Election Night is a big deal.
It’s the culmination of a long campaign and a typically long day of making sure all your supporters got to the polls or mailed in their ballots.
And if all goes well it will be an awesome, exhilarating, and most importantly a victorious evening.
Over the years and the campaigns I’ve been a part of, there are several rules I’ve come up with for Election Night.
1. Don’t Spend Time and Money on a Party Instead of Your Campaign
Campaigns for elected office are long, time-consuming undertakings.
It’s natural for candidates, campaign workers, and volunteers to want to celebrate their success on Election Night.
There’s a big problem with this though.
You won’t know if you’ve won until Election Night.
Until the polls close, all of your campaign’s energy and resources must be dedicated to one thing: winning your race.
Too many times a candidate will believe one of two falsehoods that harm their chances.
They will believe that the election is already won and stop working, or they’ll believe there’s nothing else they can do to affect the outcome of the race.
Instead of working hard until the closing minutes of Election Day, money and energy is shifted towards throwing a party for that night.
Don’t do that.
Candidates and their campaign teams need to keep working on getting voters to the polls until the polls close.
Everything needs to be put into winning.
If you notice that your volunteers are spending their time and your money on putting together an extravagant party, stop them.
The goal is to win the race.
The party will happen once the polls close.
And your shin dig doesn’t need to be anything fancy.
Enjoying pizza, soda, and maybe some beer as the results come is more than sufficient for a good Election Night Party.
2. Don’t Call Your Election Night Party a Victory Party
Yes, you want your gathering at the end of Election Day to be a Victory Party.
But please please please don’t call it that.
While there are some sure things in politics, there are also many upsets.
Plus there are a lot of superstitions in politics.
I’ve never been one to jinx a likely win by declaring victory before the polls have closed.
Inviting people to your “victory party” before you’ve won does just that.
It also signals to your campaign workers and volunteers that they don’t need to work too hard on Election Day because the race is in the bag.
You never want to give off that impression.
Avoid this by calling your get together an Election Night Party.
Hopefully when the results come in the voters will have transformed it into a Victory Party.
3. Always Thank Your Spouse and Family
Regardless of whether you win or lose, when giving remarks on Election Night always thank your spouse and your family.
If you are married you must thank your spouse, both sincerely and profusely.
You would not have been able to put in the hours you have on the campaign trail if your spouse did not support your mission.
And if you were attacked during the race, the punches thrown probably hit your spouse harder than they impacted you.
Spouses tend to personalize and internalize everything that happens to you because they are devoted to you.
After all that’s why you married the person you did, right?
At the same time you need to thank your family members, whether they helped out on your campaign or not.
Campaigns take a vast amount of time and energy from you.
That time and energy is usually sucked away from your loved ones.
They paid the price of you being gone long hours and not being involved in the family at the same level you were when you were not on the trail.
You need to let them know you appreciate the sacrifices they made that allowed you to pursue your political goal.
4. Thank Your Supporters
Always be grateful to the people who helped you out in your campaign, whether you win or not.
Thank those who gave you money.
Thank those who volunteered for your campaign.
Thank those that worked for you.
Thank those that let you put a sign in their yards.
Thank those who marked your name on their ballots.
Gratitude goes a long way, but ingratitude is remembered a lot longer.
Should you win or lose your election, that does not mean it won’t be your last race.
The people that were there with you this time will remember how you treated them when you call for their help the next.
Be gracious and publicly thank them for all their support and they’ll likely be there to support you for your next campaign.
5. Thank Your Opponents
If you come out on top, or if you fail to win election to office, thank your opponents.
You should thank your opponents no matter what.
This is unfortunately a rare thing in today’s political world and it’s hurting our country and our communities.
In a democracy with free elections people run for office.
Some will win, but most will lose.
When a person throws their hat into the ring and seeks elected office they are playing an important role in keeping the American experiment with self-government alive and well.
Whether an opponent bested you or only received five votes, they deserve to be acknowledged for getting involved.
You may not agree with them.
You may not like them after some of the things they did during the campaign.
It doesn’t matter.
They had the right to run for office just as you did and they should be acknowledged for it.
If you lose, you should also consider making a congratulatory or concessionary phone call to the victor.
This is not mandatory, but it is typically appropriate.
Sometimes emotions are too raw on Election Night to make the call.
You can always make the call the next day.
You may not want to place that call at all, especially if the winner viciously attacked you, but the call isn’t about them.
The call is about you and your character.
Congratulating the person who beat you shows immense character and will help remove some of the poison that has infected our democracy and turned off so many voters.
6. Never Seek A Concession from an Opponent
The best place to be on Election Night is in the Winner’s Circle. There’s no doubt about it.
You didn’t spend the countless hours, days, weeks, and sometimes months to lose.
You entered your race to win.
Should you hopefully prevail and win your election, one of the things you will want is for the people you defeated to concede that you beat them and congratulate you.
Don’t count on it.
As mentioned above, people who lose elections are often stung by the defeat and can be very angry or depressed by the outcome.
Give them their space.
When the time is right they will call to concede and congratulate you.
If they choose to.
It’s completely up to them whether they do or do not. There’s nothing you can do about it.
You won the race. That should be all the validation you need.
For some people unfortunately it’s not.
A few years back one of my candidates lost a very close re-election race for City Council.
On Election Night there were enough late ballots remaining to be counted in the following days that it was possible, though unlikely, that he might still pull it out.
Rather than wait for the ballots to be counted, the candidate who had won suddenly showed up at our Election Night party seeking a concession from the man he had just beat.
His likely victory over an incumbent did not validate him.
He wanted a concession in person there that very night.
When the incumbent wouldn’t concede until all of the late ballots were counted, his challenger got on the phone with the press and told them our campaign refused to concede.
It was one of the most juvenile and narcissistic displays I’d ever seen during my years in politics.
Don’t follow that candidate’s bad example.
Never expect or demand a concession from your defeated opponent.
You’re better than that and winning should be enough.
After all, that’s why you race for office in the first place.