You Just Won Your Election with Kristina Keats CW 69- transcript

you just won your election

John Tsarpalas: Kristina Keats is here with me today. We are going to talk about some things you need to think about if you have just won your election. There are some pitfalls to watch out for there, some things you should think about doing, and ways you should behave. It’s Commonwealthy #69, You Just Won Your Election.

I am here with Tina Keats and we are going to talk about what we think are some of the proper and ethical and good things that a winning candidate should do. I think first thing you have to do on the day you win or that evening or the next day is make phone calls to thank your supporters and thank your donors and definitely thank your family for having put up with you through this whole period. Where would you start?

Kristina Keats: Congratulations! You won!

John Tsarpalas: Congratulations, you won is right. It is huge. It is fantastic.

Kristina Keats: Right.

John Tsarpalas: It is not easy to win. Sometimes you get lucky and you are unopposed or you are in an area that heavily thinks the same way you do or you are Republican and it is heavily Republican. But it is not always easy. Especially if it is a heavy area that is one way, the primary is a big win.

Kristina Keats: It is my opinion that the harder you work, the luckier you get.

John Tsarpalas: That’s very true. That is very true.

Kristina Keats: Right. It happens occasionally, but it is not usually luck. It is being smart. It is thinking strategically and working really hard. Especially in those first elections, you can predict who is going to win. Who is working harder? That’s the one who is going to win. Not always, but generally. I mean, you could have a really hard working person up against an entrenched incumbent. They won’t win, but they might make inroads.

John Tsarpalas: Don’t ever take it for granted either just because you won one time or two times. I see candidates get lazy.

Kristina Keats: Right.

John Tsarpalas: The incumbent gets lazy. This is how they get beat. You need to keep talking to the community. You need to be working it. You need to be on top of this at all times. It is not something to be neglected. That’s how the system is supposed to be anyway. You are supposed to be on top of it. Otherwise you are not connecting and not representing the people. Don’t let that go and don’t take it for granted.

Kristina Keats: I would say it is important to remain grateful and to not get infected by starting to believe your own press releases. I have seen that happen so many times where a candidate starts out as a normal human being like the rest of us. Then they win and they start thinking that they are some how better, special, different than the rest of us.

I think that is deadly and what is maybe infecting our country right now and the reason why so many people feel so disconnected from their leaders regardless of the area, whether it is business, politics, the media, or whatever. There are ordinary people and then there’s the ones who consider themselves special. That is sort of a new thing in the United States. I don’t think it is a good trend.

But I have seen it where a candidate is really a good down to earth candidate and they get elected. Six months later they are using the royal we in their speeches where they suddenly are above everyone else. A lot of people get that way and they continue in office. But it just seems like what was the point in running if you are just going to become like everyone else?

But it is hard to be separate because you go into the political arena, even as small of an area as school board, and suddenly you are in the in club. You are on the inside. Everyone else is on the outside. The tendency is to abuse their power and abuse their positions.

In order to not do that, I think it is important to stay grounded and stay in touch with the people who got you there and talk to them about the issues you are facing. Listen to them because they are not in your situation. And if more people went back to the concept of being a citizen legislature, which means that they always stay in touch with the citizens because they never stop being one, it would be good for everybody.

I think that is the biggest problem. You get in this new culture and there are so many people who make so much money off the government, whether it is from contracts or for political consulting. They have an invested interest in keeping things the way they are. That usually includes keeping it to their benefit. So it is hard to remain grounded when you step into a world that is completely different than anything you’ve ever seen.

Wouldn’t you say that that’s what happens in politics, John? You’ve seen enough people get into office.

John Tsarpalas: Yeah, ego is a powerful thing. I think it is especially hard for candidates that are elected to an office where they have to go off to a state capital or the nation’s capital. Then they are cut off from the people at home. They are talking to a whole other group. The mindset really changes there.

But even at home, you are right, I have seen it with school board candidates, with local candidates, with people who win locally. I understand there is a lot more pressure. I understand you have to say no to more people and you have to protect your time and set some boundaries.

But at the same time, you need to stay in touch with some of those old friends and old supporters to know what they are thinking and know what is going on. You can end up with a different perspective. And not necessarily with the wrong perspective, but you’ve got to weight all of that.

Kristina Keats: I would argue that it is more than likely the wrong perspective because you enter the world of special interests. People will come to see you now because they want something from you that you have the power to give.

