Campaign Debrief

Yesterday, the day after the election, was rough. The only thing that made it less rough was that I knew going into Election Day the day after would be hard and I would just have to ride it out.

Fortunately, it was a short ride. At my darkest moment, I seriously contemplated heading out to Yellowstone National Park for a week. In hindsight, I have to say if going to National Parks is how I respond to emotional distress, then I’m in a very good place in life.

I am feeling well enough today that I am able to think about the campaign with some objectivity. I am convinced that the reason I did so poorly despite a strong online presence, solid command of the issues, effective communication, more door to door than the other candidates, and a clear, positive message was the chickens.

Seriously.

Chickens kept coming up throughout the campaign, even as late as Sunday when a man told my mother in law Lona “I’m not voting for Anne Lewis. She wants chickens!” Then he shut the door before she could say anything.

If I had to do it all over again, I might have made “I’m not running for chickens” a bigger talking point. Maybe my tag line should have been for a strong and healthy, chicken-free Pierre?

I don’t know if a stronger no chicken message would have helped since I am so closely identified with the urban chicken ordinance. The reason I didn’t talk more about chickens is I thought I was letting the issue fade into the background. I would let other messages define my campaign. I didn’t want to remind people about the chickens, but as it turns out that’s already what they were thinking.

(sigh)

The gut puncher in all this is not that I lost –  I knew Steve and Blake were very strong candidates – but that I lost by so much. I thought a realistic scenario was that I would place high enough to legitimize another run.

But coming in after Jamie who was the protest candidate (always a hard position to win from) and only had her long standing in the community and strong sign coverage to her advantage was the wake up call that I am un-electable in Pierre.

The way I look at this now is not that I only got 18.9% of the vote but that I managed to get 18.9%. I’m convinced that had we not done the work we did I would have showed even worse. So while I don’t feel good about the election, I do realize that there were 1155 people out there that supported me and not all of them were tree hugging hippies. They were also the people who pay close attention to the issues.  But, they are the exception than the rule.

Anyway. I’ve been reading this quote by Theodore Roosevelt. It comes from his speech Citizenship in a Republic given at the Sorbonne in April 1910.

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

I know defeat.  I am not cold and timid. But I’m also not stupid so once I get my emotional wind back, I think I’ll find a hobby other than city politics.

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