So you’re a candidate; now what?
His poor behaviour became the story, overshadowing the entire event and doing his re-election bid — which he lost — no favours.
Third, the key to winning elections is door-knocking. Candidates increasingly rely on an array of social-media platforms to engage with voters. While these communication tools are important, there is no substitute for meeting a voter face to face. Voters want to be able to look a candidate in the eye and assess them in person.
First-time candidates should be warned canvassers face unexpected risks. The first is naked voters. Candidates will likely encounter several of these on the campaign trail. Yes, some people will answer their doors wearing only underwear, a shirt but no pants, or no clothing at all. The best advice for dealing with these embarrassing situations was provided by a former member of Parliament friend: “Look into their eyes, Sean! Whatever you do, just look into their eyes!”
Another risk is pets, particularly dogs. Most dogs are well-behaved, but some — for whatever reason — just do not like politicians. During a fall campaign, a candidate and I stopped to talk to a homeowner raking leaves. Engaged in conversation, we forgot about the voter’s dog, which sidled up to the candidate’s leg and treated it like a fire hydrant. Fortunately, the candidate had a change of clothes at the campaign office — a good idea for all prospective politicians. Knowing dogs can also become rambunctious, some candidates carry dog treats in their pockets, just in case.
Finally, candidates should try to be authentic. This means being clear, candid and straightforward with the electorate about where they stand on the issues, even if their position is unpopular. Doing so is the right thing to do. It might even translate into votes.
As Brian Tobin recalls in his biography, no one gave him a chance in his first election. What turned the campaign around, the former Newfoundland premier believes, was an answer. Asked a tough question on a moral issue, Tobin responded honestly. While those in the room didn’t agree with his position, they respected him for being forthright. Tobin went on to post a victory in the election.
After the votes are cast on election day, candidates must remember to be gracious in defeat and humble in victory. As tough as it may be, the defeated candidate should go to the victor’s headquarters to publicly concede the election. This should be done as soon as the results have become clear. The act of concession is important: it demonstrates respect for the institution of government and the democratic process.
Soon after the campaign has been conceded, the winning candidate should speak. The primary intention of that address should be to unify the electorate. This can be done by acknowledging one’s opponents, displaying modesty and reaching out to all voters.
Both candidates should take the occasion to thank their supporters. After all, campaigns run on their hard work and donations. Candidates must never take them for granted.
Sean Petty chaired the 2007 Manitoba Liberal campaign in Fort Rouge and was platform chairman on the party’s 2011
election readiness committee.
While political candidates are increasingly using social media to connect with potential voters, meeting them face to face is still very important.