Nuts & Bolts—Inside a Democratic campaign: Please don’t do this

Nuts & Bolts—Inside a Democratic campaign: Please don’t do this

July 24, 2022 0 By Ellen Novack

Anger is not a way forward

Many campaigns struggle to find their footing because they feel as though they do not receive enough support, donations, or attention. It is easy to feel overlooked when people know you are not going to win. You have multiple ways to move forward with this feeling. The least effective way is to be angry. When you present anger toward your own party members and complain and grouse that no one cares about your race, you aren’t helping yourself.

Be willing to poke a little fun and highlight what you are accomplishing. “I am meeting with Democratic voters who haven’t seen a Democratic candidate in a decade. For the first time, I encouraged them to vote, and they aren’t just going to vote for me, they will vote for our Democratic slate!” Remind your fellow Democratic friends what you are doing, and allow the joy of connecting with your community to be part of your campaign.

Several years ago, a candidate running in a district they could not win held an event at night to help collect canned goods for the unhoused in their community. Four people showed up. Rather than be depressed, the candidate took time to thank everyone and let them know that four families would have food thanks to those who attended, and that everyone should feel as though they were part of something special.

Now, afterward, the candidate can feel heartsick that more people did not show up; but in the moment, in public, don’t allow anger to overcome you. Find the joy and embrace it. Recognize the good you are doing and let that be part of your story.

Please, don’t drain your own bank accounts

You find yourself running in a district that favors the Republican candidate by double digits. Voter registration is even further against you, even including unaffiliated voters. You want to make an effort to turn out every Democratic voter possible. You will find there are some voters and supporters who will donate to your campaign because they want to show you that they know you are taking time away from your life and you are doing this on their behalf, to represent their values, to the public. It is an honor and a privilege. They are sacrificing their donation to stand behind you and to say that they believe in what you represent.

That has meaning, and it is deserved. When a candidate in a district they cannot win tells me they have invested nearly everything they have, or they are willing to take time away from work, risk jobs, or decide that they will loan themselves money from their retirement or rainy day fund, I have to pull them aside and tell them they need to stop. 

The most important thing in every campaign is your own family. Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter are together today because he valued his family. When you risk your family’s future in chasing a dream you know will not happen, you need to step back. Invest into your own race what is reasonable, and what you can afford. Do not overspend, and don’t be the only person investing in your campaign. If you are embarrassed to ask for money because you know the people at the other end will say, “You can’t win your campaign,” then you shouldn’t put that same question to yourself and your partner. Find comfort in the ask, and comfort in doing everything you can do within reason.

Never, ever, take over another candidate’s event

As a candidate, you will often be invited to attend the fundraiser for another Democratic candidate. It could be a candidate for Governor or U.S. House, the State Treasurer, or U.S. Senate. Whatever race the other candidate is in, their event is designed to support them, and they have welcomed their supporters who are there to support their campaign. 

The event is not put together for your campaign. Your campaign may or may not be acknowledged as even existing. Someone can ask, “Are there any other candidates in the room?” or, if the candidate knows you, they may point to you.

What they don’t want is for you to take over their campaign fundraiser. Do not immediately move to make a long-winded speech, or to work the room by harassing their donors to donate to your campaign. Feel free to wear your campaign material if you want, and if, organically, someone asks you, fine. You are on their campaign turf, and you need to respect their campaign. We are a team. No one would remember Scottie Pippen, an NBA great, if he refused to play with Michael Jordan. Likewise, all great quarterbacks are helped by great receivers. Everything takes a team. 

Another candidate’s event is their event. You do not need to be the pitcher in the room that demands attention. You are not a peacock there to strut what you are doing. 

You will gain incredible respect for what you are doing to help another campaign. Give the other campaign their space, and don’t try to take the spotlight.