John Tsarpalas: If you’ve been listening to this podcast every week, I’m trying to go in a chronological order of a campaign with a heavy emphasis on field operations, the ground game, voter ID-ing, and Get Out the Vote. Once we get through all of that, I am going to come back around and get into more strategies and mailings and printings and those tools.
But because of the campaign cycle that is out there in the world right now (this is going to be airing in March of 2016), I want people to understand Get Out the Vote. So in our last podcast, we talked about Election Day, election judges, and poll watchers. Actually that was two podcasts ago. And then we did what happens on Election Day in Commonwealthy #49.
So if we are thinking chronologically, it’s election night and the morning after, Commonwealthy #50. Wow, there’s a round number! I never thought I’d get to fifty. But we are still plugging away. Not quite our one year anniversary yet. That happens in April. So we hope you enjoy this podcast.
So here in Illinois, the polls close at 7 pm. In some states, it is 6; some states they are 8 or even 9 pm. Up until the closing of the polls, you are still making phone calls. I would suggest that you are making phone calls to people that you know are supporting you, they’ve said they are going to vote for you, and you know they haven’t voted yet until five minutes to the closing time.
Once that closing time comes, you stop calling of course. What’s the point? It’s over. And then you need to switch gears. This is something that needs to be preplanned well in advance, arrangements made for, and people invited to with invitations sent or at least handed out. That is our election night party.
Now if you are a small campaign, you might just want to do something in your home or a friend’s home, if you are running for a school board or park board. This is something that is going to be ten people or maybe twenty max. You don’t want to get too carried away in a home.
But if you are running for something a little bigger or you have a lot more people involved than ten or fifteen people, you want to consider where you are going to have it. If you’ve got an office rented for the campaign, usually they hold the little party in the office. Why not? You’ve got the place.
Or you find somebody who has a business that could donate a space. Or, if you’ve got the money, you can go book somewhere. Perhaps you can get something comped, some of the food comped, as an in kind donation. Don’t forget you are often asking for in kind donations when you are out there, for food or paper or printing. And then you just simply write that up and make sure your treasurer files the paperwork for the in kind donation.
So you are going to have a party somewhere. Find somebody who can do the hosting for you or putting it together. You can usually find a volunteer, someone that would love to do that. But you are asking about that six weeks or a month in advance and/or that person recruits a little committee. Or you are helping recruit a committee to help that person. One person does drinks, another person is snacks, another person is set-up, and another person is clean up.
Often your local Republican organization or perhaps your Tea Party will have a party that night or could be talked into hosting the party that night. What’s good about that is multiple candidates and multiple campaigns can use that venue for a place to go for that party.
Or if there is some other campaign that you enjoy working with that is nearby, could you jointly host a party together? It saves costs. It saves trouble. It saves time if you can jointly host a party together. And it can work out really well for you.
So that’s another alternative. But you are looking for ways to keep your costs down because you want to have spent most of your money in the campaign. However, (here’s a little warning), make sure you have some money that is going to be there after the campaign. Don’t spend your campaign dry.
I’ve been in campaigns where the candidate has spent absolutely every penny and then some bills show up afterwards that no one thought about. Then they are trying to raise money. If you’ve lost, good luck trying to raise some money. If you’ve won, it is a little easier. But it is difficult to raise money after a campaign.
If you are a state rep candidate, I’d say you need to have maybe $5,000 left in the bank afterwards for loose ends. You are going to need money to pay for some filing fees, etc. You don’t know what you are going to need.
If you are running for a more local race, a few hundred dollars is fine. For somewhere in between (maybe a county board), you want maybe $1,000 left in your campaign after you’ve paid for the party. After you’ve paid for everything, there is some money leftover.
Back to election night and that party. Who are you inviting? You are absolutely inviting those people that helped you- anybody who has volunteered to knock doors, phone bank, or drive, and people who have donated to you, even if those are in kind donations. Anyone that has supported you and help you should be invited.
You can invite voters, but that’s not often what is done. It’s not the place. There are party people that you might want to invite- the local county chairman and some of the people working in those organizations.
You might want to invite people from other organizations that might have helped you. Do you owe the Tea Party a thank you? Do you owe people from some type of a group that you are working with? Perhaps it is pro-life. Perhaps it is gun supporters.
You want to get that word out two or three weeks in advance. An e-message is the best way to send an invitation because it is free. If you’ve got somebody helping you with social media, perhaps they can put that together for you and get those invitations out.