Now part of the problem is the government is such a huge percentage of our gross national product and that is money that can be distributed. Even on a school board, you could have control of a pretty substantial budget for your community. It could be a thirty million dollar budget. That’s a lot of money! And, yeah, a lot of it goes to teachers’ salaries. But again, that’s a special interest. They have an interest in their benefits and salary.

But there are also contracts. You want to be careful and try and keep your perspective of being honest and open and representing the people who voted for you. Remember that that’s who you are representing. It is not your job to get elected and then be the best friend of the supplier to the school district that gets a contract from you.

Even in local governments, there is a lot of corruption there that doesn’t maybe seem that way until you figure it out. But local governments do bonding. And bonding companies will fly staff and whatever to Hawaii to discuss the bonding, which is really just kind of a bribe.

John Tsarpalas: Right.

Kristina Keats: It is so pervasive because I have seen it at all levels of government. That is an example with the local school board. Same thing for the local park district or anybody who has money. There are people who are wanting those contracts and have staked their livelihood and their profession around it. They figure out how to do it.

And not all of it is always ethical, even though it is totally acceptable behavior. The bond companies, that is what everybody does and nobody ever questions it. You’ve got to remind yourself you are representing the people, not the system. And that will be difficult because if you keep that view of what your job is, you are going to get a lot of pressure from people who have been there longer, know more, and they are trying to teach you, “Well, this is the way it is.” But that is how it starts.

John Tsarpalas: Yeah.

Kristina Keats: You might think it only happens in Washington; it happens everywhere.

John Tsarpalas: You are right. I’ve seen it here with people, local candidates.

Kristina Keats: Not with everyone.

John Tsarpalas: No, no, there are people that have kept perspective.

Kristina Keats: You are entering the world of severe temptation because of the money. There is just so much money in government. Not everybody, but an awful lot of people are getting rich off of government. They don’t want to stop this gravy train from coming so there will be pressure on you to just get with the program. “This is how we do it here.”

John Tsarpalas: Well, I have also seen some people kind of get very defensive once they are elected. They want to sort of fight with people and get too angry. That’s a different switch in personality. They are nicer, calmer, sweeter during the campaign and in their real life, but then they kind of feel like they are under siege. And often it is when they are a minority candidate. Minority in principle is what I am trying to say.

Kristina Keats: Right.

John Tsarpalas: You know, I’ve seen a conservative get elected and they are surrounded by liberals and then they just feel attacked and under siege. And it really takes a toll on them. And they are. They are. But I also think they need to try to keep good humor and try to ignore it. I don’t how they do it, but I have seen it. And they have turned into kind of sad, negative people which is too bad.

Kristina Keats: Life is not any different than junior high.

John Tsarpalas: Right.

Kristina Keats: By getting elected you are now part of the in crowd.

John Tsarpalas: Right, exactly.

Kristina Keats: That can be fun, but that isn’t hopefully the reason you ran for office.

John Tsarpalas: Right.

Kristina Keats: Hopefully you want to improve fill in the blank, whether it is the curriculum in your schools or the park district walking path or whatever it is. You want to stay focused on the reason why you ran and not get dragged into all of the other stuff. It is kind of a sad state affairs in some ways right now. It wasn’t always like this.

John Tsarpalas: Right.

Kristina Keats: My husband served in the seventies. And in the seventies, yes, you had opposing ideas, but people could be gentlemanly in their discussion and their opposition and come together in a compromise and common cause. But that seems to have been lost. I think it will come back eventually. But it is not there right now.

John Tsarpalas: Well, I think someone needs to pick a couple of causes that you are really going to fight for and struggle for and deal with (a couple of issues I should say). And then there are others you don’t need to get into. You don’t need to fight on everything.

And then I think there are some issues that should be important always, such as transparency. You are always telling the voters what is going on. You are always letting the community know what is happening. I think that is one that every candidate should stand on, but yet there are many that don’t.

So I think there are things like that and honesty and integrity and just keeping your ethics is something that has no value. It is invaluable. You can’t put a price on it, so have it and keep it. You do the best you can. It isn’t going to be perfect. There will be mistakes. There will be people that don’t like what you have done. There will be people that want to attack and do attack. But you’ve got to be true to yourself and believe in yourself and believe that what you have done is the best you can and what was right.

