pieces, text or call, and they're Democrats, embrace them because we need more good folks doing this great work called public service, so I would say that would be my bravest decision.

Ken Harbaugh:

Well, I got to ask one more question then.

Shontel Brown:

Okay.

Ken Harbaugh:

Are you going to make some good trouble for us down in DC?

Shontel Brown:

You better know it. Just like John Lewis, I plan to make a whole bunch of good trouble. And I've already gotten started, so we don't take anything for granted. I want to remind folks, vote in every election. Again, our general election is still on the horizon. The biggest hurdle is already behind us, but I don't take anything for granted, so I just want to thank you for giving me an opportunity to talk to your audience. And hopefully they got a chance to know me a little bit better and got to hear about some of the hard work that I've been doing and that we will have to continue to do. And you know, you're a friend, you're my brother. And I look forward to working with you, not just now, but long, long, long time in the future.

Ken Harbaugh:

Thank you, Shontel. It's been great having you.

Thanks again to Shontel for joining me.

You can find her on Twitter at @ShontelMBrown, and you can learn more about her house campaign at shontelbrown.com

If you enjoyed today’s episode of Burn the Boats, please rate and review us on iTunes - it really helps other listeners find the show.

Thanks to our partner, VoteVets. Their mission is to give a voice to veterans on matters of national security, veterans’ care, and issues that affect the lives of those who have served. VoteVets is backed by more than 700,000 veterans, family members, and their supporters. To learn more, go to VoteVets.org.

Burn the Boats is a production of Evergreen Podcasts. Our producer is Declan Rohrs, and Sean Rule-Hoffman is our Audio Engineer. Special thanks to Evergreen executive producers Joan Andrews, Michael DeAloia, and David Moss.

I’m Ken Harbaugh and this is Burn the Boats, a podcast about big decisions.



View Less

Recent Episodes

View All

Chris Harnisch: The ‘Surrender’ of Afghanistan

Burn the Boats | S:1 E:51
Chris Harnisch, who worked in the State Department during the Trump Administration, discusses the missteps during the withdrawal from Afghanistan, as well as the threat of domestic terrorism.
Listen to Chris Harnisch: The ‘Surrender’ of Afghanistan

Miles Taylor: Inside the Trump White House

Burn the Boats | S:1 E:49
Miles Taylor describes the chaos created by Former President Trump, and how people within the administration tried to combat it.
Listen to Miles Taylor: Inside the Trump White House

Amy McGrath: The ‘Honor Bound’ Memoir

Burn the Boats | S:1 E:48
Amy McGrath talks about her new book, which details her time in the military, her tough political campaigns, and the challenges we face as a country.
Listen to Amy McGrath: The ‘Honor Bound’ Memoir

Kris Goldsmith: PTSD, Less-Than-Honorable Discharges, and Domestic Violent Extremism

Burn the Boats | S:1 E:47
Kris discusses PTSD and his suicide attempt, his battle to amend his less-than-honorable discharge, and his work fighting domestic violent extremism.
Listen to Kris Goldsmith: PTSD, Less-Than-Honorable Discharges, and Domestic Violent Extremism