But it is important to have somewhere where people are coming together. As I mentioned in the last podcast with election judges and poll watchers, invite the election judges. They helped. They were a part of this. Usually they are hungry. Most won’t show up because they’ve had a long day and they are exhausted.
Guess what? You are exhausted. Your volunteers are exhausted. If you’ve got staff, they should be exhausted.
Now a couple of thoughts on the set-up at the party. You don’t need to have expensive food. Some simple finger foods, chips, drinks, and maybe alcohol. I wouldn’t do any hard alcohol, but maybe beer and wine. Definitely you don’t have to have it. Obviously have water, soda, and some other things.
Perhaps have some kind of deli trays that are catered and brought in. That works well. Small submarine sandwiches on trays and that kind of a thing always words well. Have someone else recruited to take care of all that planning and get all that ordered. Give them a budget so they keep the costs within the budget that you have left for this.
For the set-up, make sure someone is setting the room up. And make sure there is a separate little room if this is a little bigger party, like it is not in your home, where you can go with some of the leaders in your campaign (your campaign manager, your staff, or the person that is number one volunteer) to have some private time with people that are tracking what’s going on.
You need to set up a little war room, somewhere that there is TV sets, radio, or however you intend to get the information. It’s different in every area. Perhaps there is a cable channel providing local news and it is providing those local election. There is a ticker tape at the bottom of the channel showing all of those numbers.
That is what we often do around here in the Chicago area for the local campaigns. Because the local stuff (school boards, college boards, township boards) is harder to get that information back. You are not going to be able to have people in there tracking it. You are not going to have news services doing it. But the Board of Elections is going to be reporting it.
So you are going to have a computer set up that is tied into your local Board od Elections. If you are in multiple counties, then you’ve got to be able to check multiple Board of Elections. You need somebody that has thought about this a few days in advance and is ready to go to the person in the war room that is tracking all of this data and info.
And as I said, often there is a local cable TV channel. Try to find out what that is. That often has a ticker at the bottom or a screen that is at the bottom that is showing the numbers changing and showing those local races. That is important and key.
It is possible that you will not even have any information that night. It depends on how sophisticated the systems in your county are and if they can get everything processed. But people are going to want to know if you are winning or losing. What’s happening? What is going on? Can you predict?
If you are in a very close race and there is eighty or ninety percent of the vote, you can’t predict, which brings me to the topic of concessions. If you are in a close race, do not concede. You want to know that you’ve lost and you’ve lost soundly. If you’ve lost in a very close race, there is always the possibility of a recount.
I am not saying you are going to want to do it. And there is expense in a recount. Oh and by the way, there’s another reason to have a little money in the kitty after the election in case there is a recount. You are going to hire an election law attorney to handle that. Now a lot of it is going to be done with volunteers. They are going to show up and help go through things. Pay attention.
But there will be expenses in a recount. That’s another reason to make sure you’ve got a thousand or two dollars left that you can put towards something. It will be more than that. Most recounts I’ve been started at about $5,000 and were more like $10,000 for the attorneys. And these were smaller recounts. This was like a state rep race or things like that.
But if you are within a hundred votes and it is a small race, I am not saying you need to concede that night. If you are within a thousand votes and it is a state rep or something, you are still pretty close. There are possibilities that votes can be vote like provisional votes weren’t counted. You want to let the dust settle before you declare that you’ve lost or that you’ve won.
So let’s talk about that concession call. If you are severely getting trounced, you should make a call, particularly if this is a primary. You want to have a phone number to reach your opponent or opponents. Someone on your team should reach out a week before the end of campaign. If you have someone who is a campaign manager, it is usually their job. It is kind of like the second in a duel; they make the arrangements.
You should have some kind of a phone number where you can reach the other candidate. Usually it is their cell phone. You might also want each staff to have cell phones, that your campaign manager can talk to another campaign manager. If it is a small race and you don’t have a campaign manager, well, you want to know how to get a hold of other people.
It is hard when you are losing to be gracious, but it is important to be gracious. You want to come back. This is not necessarily your last run, even though it might feel like that the day after the election if you haven’t won.
If you’ve won, you are euphoric and you are not going to have this struggle. But often if you are a first time candidate, you are going to loose the first time out. But you are going to win the second time because that first time taught you what you need to do.
Conceding and conceding graciously is a good thing. Having that little three to five minute speech that you are going to give to your followers, even it is a small room, prepared in advance and thought through, is important. You want to thank people. You want to remind them of why they were there to help you and that you are going to continue on the issues that are important to you.
You are necessarily saying you are going to run again. You can if you are going to. And if you are not, you want to say that you will remain active and stay in touch with these folks.
