Case study: Run, run again, then run again - one strategy for getting elected

Running every election season is not the strategy I recommend for getting elected. Candidates ought to have a specific reason they want to hold a particular office. For example, "I want to be Mayor because the city is in debt and I have the background and skills to get us out of debt." Or "I want to run for state representative because we have transportation problems I know how to fix them." 

When you run for different offices each year the implied reason for your candidacy is "I really want to be elected to something." That's not a campaign theme voters will get excited about. 

Running many times does still work sometimes. How does it work?

[Now] Senator Mark Udall of New Mexico made his first run for public office in 1982. He was 34 years old and came from a family of elected officials. He desperately wanted to be a congressman. 

He lost, finishing last among four candidates in the primary with 13% of the vote. 

In 1988, he ran for the new 3rd congressional seat in New Mexico. This time he won the primary but lost by a 51-47% margin in the general election. 

Two years later he ran again, but this time for Attorney General. He won that seat. In 1998, his old 3rd Congressional seat look winnable. He ran again and finally became a congressman from New Mexico. 

Why did it work? Why didn't voters dismiss him after a few losses? 

First off, he had a respectable showing in most of his early elections. Garnering 13% in a crowded primary isn't a career killer. Getting 47% in a congressional race is a huge accomplishment that puts you at the top of "future candidate" lists. 

Second, running for office allows you to build a campaign infrastructure for the future. It gives you an advantage over others who haven't run before. You build your name id and amass a list of donors to help you in the future. You also compile a list of volunteers and organize a team you can count on in future elections. 

If you have run and lost, make sure you keep those lists. Stay in touch with the people who have helped you in the past. Thank them for their help and offer to help them with careers. 

If you're running now or intend to run in the future, keep in mind how important it is to track your supporters and treat them well. 

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