Editor’s note: Wausau Pilot & Review gladly publishes commentary from readers, residents and candidates for local offices. The views of readers and columnists are independent of this newspaper and do not necessarily reflect the views of Wausau Pilot & Review. To submit, email editor@wausaupilotandreview.com or mail to 500 N. Third St., Suite 208-8, Wausau, Wis. 54403.

Dear Editor, 

In preparation for running for the Wausau School Board, I sought advice from several people in elected positions, I read up on issues facing the current board, and I learned about our schools by talking to students and teachers. I have not run for an elected position before and as to be expected when trying anything new, there is an inevitable learning curve. I have tried to the best of my ability to prepare myself to pursue my goal of running for the Wausau School Board, but I can sincerely say that I don’t think I ever could have equipped myself for the viciousness that has come with running for an elected position. 

I have found it  particularly pervasive on social media platforms. I graduated high school in 2018 and before graduating, I listened to my fair share of lectures about what appropriate online conduct looks like and what to do if I encounter harassment and cyberbullying. However, now that I’m an adult I’ve encountered it far more than I ever did in my  youth; it seems that it’s not only condoned, but encouraged. 

It seems there is a mindset amongst people that once somebody is a candidate or elected official they must tolerate any type of behavior thrown at them because they ‘signed up for it’ or they should ‘expect it’ because ‘that’s politics.’ I will admit, I even bought into that reasoning for a while. 

I’ve been reflecting on my campaign experience with Election Day coming closer and I’ve had a realization. Yes, I signed up to run for an elected position, but in doing so I didn’t forfeit my right to dignified treatment. I didn’t surrender my humanity. I identified myself as a person who is interested in bettering our community and finding ways to support our youth. That’s all. I didn’t declare my candidacy to make myself a target of denigration. The expectation that candidates and elected officials should endure the maltreatment without objection is in part what perpetuates it. 

This continued bullying and harassment is intentional. The efforts to defame my character are attempts to intimidate me into silence and to dissuade people like me, young Black women, from pursuing leadership positions. Those who oppose me, many of whom I’ve never met, have publicly admonished me on my personal social media pages, questioning my judgment, my capacity and my character. It has even gone so far as opposers falsely claiming I perform sexual acts for money in hopes of discouraging people from voting for me. This is misogynoir at work. I have no problem with someone disagreeing with my perspective. Abusive, degrading, and contemptuous behavior is my complaint. 

An issue I’ve discussed with voters is addressing bullying in our schools. As a mental health worker and youth advocate, this is an area of importance to me. Being on the receiving end of bullying during this campaign has only strengthened my desire to effectively address bullying concerns within our district and push for expanded mental health resources. 

Sincerely,

Kayley McColley 

A Human Being 

Wausau School Board Candidate