Saturday, February 24, 2018

The Candidate's Wife: Primo gets some tough love about campaigning from a legislator friend

One of the things Primo hates the most about running for office is the feeling that he is bothering people when he talks to them about running. He doesn't mind talking to strangers when he is at a political event or when he is knocking on doors, but he is very uncomfortable talking about himself and about the campaign if he is at a non-political event, like a block party or a church youth group fundraiser. He doesn't want to bother people or intrude.

I tell him that if he is comfortable knocking on someone's door and interrupting them AT HOME that he should be fine at any other gathering.

At the least, I tell him, wear a campaign button!

And go to events in our district!

I am not the only person telling him this.

He got an email from a friend of his who is a representative. This friend - we shall call him Hamilton, although that is not his name - is echoing what other friends are saying, which is that Primo is spending wayyyyy too much time helping other people in their events and not enough time in his own district campaigning.


I write with love and support, but I do need to share a few things that aren't easy to say - and a few ideas that I think are really great.

Here's the tough news: Primo, I believe you need to be in district more, less events for others.  You need to be selfish.  You need to be at neighborhood or community based events meeting people you don't yet know.*

 [*That is the part Primo hates!] 

The political circles know you, they support you.  You support them back, which is good, but unless you're raising money by going, you gotta stay back in the burbs and connect with voters.  Example: Becky is a friend, you support her, that's all good but there is no cross over between her district and yours.  You can also rule out getting money from her, as she's running, on balance an evening event like that needs to become less of a priority.  

I say the same thing about my own fundraisers coming up.  Don't come to my events, stay in district and connect as best you can.  Obviously there won't be events every night but you get the point... 

Now, the [PAC] event is a room where you can get money.  If you go to an event like that you've got to bring lit/business cards and make a hard ask from some of the political folks there.  Mike and Steve can each direct thousands to you.  They'll tell you that they can't do it this early in the campaign cycle, but you need to ask.  You need to stick your hand out and say "I'm going to win and I need your support.  How much can you contribute?"**

[**Also torture for Primo and, I think, for most normal people.]

Primo, you are in the spotlight.  Lots of people around the state and country have eyes on your district.  We expect you to win.  I believe you will, but I don't say that like a coach tells the worst kid on the team that they tried their best - I mean I expect you to win.  I expect you to be ruthless and selfish and go get this.  You can win.  You will win.  You just need to do it.  That takes an unwavering commitment to you and your district.  

"But how do I work a room?" Primo asked me. "How do I go somewhere where I don't know anyone?"

I have no idea. I am also not a room worker. Nothing fills me with more dread than having to enter a room of strangers and there is almost nothing I would rather do than be at home by myself or with Primo and the cats and some books. I don't enjoy being around other people. It's torture. And it's boring.

Primo called Hamilton and asked.

Guess what? Hamilton is also an introvert. Campaigning is torture for him, too. He has the added challenge of not being the same race as almost everyone else in his district, so, as he told Primo, he really stands out.

But he does it anyhow.

His rules are simple:

He goes to the events.

He makes sure to meet the organizer.

And he talks to at least three people he doesn't know.

Then he lets himself leave.

He gave Primo a formula.

Primo is an engineer. He loves formulas.

And we went to the church youth group fundraiser on Friday. We sat at a table of people we did not know. Primo met all three adults at the table. And he talked to them. And it actually came up organically in the conversation that he was running for office and THEY WERE INTERESTED.



  1. That's the church event you posted about earlier, right? Good for him! I'm feeling kind of burnt out with my local committee chairmanship, especially since my co-chair does absolutely nothing, to the point of rarely responding to emails! I'll stick with it, but I may decline to serve a second term (we're limited to two consecutive terms).

  2. Have lost track of the time frame .... is this for Nov. 2018? If so,,, we recently attending an event for a candidate in our district whom we had never met.

    She entered the room (half full of people milling about), spoke to the organizer, then rubbed her hands together and walked up to the closest group (us) and said, "Hi, I'm Abigail. Thanks for coming."

    She spent about five minutes with us, asked questions about us (who are you, what do you do?) and then said "thanks so much for coming. I hope you will support me and vote for me in the primary. And, now i need to meet some other people."

    We were satisfied, and made a donation on our way out. Primo could do that.

    She made no attempt to tell her story to each small group, but did that in a more formal way. Primo does need an elevator speech for times when he is not speaking to the whole group, tho.

    Good luck!

    1. This is a great approach - thanks!

      The harder situation is a non-political event, for instance, a non-political pancake breakfast. But we have been going and conversations have been happening organically, which is nice. We had to go to a funeral last night. Primo took his political buttons off his coat because a funeral is not the place. But at the reception afterwards, there were a few people who recognized him from his campaign facebook page and wanted to talk about the election.

      And yes, these posts are (real time + a few weeks); this campaign is for the Nov 2018 election.

  3. Thought: Primo being Primo might do better with a version of this approach:

    "I'm running for [State Office] and I'm interested in hearing about what issues are important for you and why?" in which they can feel heard, he can debate a couple of points, get in a talking point or 2, and then let it go.

    Because I suspect part of this is Primo not feeling like EVERY event in his community/private life should be *all about how he is running for office now* and he can no longer be just a regular guy and enjoy them.