Campaigning for Myself: Cindie Quintana and Her Decision to Run

Cindie Quintana

Cindie Quintana and I have been friends for a long time. I was excited for the opportunity to talk to her about her decision to transition from campaign manager to candidate.

Even after running the campaigns for multiple candidates and being very familiar with the process, she was surprised with the process:

“This can be a little overwhelming Stan, no one ever told me how daunting or overwhelming this could be actually running for office.  Of course I have always been the one pushing the candidate, telling the candidate what to say, telling the candidate what to do, and telling him what tie to wear. You know all the behind-the-scene things that take place that people don’t necessarily see. Those are all in jest but, it is quite different being behind the scenes versus being the one being the candidate.  So I apologize to everyone I’ve ever worked for. I get it now, it’s been a learning experience from that standpoint.”

4th Grade Election

When I asked Cindie Quintana where her career in politics began, she told me that it all started in 4th grade when she ran for school historian.

Cindie said,” I remember making the posters and the signs and writing my little speech that I was going to give in front of the entire school. The idea of writing a speech terrified me. I just remember how fun it was and the excitement my class had around the potential of me winning.”

“I remember standing at the microphone ready to give my little speech. I don’t even remember what I was going to say but holding my sheet of paper and being terrified. The student running for class president, he was in sixth grade, he had a big influence on me.  He could tell that I was scared and petrified.  He came up behind me, put his hand on my shoulder and he said, ‘Don’t be afraid little girl. ‘ I ended up winning the race. And I remember talking to my husband, you know sharing that same memory with him a couple of weeks ago and he did the same thing, “Don’t be afraid little girl.’”

Funnily enough, I also ran for class president in 4th grade. When we were getting up, giving our speeches, the teacher was getting ready to have the voting take place, and my mom walked through the door with soda pop and donuts. The timing was impeccable, it was totally by accident.  I won by a landslide because of soda pop and donuts.

At 21, Found Out Adopted

One of the defining moments of Cindie’s life was when she found out at 21 years old that she was adopted. It came as a huge surprise to her:

“I was born in Ogden, Utah.  I didn’t grow up in Ogden, it turns out that I’m adopted and I didn’t learn I was adopted until probably 21.  My parents, I think they just loved me so much that they decided that they weren’t going to tell me. They couldn’t have known what was going to be in the future with DNA tests with like Ancestry and all this other fun stuff. Itwas actually a relative that disclosed to me that I was adopted, accidentally. That shook my world a little bit. So that led me on a path later on in life to go searching.  I think you know me well enough that If I have a question about something or If I want to get something done, nothing can stop me.”

“ I was born in Ogden, Utah to a 14 year old mother and a 15 year old father.  And of course, back in the 60’s, what alternative was there?  From what I learned, my mother really struggled with the decision. She did not want to give up her baby, but it was actually a Catholic Priest at the time who convinced her that that was the way to go.  You know, to give up the baby so the baby could have a shot at a good life.  Which I did.  I can’t complain.”

“My parents loved me. My dad spoiled me rotten and I had great parents. I truly, truly did.  But my dad was in the military at the time, he was stationed in Dugway and I had always wondered why my birth certificate said Ogden, but we were living in Dugway, ha ha.  But they always came up with creative ways to explain that, my dad said, “Oh, I was on a temporary assignment at Hill” but it was their way of trying to protect me.”

“ We  moved from Dugway to Tooele and I spent the majority of my years in Tooele going to school there. I actually met my husband in grade school.  My husband and I, we now live in Sandy.  We have four children, they are all grown, they all have families of their own and we have nine grandchildren.”

Finding Siblings

“Right now I am currently working for a local non-profit as their development director/ public relations person.   We work with individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and that takes a soft place in my heart because through this adoption story and through actually  “23 and Me” I have learned that I have a younger sister, she is in her 30’s and was born with Down’s Syndrome and so it’s a soft spot for me, individuals with disabilities and adoption is a soft spot with me too.  I’m always interested when I learn of people with similar stories to mine who were maybe born around the 50’s and 60’s who they felt like it needed to be kept a secret.  But I guess we are some of the lucky ones cause it could have very easily gone the other way, you know where we wouldn’t be here right now.

Honesty for Adoption

When I asked Cindie what her advice would be for people who adopt a child she said the main thing is to focus on love.

“I think the key to that Stan is letting the child always know that they were loved.  They were loved so much that their birth mom, birth father couldn’t keep them but they wanted to give them the best life they could possibly have, and so found another set of parents that could give that to them.  But I think as old as a child, or as early as a child could understand, we would sit them down and tell them that they are loved. They have another Mommy and Daddy out there, but they also have a mother and father currently that love them and wants them and will do anything that will make them feel safe and loved and they have a home.  But you know I would not hide that from them,

Intro to Politics: Mike Lee and Morgan Philpot

We had talked about fourth grade but I wanted to know more about how she started campaign consulting.