And in fact, it’s lovely if three weeks later you host a different little dinner or gathering for those people that really stepped up for you Ask them to come and remind them and thank them for being part of your team because you might be calling that team together. The band might be going back out on the road.
So concession call, concession speech, and a victory speech. You want to rehearse the victory speech. You want to be thanking people in that room. You don’t want to forget people. So you might want to have a list in your pocket and have that at the ready.
Often that night, if it is a bigger race, it is a bigger party. The people that are really the ones that you need to thank aren’t going to be there or they are in the war room in the back or they are still at a poll fighting to make sure that the vote is staying honest and fair. They aren’t getting there for those thank you’s at the nine or ten o’clock speech. But you are going to talk to those people tomorrow. You are going to make phone calls.
Something else that happens on election night is the press can show up. The local papers want a story. They need something to print the next morning. Or there are local bloggers and they might show up with photographers. They are going to show up to get a statement with you.
Often they are only going to be at your campaign for a few minutes to interview you and then on to the next one. They might have to hit your opponent and, who knows, four or five other races that night. They are not going to hang around your place all night.
So make people aware that if a reporter shows up to steer them to you, especially if you are in that back war room. You might take the reporter back into that back war room for the interview so that it is quiet or even have a separate room from the war room because maybe you don’t want that reporter seeing what is going on in there.
You are going to talk to that reporter and you are going to be prepared. “Oh, this has been a hard fought race and I am so worried about the children in our school district,” etc. Make it about the voters, thanking the voters and making it about the issue that is important to you.
If they’ve got polling and they say you are losing with exit polls or whatever, stay gracious. Say, “I don’t know. We’ll wait until the count is in.” If you know you’ve lost, say, “You know, I am so glad I did this because it pointed out to the people that we have a problem with such and such.”
Have these answers ready in advance and think through some different scenarios because you don’t know what is going to happen on election night. You want to give good sound bytes and something to good to that reporter.
And obviously take some pictures. Try to be smiling. Make sure that that photographer doesn’t get into your war room and start snapping photos in the back.
And be sure that that photographer isn’t in the backroom taking photos of people crying or you crying because I have been there. It’s not fair because those photos come out. Yes, people’s hearts are broken, but it’s not an image you want out there. It makes you look weak and possibly as a loser.
And you want to run again. This is going to happen again, I hope. I hope you are thinking that way.
The other thing that is happening on election night is social media. You want to be tweeting and sending out an email blast right after the polls close. And then when you know what happened, you want to have an email blast ready that says, “I won!” You want to have an email blast that says, “We didn’t get there.”
But you want to thank people. You want to let people know what is happening through social media. You want to be posting things on Facebook. If you’ve got people who can be taking pictures at the party, posting them on Facebook, and tweeting them, that’s important.
Remember you are building this, win or loose, for the future. You are building your campaign for the next time, win or loose. So that night people are going to be paying attention. You want your social media person to be on duty.
And you want to be mindful of it, too if you don’t have a social media person or just to be conscious of it. It’s a good point to be tweeting and saying things. But keep it gracious. Do not, do not go off track and get nasty. It doesn’t help.
So that’s election night. But then at some point you’ve got to go home. You’ve got to get some sleep. So you thanked everybody. You try to shoo a few people out the door and then you leave, unless the party is your house.
And then literally you might have to ask people to leave. I’ve been there; it’s not easy. Say something like, “Oh, I am so exhausted. I’ve got to get some rest. Thank you for coming,” shaking hands and showing them out the door. And perhaps that is done by somebody else who knows everybody there, a staffer, somebody in your campaign, or a friend who can say that.
So you get them out the door because guess what? Tomorrow morning, win or loose, the campaign is not over. So let’s talk about the morning after.
Something that happens in many areas, especially in a primary and a partisan primary, is there is a unity breakfast or a unity luncheon the next morning. Some times it is a day or two later. But be aware that that might be happening.
If you are a candidate for office and you are a Republican, ask your local county organization or township organization if they know of any unity breakfasts being sponsored by that organization or perhaps the state party. Here in Illinois, there is one big unity breakfast in the downtown Chicago area a day after the primary sponsored by the state party.
You need to show up win or loose. You want to put on a happy face. It doesn’t have to be smiling, but it doesn’t have to be pitiful and glum. You need to go. You need to be gracious. You need to thank people for supporting you. You need to shake people’s hands. You need to say things like, “We are going to do better next time. We learned a lot. This was a great experience.”
And if your opponent is there, you need to walk over and congratulate them. “You ran a great race. Good luck. I wish you well.” And back off.