Kristina Keats: The other thing that is really important is to spend time. Yes, the campaign is over. You’ve won. But it is really important to be out in the community and truly listening. Not do a listening tour where you are getting publicity for “listening,” but actually go to meetings and hear what people’s concerns are.

But also try to remember that most of the people who are going to take the time to meet with you again have an agenda; they want something. One of the suggestions I made to candidates when they won is every week just go back to your voter rolls, the ones that you use to get elected, and pick five people to call.

John Tsarpalas: I know a congressman that does that every week. He just goes down the list. It isn’t even random. He just keeps going down the list. He makes phone calls until he connects with five people, talks to them.

Kristina Keats: Hear what they are thinking.

John Tsarpalas: Right.

Kristina Keats: Because once people get in their elected office, they loose touch so fast it could spin your head. I know this from having worked for people and helping them get elected. And they go to Washington and they all call up and they’ll go, “Well, what about this issue? This is a really important issue and it is very critical and it is very controversial.”

I would have to tell them, “Honestly, for people here, this is not something that is burning for them.”

John Tsarpalas: Right.

Kristina Keats: So vote the right way. Vote your conscious on this one. Even though you’ve got special interests hammering you, you know what is better for government, for fiscal responsibility. Don’t forget that. You are responsible for the purse strings and making sure that we don’t burden our children with trillions of dollars of debt. So vote your conscious.

But they get so caught up in things that are important where they are that I think that if you talk to five people, you will always have that grounding. You’ll know what real people are thinking about. And you are going to get a variety of awareness.

If you talk to five people every week, which is really less than one a day… Are you so busy that you can’t talk to one constituent a day to find out what is going on out there? I think that will help keep you grounded.

John Tsarpalas: Yes. My father used to say, “Don’t forget the one that brought you to the dance.” So what I also want to say is you need to remember those people that helped get you elected, those volunteers. Give them a call every now and then. Just see what they are thinking.

And those organizations. I mean, if there was a local group (a Tea Party, a GOP group, Chamber of Commerce), find out when one of their meetings are. Show up. I mean, you know when the meetings are. You used to attend them. So I am saying continue to attend or at least if you can’t attend as often because you are busy, get there. Find out what they are thinking and talk to the members there.

You can’t put up walls. You’ve got to stay connected. And that will get you reelected, too.

Kristina Keats: Well, you are representing the people. It is your job. And sometimes you are not even going to agree with what the majority of people are thinking in terms of an issue. And it might be your job to explain to them why your position is a better one. But sometimes you need to reflect your district.

That is a hard line to follow, but that is what you should be thinking. That should be the line you should be following. You represent your district. You represent the people who elected you, all of them. Even the ones who didn’t vote for you, you still represent them.

Think of that and do a good job with integrity and good character. That is all anyone can ask of you.

John Tsarpalas: Right. And then there is the other side of running for office and then you win, so then you are in the world of being a legislature or whatever that role is. But don’t forget the campaign side. I see candidates sort of like lock and everything up and go away for the next two years or three years, thinking, “I don’t need to do this.”

You need to keep the campaign alive. You need to keep it going. It needs a little bit of income and a little bit of fundraising to keep it flowing. And perhaps it is a part time staffer or someone. In an ideal world, if it was me, I would try to keep issue IDing. I would get on the phone with some volunteers on a regular basis. It might not be as hot and heavy as during the campaign, but maybe once a week or every other week.

Get on that phone and call up about issues. In essence you are doing a little poll for yourself. But at the same time, you are finding out what voters are worried about what issue and you putting it into your campaign database so you know where you are at.

Kristina Keats: And it is an opportunity for you to persuade if you think that there is something that people need to be persuaded about, if there is an issue that maybe isn’t popular in your district but is important. And that happens a lot where people have an opinion about something because often times they don’t truly understand it.

And government can be complicated. I think government is much more difficult to understand than business because they have everything. They don’t think about it in a logical way where you have funding for schools that have bonds and the rate and the assessment, all of these things in play. And then they have state laws that say you can’t spend bond money on this sort of thing.

It is just extremely complicated to the point that in our local school district, we are having to vote on (it is not going to increase taxes at all) to reduce the bond fund and increase another fund because one of the funds is getting too much. It is crazy. And it doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t matter how many times people explain it to me; it doesn’t make sense. Why do we have to do that? Because a lot of things in government are not logical.