Cindie Quintana said, “ I’ve always had an interest Stan.  I’ve always sorta observed from afar and I’ve always had an interest, but back in 2009- 2010 I guess something clicked and I just had this overwhelming desire to get involved. But I didn’t know how to get involved. I didn’t know who to talk to.

Mike Lee’s Victory Party

“But I remember actually being introduced to Mike Lee and through some mutual friends.   It was when he first ran and I remember they were having a victory party. I was on the night that he won and I was invited to that party.  I remember meeting Mike Lee. He was just the kindest man and funny.  I just remember thinking this is a pretty interesting thing to be potentially involved with. 

Morgan Philpot

 “Even though I didn’t work on Mike’s campaign, there was someone who said to me, ‘There is somebody who needs help, there is somebody that needs help with PR and they need it ASAP.’ He pointed over to Morgan Philpot and said, “You need to talk to Morgan.” And within a matter of a couple weeks I was working on his congressional campaign. They had a difficult time getting the media to pay attention to them because he was an underdog running against Jim Matheson.”

“That’s all it took.  I worked on that first campaign and cut my teeth there.  Now we lost that race, but we lost it by a very slim margin with very little money.  But I just remember thinking, wow I’m hooked. My husband didn’t know what in the world got into me.  I was gone all the time, working all the time.  You’re off putting up signs at 1, 2 in the morning and he didn’t quite understand that, but now he totally gets it because he is putting up signs for me.  But I think that is what launched the whole thing, just being coincidently introduced to those two people, Mike Lee and Morgan Philpot.  It’s just been a whirlwind, ten years of political crazy fun activity.  I wouldn’t change it for the world.”

Running for Myself

Cindie Quintana is running for House District 32, which is located in the south end of the valley.  It covers Sandy, Draper and White City.  There are about 20,000 people in the district, but it leans Republican. I asked her why she is running now.

Why Run Now?

“I’ve been approached to run before Stan and I’ve always felt it just not my time.  I’ve thought about it often and I thought no, maybe I will. But it always didn’t quite feel like it was the right time.”

Need for More Hispanics on the Hill

“And then I was up on the Hill during session and a bunch of us were meeting with Sean Reyes, our Attorney General, and a woman who was a former Lt. Governor in Chicago who is Hispanic.  She was asking Sean ‘Where are your Hispanic legislators? Who are they?’ And we couldn’t really answer her.  Because Sean was really our only Hispanic legislator right now. So Sean jokingly said ‘Well, Cindie is going to run for House.’ I looked at him like, what?! What are you saying? And Sean is a really good friend of mine, he is like a brother to me. 

And then he pointed to a couple of other people in the room and said ‘Well, this person is going to run for this, this person is going to run for that.’  The woman said, ‘Well, we need to change that, we need more Hispanics on the Hill.’ And you know it gave me something to think about. Then when the time came around and nobody was running against the current incumbent, another person approached me and said ‘Will you consider?’ I thought about it and thought about it almost to the hour, Stan and I finally decided to jump in and do it.  So here I am.

Running During COVID: Transition to Digital

I wondered what it is like running for office. We all see the yard signs and we know that we go vote for them and occasionally we will see a debate.  I think most people see things from the national stage and the state stage and they don’t see what happens at the legislative level.  So I asked her what it is like running a campaign.

“It is challenging in the time of COVID.  When I decided to run we didn’t really know a lot about COVID as we do now.  And we didn’t realize how running a campaign was going to be done in a completely different way.  We can’t have the events like we typically would and you know me I’ve had hundreds of events and loved being involved with the media and love talking to people, I’m a hugger.  It’s hard you want to shake someone’s hand, you want to hug them, you want to greet them, you want to talk to them and you can’t do any of that now.”

“You have to switch your mindset to working on things that will help get your message out, but you have to do it in a safe way.  So, a lot of the campaign messaging and branding has shifted to a virtual way of doing things.  And you know, we have done it. I think as far as getting our message out via social media.  We are going to be doing some great things with digital mediaYou’re going to be seeing a lot of things coming out that typically candidates really haven’t done much in the past.  Just trying to get the message out there.  Of course, we are still doing a little bit of door knocking and doing the traditional things of hanging door hangers and such but I think the bulk of what we are doing is typically virtual. “

COVID Leads to Fewer Volunteers

“I think this year has been a little bit different with COVID because typically where people are just so ready to jump in and help you and have that ‘can do’ attitude.  This year, I’ve talked to a lot of candidates, we’re all experiencing the same thing where just the people and the volunteers are just so anxious to jump on and help you, they’re reluctant.  And I don’t think it’s because they don’t want to help, I think it’s because they have so much going on in their own lives, their own anxieties, and their own fears and frustrations and rightly so.  I mean we’ve all been through a very challenging time and it’s not over Stan and we don’t know when it’s going to be over.”

