Picking Winners and Losers…

In the sometimes harsh, but always very public, world of politics there are (simply put) winners and losers. I attended a luncheon yesterday sponsored by the California Women’s Leadership Association (CWLA) which featured a panel of political experts offering their free advice on how to spot winning candidates, etc.

Each panelist had some incredible insight and I want to share those with you. For their bios and more info on the lunch, click here.

Jon Fleischman: The Flash Report  Jon commented on many qualities a candidate needs to have, including being the ‘right candidate for the right district.’ He pulled from his experience as a former staffer and political operative to illustrate what it looks like when someone is a good person, but maybe not a good ‘candidate.’  He also pointed out that in CA’s new open primary system, while there may be few partisan primary voters crossing over to vote for the other side, the Decline To State (DTS) or independent voters ARE more likely to cross over and vote in partisan primaries and he called CA a ‘petri dish’ type experiment for what this is going to mean for partisan offices.

Dave Gilliard – Gilliard Blanning & Associates
Dave gave some great examples of how candidates can sometimes work hard, but not smart with their time. He also talked a lot about knowing who you are as a person and being committed to WHY you want to run. He said ‘if you don’t know why you want to run for office before you come and meet me, then you are probably not ready to be a candidate.’  He also mentioned that once you are a candidate, it changes your life forever, it changes your relationships with your friends, your family, etc.  Often people run for office because they view themselves as ‘popular’ (my word, not his) but when you become a candidate, you need to develop thick skin. In today’s world of social media, one random blog post can lob baseless accusations at you and you need to be prepared to deal with that. I think this is particularly poignant for women candidates.

Anne Dunsmore – Capital Campaigns
Anne’s has more than 20 years’ experience in fundraising and she offered some ‘tough love’ advice to candidates: fundraising is a tough job, it is the most vulnerable a candidate will ever be, it’s like being naked for them, they have to call someone, put their hand out and ask for support.  Often times, that person may say no, and as a candidate, you need to brush it off and go on to the next call or else you won’t be successful. (my summary of her words) She also brought forward a great point which was, that as a candidate, you need enough money to win, but the candidate with the most money does NOT always win.

Stephen Kinney – Public Opinion Strategies, LLC
Steve commented about how some candidates often want him to run polls that are biased towards them, i.e. ‘only ask questions that make me look good!’ He said that one measure of a good candidate is someone who is open and honest with the voters about their faults, and allows him to ‘test’ that information in the field. Steve is clearly not the type of pollster who tells you what you want to hear, he would rather give you good, accurate information.

I think all of these panelists had a tremendous amount of knowledge and expertise to offer the women (and men) in attendance at CWLA and I’m not doing them justice in this short post, needless to say it was a worthwhile meeting and I would encourage everyone to attend CWLA’s next luncheon in April…

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