John Tsarpalas: Yeah.

Kristina Keats: It is hard if you are a logical, rational person to understand it. If it is hard for you and you do it every day, what do you think it is like for the average person who is trying to make an intelligent decision about who to vote for?

John Tsarpalas: Right.

Kristina Keats: So keep your campaign alive and just say out there listening to people and being engaged. It can be a lot of fun. If you enjoyed the campaigning, then you should enjoy governing because it is more of the same. You are always out with people, meeting them, listening to them. You are doing important work.

John Tsarpalas: Right.

Kristina Keats: Normally bad politics destroy a country or make one. They can destroy a city or make one. Destroy a state or make one. We have evidence of that everywhere. Just look at Detroit.

John Tsarpalas: Look at my state, Illinois. It is dying.

Kristina Keats: And compare that to Texas. Compare Detroit to Houston.

John Tsarpalas: Right.

Kristina Keats: Big cities, both of them. Minority populations, both of them. One is absolutely prospering like crazy and the other is a ghost town.

John Tsarpalas: Yeah.

Kristina Keats: People are people. You can’t tell me the people of Detroit weren’t as industrious and as ambitious and as hard working and as creative as the people of Houston. No way.

John Tsarpalas: Right.

Kristina Keats: They are people. And yet you see what happens. Good government creates good things and bad government destroys good things.

John Tsarpalas: Right.

Kristina Keats: You as an elected official now have the important privilege of being able to make things better or make them worse. And we can all in our life with our family and our job, we can make it better or make it worse. But we don’t have the kind of impact that elected officials do. Carry that privilege with you at all times. Rise to that occasion. Be the noble elected official when necessary.

And it is hard. I have seen people do it. It is hard, especially if you are in a corrupt city, state, school board, or whatever. But you can do it. Remember that is why it is so important to stay connected to the people that are real. That is how you keep from going crazy. You can always call them up and find out that yeah, you are still normal. You are normal; the rest of it is weird. Go back into the fight.

John Tsarpalas: Something else that you can do as a winner is you can help recruit others to run for office for the same board so that you can have more likeminded support and/or for other offices in your area.

You could be a mentor to other people who are thinking about running. You’ve run. You’ve won. You did something right. You probably learned a whole lot by running your campaign. So you can mentor others.

And you have a little bit more fundraising power as an incumbent. People will write you check. And if you are not going to run (say you are in a position that is every four years and there is an election every two years for other members of that body), you are in a perfect position to help others get elected, help raise them some money, and to grow.

I don’t want to say it is party building. If you are Republican, fine. You are building the party. But if you are an independent, you are still building a group, a consensus, and building a separate kind of a little party. And it is important.

Kristina Keats: Right. You are moving the ball in the direction that you think is the right one.

John Tsarpalas: Right. We need to build some strength. We may get a toehold somewhere. We need to keep pulling it and keep building it. We can’t ignore it and it can’t be just about you. And what you will find is you build these allies and supporters and mentees.

They will come back and help you when it is your time. And perhaps you don’t need their help the next time out, but they will help you for the next round if you are going to another level or a different office or something. I have seen this. Many, many a candidate does this.

Kristina Keats: And that is why incumbents have so much power.

John Tsarpalas: Correct.

Kristina Keats: And why they get reelected is because they help other people and have supporters.

John Tsarpalas: Right. It’s a team. Politics is a team sport. And you need to build your team and grow the whole team simultaneously.

Kristina Keats: Right.

John Tsarpalas: So it is important. It is important to remember that. It has been a very long and extremely campaign season this year. And it is always great to look back on it, reflect on it, figure out what you did wrong, what you did right, and how you are going to improve and do better next time, no matter if you won or if you lost.

If I can help you with any of that, feel free to write to me at I am always available. I do not charge for my first session. And feel free to get a hold of me.

If you have been enjoying Commonwealthy, I could use a favor. Please could you go to Facebook and find our Facebook page, Commonwealthy, and like us. We would really appreciate a like.

We appreciate you listening. If you have just for office, great. If you are gearing up, I wish you all of the best. It is a great, exciting experience. It is really important that we run for offices. Win or lose, we are getting our ideas out there. We are talking to voters. We are giving them choices. And if we do win, we actually get a chance to implement and to actually change something.

Talk is cheap. Let’s win some elections.

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