The November 8, 2015, Crankshaft cartoon reminded me that I have not written about losing an election lately.
With the petition filing deadline for the March Primary Elections coming up Monday, I thought that might be appropriate.
Four times I have walked that path:
- 1980, when I lost the GOP Primary Election for Congress against long-time incumbent Robert McClory.(He blinked the next election, when John Porter and he were thrown in the same district under Democratic Party redistricting.)
- 1982, when I lost the race for State Comptroller against incumbent Roland Burris
- 2000, when i was defeated in the Republican Primary Election by Rosemary Kurtz
- 2002, when, as a Libertarian, I lost the race for Governor against Rod Blagojevich and Jim Ryan.
Losing an election is a blow to one’s ego.
From my experience one goes through a mourning period.
It took about six months to recover the first three losses.
The first loss was a case of my not being able to marshal sufficient resources. I carried McHenry County, but lost Kane and Lake.
As State Rep. Ralph Capparelli (D- Chicago’s Northwest Side) put it, “Not enough precinct captains, Cal.”
The second one was, in a way, an experiment.
I wanted to see if someone could run and win an office higher than the state legislature without selling one’s soul.
I didn’t sell my soul and I didn’t win.
The third loss resulted from my being more interested in governing than in campaigning.
When I saw the results, Kurtz had won by enough that at least I knew that I wouldn’t be lying in bed asking myself, “What if?” questions.
The wide (53%-42%) margin was a blessing.
And now, as I reflect on what I have done with not only the eight hours a week that commuting takes from a local legislator’s life, but the time not spent on
- constituent casework (from all over the county–folks came to our office when the county’s other State Rep. couldn’t get results) and
- policy development, e.g., filling and analyzing Freedom of Information requests for all tax districts in the six-county area to discover the dollar amount (over a billion dollars a year in the late 1990’s and the Crystal Lake Park District still does it every year) of non-referendum bonds sold each year after that part of the Tax Cap was gutted by Republican Leaders Lee Daniels and Pate Philip,
I wonder if those who didn’t want me in Springfield where I didn’t have time to get involved in local politics have figured out what they accomplished.
The third loss, of course, was a foregone conclusion when Blagojevich and Ryan contrived to avoid the Illinois League of Women Voters debate in which I was entitled to participate, having gotten over 5% in the biggest poll taken that year (1000 respondents, taken in August).
When people approached my father for advice about running for office, he asked them three questions:
The first two were easy to answer:
1. Are you prepared to win?
2. Are you ready to serve if you win?
The third was tougher:
3. Are you prepared to lose?
The final question brought most of them up short, but all candidates should at least consider the possibility of a loss while their friends are urging them to run.
At least half of opposed candidates lose.
So, I urge candidates who have already filed and those who are waiting until the last moment on Monday to consider seriously if they have the emotional strength to lose an election they think they (even if no one else things) can win.