Lots of travel. Lots of talking.
Many long days. And many restless nights – thinking about the people he’s met, the stories he’s heard and the work that lies ahead.
Dennis is feeling the effects of the campaign trail.
And so are the people he cares about most.
“Driving him to school, my little fella asked me, ‘Are you almost done of this? How much more hockey are you going to miss?’” Dennis says.
“That’s hard. It hurts. That tugs at you.”
But he knows he’s not alone. There are four other candidates in the race who, Denny figures, are dealing with much the same.
“Sarah has a young son. It can’t be easy for her either,” he says. “Allan has kids. It’s gotta be tough on all of us.”
While he knows his likability and the fact he cares about Islanders across the province are what make him a popular candidate, it’s closer to home where he’s committed to staying liked most.
“I don’t want to be known as being a great party leader or even a great premier without being known as a great father first,” he says.
“That’s never going to change.”
He began his campaign insisting he’d run as himself, Dennis King.
“I said this campaign wouldn’t change who I am, what’s important to me, and I mean that.”
He’s a parent first, he says. Regardless of the pressure or pursuit to be anything else.
“I think everyone is trying to find that balance – work, home life, personal time.”
He expects it’s no different if you’re a party leader or a pipefitter, he says.
He’s heard a lot of stories from a lot of Islanders over the past three months. And he’s found a common theme: people care about health and well-being – mental, physical and spiritual – of themselves, their loved ones and their fellow Islanders.
People are just under so much stress these days, he says.
And he wants to better understand why.
He thinks technology plays a role. Being accessible 24/7 has deprived many people of their personal time and space, leading to mental and physical health issues. And maybe even addiction issues, he says.
“The thing that was meant to connect us all is the thing that’s driving us apart,” he says, holding up his cell phone. “Like, a 10-year-old kid shouldn’t be having anxiety about going to school.”
He’s feeling the pressure himself, too. Missing out on time alone at the gym, around the supper table or in front of the TV with his family and, most noticeably, time at the rink.
“It sucks. I miss it. I feel it.”
It’s hard to put the phone away, though, when you offer yourself as the one to answer the questions and people expect you to respond to the call of duty.
“It’s tough. I challenge anyone to tell me it isn’t,” he says.
But with the focus of his campaign being about people, he’s learning many people, just like him, are seeking to strike that same, healthier work-life balance.
“It’s a conversation I have with a lot of people. In these times where you’re expected to respond immediately to everyone, sometimes you just have to set some boundaries.”
When you set boundaries – healthy boundaries – sometimes healthier relationships can result.
“And we all need more of that, I think,” he says.
Coming from a big family, he knows the importance of forming and maintaining those relationships, those familial bonds.
“Sometimes you just have to shut the phone off and be with your kids.”
His kids are at pivotal points in their lives, he says. He knows it’s important for him to be around in those times when it matters.
“And when you’re with your kids, you have to actually be there with them. Not just hanging around with them and being on the phone, but be there. Spending time with them. Spending time with your family.”
While the busy schedule of a politician has been an adjustment for Dennis and his family, he knows he has a job to do. Responsibilities.
And that hasn’t come without a slight feeling of guilt.
“I feel a tremendous sense of obligation to the people who are putting their time and faith in me. My campaign team, the party, Islanders in general,” he says.
“I feel an obligation to do the very best for them every day.”
And just as he begins talking more about a healthy balance at work and home, his phone rings.
He’s in the final weeks of the leadership race now, but he knows this is just the beginning.
“They tell me this is the easy part,” he says with a weary chuckle, reaching for his phone.
He answers it and gives a quick nod signaling he has to keep moving.
It’s the best any of us can do. Every day. Just keep moving.