What do you do after you lose?

I am writing this blog post after the 2020 November election in which Joe Biden won and Trump has yet to concede. I am not going to talk about the politics of the aftermath with the Supreme Court and electoral college, but rather, in a normal campaign what you should do if things do not go as you hoped.

On election night, as the votes come in, you can see which precincts have been counted. During the campaign you should know where your supporters live and which areas you expect the most votes from based on ID calls and your vote by mail campaign. If your opponent is ahead, you should be able to predict if you have a chance to catch up based on which precincts have not been reported yet. For example, if you know that a precinct has 500 expected votes on election day and you feel you will win this precinct based on polling, ID calls, canvassing and absentee ballot returns and you are behind by a slim margin, it would be prudent to wait until that precinct is counted and the results might change in your favor.

If you do not win on election night and the vote is still very close, there may be some outstanding absentee ballots that have yet to arrive at the central voting facility. Based on how close the difference is between you and your opponent, you may still want to wait to see if the vote changes again in a few days. Based on your state election rules if the vote is that close, you may want to request a recall or a recall in your race may be mandatory.

In the end, if nothing seems to go your way and it is no longer statistically possible for you to find votes from the precincts or absentee ballots go ahead and concede the election to your opponent. Be gracious and humble. If the race turned personal and there was lots of mudslinging this is your time to be the bigger person. The voters will appreciate your actions and gesture. You should make a call to your opponent directly. After that you should thank your family, friends, supporters, and volunteers. Now may not be the time to guarantee another run for office, but if this is something you really want and have already thought about it, you can let people know you plan on running for office again.

It is bittersweet to close up a campaign office, drive around town picking up campaign signs, or shredding walk lists and phone lists. If you have any money left over, I would advise you to:

1. Pay off any outstanding debts you have with vendors

2. Reimburse any staff or volunteers for expenses

3. Donate the balance of money to several charities in the community or…

4. Donate the money to other candidates or the state party

*check your election laws on proper disposal of excess campaign funds

You can use this time to plan your next move. If you ran for office never intending to win but rather raise your name recognition or a policy issue, then you can act on that in the next coming months. If you want to run again you can analyze where you went wrong. Perhaps you didn’t have enough time to cover the community or your name recognition wasn’t strong enough or you did not raise enough money to be viable. Now you have all the time between now and the next election to do what you were not able to do, such as canvass more homes and neighborhoods or raise money. Go back to the 3 pillars of candidacy and evaluate your strengths and go from there. After the results are final, I like to look at the breakdown of votes per precinct and see where your opponent won vs where you won. This will tell you where you need to work on to get more votes. And if you want to run again, you now have the time to improve.

I do hope you win every election you go after. But if you do not win, it is not over. Lots of politicians lose, lose, and then win. Joe Biden ran for president twice and lost big time, but he finally won in 2020. It is possible to get what you want after a loss. You just have to work harder than you did before and it’ll happen. Good luck.