So you’re a can­di­date; now what?

Winnipeg Free Press - SundayXtra - - OPINION -

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.

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