So You Lost Your Political Campaign

by Joe Fuld (He/Him)

what to do after you lose or win your political campaign

So Your Political Campaign Lost, Now What?

If you were a Democrat running for office, working on a political campaign or a voter, Tuesday had some big wins and some close or not so close losses. Sure there were memorable wins  but many folks are depressed by the outcome of their specific election. So what do you do now?

 You have spent months running for office or managing a political campaign and now the political campaign is over. Even though you worked your butt off, you fell short.

Here are some tips for candidates and campaign managers from those of us who have been through many a political campaign and understand it is not easy.

Thank Folks. You might have lost, but it does not mean that people did not work hard. Make sure you take the time to call, email and personally thank volunteers, endorsers, donors and your friends and family.

Be Gracious. Don't be the candidate who tells everyone to jump in a lake after the campaign ends. A candidate’s reaction to losing can often be a bigger sign of whether they can do something in the future than the outcome of the race itself. You have a lot of folks who supported you, and you owe it to them and to yourself to treat this in a respectful manner.

Pay Your Debts: Hopefully you won't have any debts, but if you do, develop a plan to pay them off quickly.  Don't wait on this.

Take Stock of Your Assets: What does the campaign leave in its wake? The answer to this question often includes major assets for future runs. You need to make sure that you organize everything you have to make sure it can be accounted for and ready for the next time around.

Find and Secure All of Your Lists: The list of volunteers, donors, IDs, sign locations, etc., all have value. Make sure that you decide what happens to these assets and don't let a well-meaning volunteer copy them and give them away to another candidate. You need to be the one who makes the decision about how these items are best used.

Take Down Those Damn Signs: Campaign yard signs that never get picked up annoy people. Your political campaign can also get fined real money. Make sure you have a plan to pick up your signs and get them off the street.

Talk to Your Lawyer Before You Delete Files: Understand what files you need to hold onto and what files can be destroyed. Put files on a secure portable drive as well as a second backup.

Recycle: Make sure all of your paper, lit, signs, wood posts, etc., gets recycled. Give your desks, office supplies and scrubbed computers away to folks who need them.

Analyze your Race, Once: Sit down and look at the numbers, talk to your staff, then write down why you think you lost. Write down the answers and put it away for a while. Don't make this a protracted process. In the end, it will not help you win the race you just lost, and in most cases your next race will have very different dynamics. Analyze it quickly and then move on.

Don't Play the Blame Game: You, your staff, your consultants, the weather, daylight savings time and Punxsutawney Phil may all share equal blame in your political campaign's loss, but it is not productive to take it out on them (or yourself, for that matter). Be the bigger person and be gracious. It is okay to ask constructive questions and be thoughtful about the race, but it is not okay to say that you would have won if wasn't for the lime green color of one direct mail piece. 

Help Staff Find Work: Before you think of your next move, remember that your campaign staff busted its butt to help you win and now they are scrambling to find work. Help them.

Don't Hide: Again, how you treat people after a loss is not just about you, it’s about the community you wanted to serve. In that vein, do not hide from the community once the race is over. Stay involved. Don't forget why you ran in the first place.

Don't Dwell: Hey, what you did took a lot of chutzpah. Most people who think about running for office never do it. Many also don't win on the first shot either. Enjoy the fun you did have and if you did not have any fun, maybe that’s a sign for the future.

Get Professional Help: If you find yourself unable to leave your home or relate to folks after a campaign, you may be suffering from depression. This can be serious and is more common than you may think. You and your family went through a high-stress situation and the outcome was not what you wanted. If this is something you can't get past, find real help.

Dude, Remember the 1990 Jontz Campaign: Remember the folks who really were there for you. Every political campaign I do I leave with unique and special relationships - mostly good. Folks I have worked on a political campaign with have taught me to drive a stick shift, helped me with my mortgage, been to my wedding and lots of other milestones along the way. Cherish these relationships.

Okay, Now You Can Think About Your Next Move: Will you run again? Will you go back to what you did before? These are all questions you can answer in due time, so don’t rush to land on an answer before you’re ready.

Take some time. Rest up, and reflect on how we all can work together to make our communities better.