So I lost my bid for reelection. I worked hard, didn’t take it for granted, but still lost. I’m trying to sort out how I feel. I’ve run for public office seven times now, thrice for county coroner (four year terms) and this was my fourth time running for state senate (two year terms), and this is my first loss, so I’m not real experienced.
I did lose an election I remember well. I ran for student body president my junior year in high school. I was captain of the football and basketball teams, an honor student and well known. I had no goals for what I wanted to change in student government, it just seemed the right thing to do; it would augment my college applications and my friends thought it made sense.
So I planned my campaign, painted posters, made speeches(the hardest part for me: public speaking); I thought I did well. I was enthusiastic. But the Friday that the election was scheduled for I showed up early at school and saw none of the tables out in the commons for voting. I was dumbfounded. I found the ASB advisor and asked, “Where are the polling places?”
He was a flustered guy, never on time or organized, always at a loss. “I didn’t get the ballots printed yesterday, so I decided the election should be next Friday. Don’t worry Dan, you will win, it will be fine.”
That capricious response made me realize I didn’t really want to participate in the sham of student government. If a teacher/advisers ineptitude could change such a schedule on a whim, what was the point? So I spent the next week with a bit of a chip on my shoulder; I was probably sullen, and it must have shown. I lost the election the next Friday by just a few votes. I honestly didn’t care about losing. Why care about a sham?
Are there some similarities to this loss? There is no lazy adviser I can blame. I spent three or four days a week knocking on doors from June through September. We often targeted people to talk to who were not known to be Republicans or Democrats, the “unknown universe” in an attempt to find supporters, persuade the undecided and identify the opposed. I have been taught this is the work of elections. If you have a strong message and can persuade, and identify those who will support, then you push them to the polls to vote.
I am wondering if I did not persuade, and if I didn’t, why not? Here’s my pitch:
(Keep in mind, one can reasonably knock on about 15 doors an hour, maybe half will be home, so a good day of two- three hours will get you 20 contacts. Three days a week for 16 weeks can get you less than a thousand contacts. My election had over 20,000 votes cast.)
“Hi my name is Dan Schmidt and I’m your State Senator. I’m out here trying to get reelected, talking to people.”
The most common response I got was “You are?” with a questioning look.
“Yes, I’ve represented this county for six years now, I’ve run three times, we serve for two year terms. How long have you lived here?”
“About ten years now.”
“Well, I think I’ve done a good job representing you in Boise in the state legislature. What issues are important for you here in Idaho?”
“Well, I don’t pay much attention to Idaho politics to be honest. I’m more aware of the national stuff that’s going on.”
“So I stood up for improved schools and roads. I’ve taken some strong stands in Boise for what I think we should be doing to improve Idaho wages and the economy.”
“That sounds good. Schools are important.”
“Well if there are issues important to you, please let me know. I’m right here or you can call me any time on my home phone, the number is right here on this card. By the way, can you tell me how you decide who to vote for? It sounds like you vote regularly.”
“Oh yes, I always vote. I decide on the person, based on who I think would be the best, I don’t just vote party line.”
“I’m glad you vote many folks don’t. I need to tell you I’m an Idaho Democrat. Will that be a problem for you? It is for some folks.”
“Well I tend to vote the other way.” They would often look down and away here, not wanting to keep engaged.
“So I think I have done a good job, I’ve worked hard in Boise and stood up for our shared values. Can I count on your vote in November?”
“Uh, I’ll think about it.” They would politely take the literature I handed them and I would depart. I knew I would not get that vote.
The brand burns deep. And when we chose to brand ourselves, as when we brand others, the brand rarely sheds.
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