Sunday, May 1, 2016

Pep Talk: "Lemons Into Margaritas"

While licking wounds of political defeat, your scribe was poolside in Mexico, licking salt from a margarita glass. Pondering. “What could the RISE UP with Mark campaign have done better to avoid missing the 1,000 necessary signatures by a mere 36? What’s that old saying, we learn more from defeat than victory? I believe that’s true. In this case, there were two valuable lessons learned. Shame on me if they’re forgotten.

First, there is no substitute for support. Boots on the ground. Campaign manager Pam Read and your novice politician were blessed to have many who helped along the way. THANKS! But we were a small mom-and-pop expansion political franchise. We were starting from scratch and it showed. Here’s an example.

The District 6 caucuses were heavily attended. An ideal time, with little effort, to gather petition signatures. Why? Everybody attending that crazy evening was a Democrat who lives in the district. It was like catching fish in a rain barrel. Easy pickings. We were understaffed. With more boots on the ground at more caucus locations - there were multiple sites -  we would have reaped a harvest of prized Hancocks. Early in the process, opportunity was wasted.

The second self-inflicted injury came at the very end. It was a misinterpretation of the rules. First, some background. It became apparent early in this campaign, it would be futile to utilize caucus to make the ballot. I was the fourth of four candidates. For the most part, party insiders had made choices among other D6 candidates. Also,  upon entering the race in October 2015, I had just joined the Democratic Party. Before, as a career journalist, I was a registered Independent. It was palpably apparent, the “TV guy” was an outsider.

The campaign quickly understood the best path to the ballot, and opportunity to encourage voters to rise up and change politics now, was through petition. The Secretary of State’s office allows this second option. For state legislature, the threshold was 1,000 registered Democrats from District 6. The SOS office recommended, “Get at least 1,200 because some will be invalidated.”

On thoroughly enjoyable walks and door knocking through district neighborhoods we found 1,168. We felt confident most would survive SOS scrutiny. Oops. I misunderstood something critically important. When it comes to duplicate signatures - a SOS no-no - I thought the date the signature was gathered trumped. Late in the two-month petition signing window, another candidate joined the canvassing crusade. It didn’t cause real concern because we had been out since opening day. I incorrectly thought when the SOS office tabulated results, whomever got the signature first, keeps it. Nope. It’s whoever turns in the ENTIRE PETITION COLLECTION first who keeps any duplicate signatures. A critical turnover.

“Mark, you lost signatures because your competition turned in theirs moments before you,” was the matter-of-fact truth from a SOS staffer. Ouch. Are you mired in the muck of disappointment after snatching defeat from the jaws of victory? Home? Work? Elsewhere?

Don’t stay there. Survey the damage, learn from it and keep marching. It might not be Cancun, but move on. Let’s turn life’s lemons, the heck with lemonade, into sweet and savory margaritas!

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