Maria Weeg is the kind of person you wish would run for office, but common sense always gets in the way. After serving on the platform and executive committees of the state Democratic Party, she went on to become the party's field director and an instrumental player in the successful campaigns of Councilman David Eberle, Mayor Dave Bieter and other elected officials who rely on her astonishing organizational skills, political savvy and enthusiasm-all of which landed her in the executive director's chair of the Idaho Democratic Party. What's on her desk? A collection of tidy lists and a bobble-head bison.
BW: Were you into politics as a kid?
MW: My mom and dad were always really political-dyed-in-the-wool democrats-and they really walked their talk. As a treat on Saturdays, we'd go door knocking for people like Cecil Andrus, Richard Stallings and Larry Echohawk. Most kids wouldn't think that was a treat, but I did.
Did that 10 year-old doorknocker ever dream she'd be running the state party?
I was always more interested in political theory. I have a graduate degree in public administration and all of the coursework completed for a doctorate in political science, so I was all about reading the French post-modernists, Aristotle and Plato, thinking about what politics ought to be on a philosophical level. To be involved on a practical level is entirely different.
So what should politics be?
You have to separate the election part from the governing part. The government should come together in a representative and deliberative manner, creating policy that reflects the will of the people and fosters a good and just society. It often ends up being more about the interests of people who have access to making policy. From an electoral standpoint, in a given election the smartest, most qualified person who represents the people the best should win and shouldn't have to spend 180,000 dollars to do it. It should be about issues and public discourse.
Do you ever get intimidated in doing what it takes to make that happen?
There are always times you feel intimidated. Whether you're running a campaign, writing a dissertation, making a relationship work or painting a room, you have to dig your heels in; the courage is in the trying.
How much credit are you willing to take for the recent success of Idaho democrats?
It's not about me at all. The political pendulum is swinging, and I think the Democratic Party in general is getting a lot more attention. As a result of redistricting in the '90s, we won three seats in the house and three in the senate. Championing issues like public education, the budget and taxes-things people talk about around the dinner table-we picked up seats again. Then there was the 2003 Mayor's race, and in 2004 we held our own in light of the whole Bush tsunami. I'm just lucky to be involved in the up time.