You don’t have to stay for the whole thing. You can sneak out at some point. But you have to show your face at the unity breakfast or luncheon. This will make you a team player and a party player.
The next thing that has to happen, or if you didn’t go to the unity breakfast, is at a reasonable hour (9 or 10 am) you get on the phone and start thanking those people that donated to you, volunteered for your, and staffers. Often the staff call the day after and come in at noon or go to lunch together and then go clean up campaign headquarters.
But in the morning you are on the phone and in the afternoon you are continuing to call people you haven’t reach. Anyone that gave you time or money needs to be called. And again, you are gracious and you are thanking them because it is important. You ‘d like them to come back around.
And if you are planning on continuing to run, let them know. Let them know right away, “I am going to continue to run. I am going to continue to make phone calls. I am going to continue to be doing things.” Make sure you are going to do that.
It is nice if you’ve got a campaign and the election was in November (this is the big general election) to throw a party for the holidays and invite everybody. So keep some money around to keep that team together. If it is an election in the spring of an off year, perhaps you throw a picnic around Labor Day. Do something to bring the team back together again a month or six weeks or two months later.
The other thing happening the day after is you might hear from the press again or the press that didn’t reach you. They might want statements, especially if you win.
You might also hear from the group that you just got elected to. Someone from the school board might call and congratulate you or other members of the school board or township board. They may give you a call and want to talk to you. Talk to them. Arrange meetings so that you can get started. You are going to sit down with them.
Something else that needs to happen maybe not that day, but relatively closely is some post-analysis. Sit down while it is fresh in your mind that next day and right down what you did wrong, what you need to improve, and what you did right. Don’t forget, there are things you’ve done right. I don’t care how small it is. Write those things down.
Think about your database. Will you be continuing it? Will you be shutting it down? If you are shutting down, how do you save or capture that data? Could that data be useful to somebody else? Are you going to use it yourself?
Maybe you are mad and you are angry and you are not running again. It is going to take six months to lick your wounds and realize you are going to run again. Don’t burn bridges and don’t burn the data. Keep your database alive for a little while and then figure out how to export it into something that can be reloaded at some point in the future.
And then something that is huge after the election is getting back to your family. Unfortunately I’ve seen divorces come out of elections. Elections are hard on families. You have to give so much time to the campaign and you’ve not given it to your kids, your spouse, or whoever is important in your life. That includes work.
You need to kind of get back to those people and connect with them. So think about how you are going to do that. Start putting in some time.
And give yourself a little time to heal and to rest. A well-fought campaign is an amazing thing. This might sound a little pessimistic because often you are going to be the winner and your time to rest isn’t as great as those who’ve lost because your time to rest is maybe a day or two and then you’ve got to get started on the job you’ve been elected to.
You need to start doing some homework. You might not check in for a month or two to that post, but people are going to be giving you calls. There are going to be things happening. Your phone is going to be ringing, which is exciting. And that is all tremendous.
It is all about life. It is all about the journey. And it is about enjoying the ride. So enjoy that election night. Enjoy that day after, win, lose, or draw.
And if it goes into a recount, I’ll have to get a podcast together about recounts. I’ll get an election law attorney for that one. We’ll be back to you with that in the not too distant future.
Election night is an emotional rollercoaster. And then the day after, win or lose, boy you suddenly feel a lot of emotions that day, too, but also just kind of tired. Election Day was such a physical strain on you. But it is worth doing. And it sure is a lot of fun.
As always, we will have show notes and a transcript of today’s podcast at Commonwealthy.com. If you’ve got questions, you can reach me at email@example.com. I’d be happy to answer your email questions.
And if you need more help with your campaign, I am a candidate coach. What makes me different than a consultant? Well, I help you to formulate your plans. I can review your plans for you. I can help you with public speaking, fundraising, and Get Out the Vote. I coach you.
And then I hold candidates accountable if they’d like that type of coaching. Many candidates will call me once a week or every other week and report in how many donors they’ve talked to, how many phone calls their volunteers made, and how many doors they knocked. Literally, I hold them accountable. They explain where they are having trouble and difficulty. I help them get through that and I keep them on track to their winning campaign plan, which I can help you formulate.
My first half hour of consultation is free. Often it runs a little longer than that. I don’t mind. I’ll let you know how I can help if you want to use my coaching beyond that point. But it is really helpful to most people to talk to me because I come up with some ideas and get them on track in their first half hour.
So feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please tell your friends about us. Let other activists and candidates know that we exist. Thanks for listening!