Job Loss

Some of us have experienced job loss, I was actually furloughed at the end of March to the beginning of June.  This was all during the campaign and so I’m thinking, should I continue to run? Because I should probably be looking for a job, so that lent some frustration to the time that I’ve been running. I haven’t really shared that but thank goodness I was brought back from furlough and things have been good.  I think of all those people who have been affected by COVID either through contracting the disease or losing their jobs or losing a loved one.  First and foremost, my concern is the safety of everyone out there,  I don’t want anyone put at risk by door knocking or talking to people in person or trying to hold an event cause I personally believe that this is not a political issue that this is a health issue.”

Latinas in Utah Politics

Becky Had Hispanic Heritage

We had a conversation about the possibility of Cindie being the first Republican Latina in the legislature. I always thought of Becky, who had a Hispanic heritage. Her great grandma was Guadalupe Trujillo and she took so much pride in that.  In fact in her office, the Speaker’s office, she had a four generation chart that went back to Guadalupe.

For Becky it was never about about having an Hispanic heritage.  It was always about being. She wanted to be respected for who she was, for her ideas, and for her intellect, and for her passion.  She didn’t want anyone doing her favors, she didn’t want affirmative action.  There was a really funny story when she got elected Speaker, the Salt Lake Tribune approached her and said ‘We’d like to do a story on you.’ And essentially their take was  ‘We want the story to be that you were elected because you’re a woman.’ It just sent her into outer orbit, she was so mad. And to their credit the Tribune never wrote that story.  But just the thought that they would, that it was because of this or because of that, not that it was because she was the most qualified really bothered her.

Ensuring Hispanics Have Access to Elected Officials

“I am intently proud that I am Hispanic.  I was president of the Utah Republican Latino Coalition for a few years.  I recently stepped down from that role in February, just to unload some things off my plate. It was time and my tenure was up. We’ve done some really good work there but I would like to bring more awareness.”

“I would like to offer some education in regard to the political realm because I feel like that particular group of individuals feel reluctant to approach their elected officials. I don’t want them to feel that way.  I want them to know they have access to their elected official just like anyone else would and their elected officials are the same as they are, there’s no difference in regard to someone being more powerful than another person.

 “I think they get intimidated and they may feel frustrated and they don’t know who to talk to. I would like to open that door to them and let them know that you do have access to your elected officials and you do have opportunities to speak with them about your concerns, whatever they may be.  it’s not just Hispanics, it’s other nationalities too.  I don’t want anyone to feel like their voice doesn’t matter.  If I can give them a platform or help them realize they do have access to their elected officials, all the better.”

Impact of COVID19

I asked Cindie to talk to me about how COVID19 is affecting her.

“We talk about the new normal and gosh , will we ever go back to the old normal? I miss those days.  You miss just walking into a grocery store or walking into a restaurant and you didn’t need to  worry about masking up or whether or not the ventilation system is going to spread the virus amongst all of us.”

 “You know I was looking through videos and pictures and gosh, just not long ago we were all carefree for the most part and not having to worry about this.  And now every decision we make is affected by COVID pretty much.”

“It’s affected my family, I haven’t been able to see loved ones, I haven’t been able to see my grandchildren and it’s very difficult explaining to them the reasons why.  They get it but they don’t fully understand, ‘Well yeah we have to wear a mask at school but why can’t we come and see you? Why can’t we come and spend the weekends? Why?’ They just don’t fully, fully understand.  And I see that affecting them Stan, I see them changing a little bit and it worries me.  It really does.  We just try to keep reinforcing our love for them and letting them know it’s going to be over soon.  Just hang in there with us.  So that’s tough, probably the toughest out of everything during this period of time is I don’t want them to ever doubt how much we care for them.”

Lessons Learned

  1. Cindie Quintana got her start in politics in the 4th grade. Interestingly enough, I got my start in politics in the 4th grade.
  2. It is different working behind the scenes in a campaign and actually being the candidate. Cindie is running for the state legislature this year.
  3. She is proud of her Hispanic heritage and is proud of being a republican.
  4. She wants to bring more awareness to Hispanics. They are very reluctant to approach elected officials.  She wants them to feel like they have access to elected officials.
  5. She wants every voice to matter and to have access to elected officials.
  6. I discovered today that Cindie was adopted. As we heard her experience that it is best to tell a child that they are adopted and then let them know that they are loved. In her case, she didn’t find out until she was 21 and it was harder on her as a result.