Each installment of The Friendship Files features a conversation between The Atlantic’s Julie Beck and two or more friends, exploring the history and significance of their relationship.
This week she speaks with two women who were the only Democrats running for board seats in their Illinois county in 2018. A campaign that could have been a competition between them instead became a collaboration, and a friendship. The two ran all their campaign events together, and promoted themselves as joint candidates in all their literature. In the end, only one of them won, but they remained close friends—and the other is running again in 2020.
Ashley Selmon, 30, a commissioner on the board of DuPage County, Illinois
Zahra Suratwala, 41, an English professor at Elgin Community College, and a candidate for the board of DuPage County
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Julie Beck: Tell me the story of when and how you each decided to run for office.
Ashley Selmon: I was 27 when I decided to run. I’ve always been interested in politics, but it seemed like something I would do far off in the future. I worked for nonprofits, in fundraising. And after Donald Trump won the presidency in 2016, I thought I would [find a Democratic] campaign to work on [in 2018]. Our local incumbents that were Democrats were pretty well staffed, so I started looking at the county level. I realized our representation did not look like what I thought it should. It didn’t look like me and it didn’t look like Zahra. So I decided to run for county board myself.