Think about the typical political campaign you experience come election time. You have the promises, the perfect smiles, the handshakes, and if things get truly contentious… the juicy scandals.
Running for office has become pretty formulaic for candidates and voters, so when Saline County Prosecutor Ken Casady decided it was time to run for Circuit Judge, he turned the campaign process on its ear.
He decided to run… literally.
“I didn’t think people would want me to come knocking on their doors, especially when it gets dark early,” Casady said. “So I wondered what I could do to go out and get people’s attention.
“After the holidays, and for me Thanksgiving and Halloween, I needed some exercise anyway. So I thought of the story ‘Around The World In 80 Days’ and thought I would do ‘Around Saline County In 80 Days.’”
Hatched from that idea came a commitment to run a 5K (3.1 miles) every day with different people and groups to generate voter support, while showing those within the County that Casady was committed to following through on what he said he’d do.
At the time of this interview, Casady had completed 66 straight 5K’s, but the campaign focus had changed. At the deadline for filing for the Circuit Judge race, he was the only one to enter, thus running unopposed.
“I think this leaves the impression that you will work hard, follow through and do what you said you were going to do,” he said. “Now that I have filed and will be running unopposed, I’m referring to these last few days as my victory lap.”
Casady moved to Lonsdale when he was a child. He attended Benton schools, UALR and the Bowen School of Law. Suffice it to say, home matters to him and to his family.
“This was a very special place to grow up and go to school,” he said. “I still see friends from high school. My kids are playing with the kids of those I went to school with, and that’s been very special, as it has been to serve in a public office.”
Keep in mind, when Casady chose to take his unorthodox campaign approach, Arkansas and much of the country was battling one of the coldest winter snaps in memory. You can only imagine how tough it was to get out and run on some of those January mornings.
“We had some pretty tough conditions. A few of the early days it was like 8 degrees, and I was out of shape at that point. We ran through some rain, but the people I’ve met along the way are amazing.
“One of the things I have found most surprising is how many really great athletes there are out there. There are those who really run, and I’ve been impressed to meet them and to reconnect with some of them. For my most recent run (March 6), I was joined by a man who’d just completed the Little Rock Marathon, and he was running with me the next day.”
Making the commitment to show voters he was serious about the responsibilities of office was a major step for Casady. Equally difficult, he says, was getting into shape to follow through on that promise.
“I’m faster. My endurance is better, and I have dropped a little bit of weight. The problem is I continue to eat like an unsupervised child, and I haven’t dropped the amount of weight you might think. I’m determined to do a bit better at that part in a fitness regimen.”
Along the way, Casady has run alongside those who run marathons and triathlons. He’s even been joined by a group of teachers and friends who hit the trail at 4:45 am sharp.
“It’s been a fantastic experience. I think this has been really well received. I’m not a big social media guy, but we are using Facebook and email to deliver the message of what we’re doing. A lot of those I speak with in the community are talking about it, so it’s leaving a great impression.”
Joining Casady for his campaign are his wife, District Judge Stephanie Casady, and their son Kaleb.
“Kaleb and Stephanie have both run a 5K with me,” he said. “Kaleb and I ran in our church’s ‘Love Thy Neighbor’ 5K. He finished the first half of that with me. He’s really enjoyed it.”
With what will be 80 consecutive 5K’s under his belt and the District Judge election on May 22, you have to ask… will Casady keep running once he’s likely in office?
“I started this on December 31, and not only have I done them all in a row, I’ve also run one 5K for every day of the calendar year,” he said. “I may see if I can keep that streak going. I feel like if I can coordinate schedules with other people and groups to keep me going, then I won’t have to do it by myself.”