What It's Like to Run in the COVID-19 Election Cycle

I ran in a Democratic Primary for the U.S. House of Representatives attempting to primary an incumbent from the left. I was predictably unsuccessful, but vastly exceeded all of my most realistic expectations (did not finish last, though it was a nail biter). It was important to me to try to do something this cycle, and this was the place where I felt my voice would best be heard sending a message out to a significant audience size. I also wanted to set an important baseline. What could be accomplished if a candidate completely shuns donations or any of the traditional campaign avenues that generally have to be engaged in to have success?

I think money in politics is a cancer, and the only way it can be removed is to start winning elections without it. What’s easy to learn is that it’s impossible to ‘win’ without it, but it is possible to have some success and possibly set a baseline smallest amount of expenditures to be competitive. It would probably take 3 cycles under this least amount of money spent model to make it very close against a similar incumbent. The thing that was most important to me was crafting a message that informed the voter exactly what I believe in, so they could make an informed decision. Due to the sheer amount of issues I gave my positions on, it possibly could have reduced the pool of voters who might have selected my name on the ballot and that’s exactly what should have happened.

If there’s interest, I’m willing to talk about everything that went on in the election, including how much money I spent. Any info I give will make it much easier to identify who I am, so I would appreciate it if my name doesn’t appear in this thread.

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good to see you, mang :heart:

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For all the shit people sometimes give you, that’s badass, nice work!

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I’ll start with a question that shouldn’t need to elicit any “doxxable” info…

Basically, the question is, “Why?” You touched on it somewhat in your OP (“try to do something,” “set an important baseline”), but what was the something you were hoping to do? Why did you choose running for US Rep instead of doing something else?

I’ll share a little here too: the reason I’m asking this question is that my college girlfriend was a state rep for a couple terms, then quit to run for mayor of a large city. I haven’t spoken to her since college, but when I learned she was in politics, my biggest question was, “why?”

Mainly because I’d had enough. If you followed my often polarizing posting, I’m livid it at the sheer level of corruption inside this administration. I wanted to be a voice pushing back against that. I had no illusions I would win, but felt that there were people out there who felt the same way I did and wanted someone who wasn’t just going to shove the corruption and impeachment under the carpet. I also campaigned on significant systemic reform. At the time (I feel less this way now, though it still is), I felt this was the existential election of our lifetime and that it was way too close for me to just sit back and hope it worked out. If history were to judge and say, ‘what did you do in that election?’, I would say I was on the ballot trying to get a message out to as many people as I could that this is it, the end game.

More directly, I wrote my rep after the Mueller report dropped trying to convince the rep to go on the record in support of an official impeachment inquiry. I was blown off, and the rep was scheduled to have a town hall in the recess. I wanted to go to pressure the rep, but didn’t see the actual notice. A couple of days after the town hall, I received an email from the rep talking about the town hall. That seemed intentional, and was a strike against the rep. The final straw was after the Roger Stone thing where Barr interfered. I tried to contact Pelosi, but her site kept failing (lol). I found out you couldn’t reach Nadler unless you were in his district, so I wrote my rep asking the rep to pass along a message to either or both of them trying to pressure them into starting an impeachment inquiry against Barr. I heard nothing except a carefully crafted form letter addressed to ‘Dear Friend’ telling me that ‘my voice had been heard’. On February 14, I was taking a nap, and when I woke up I was on ‘fire’ knowing that I had to do the run no matter what happened…well before COVID-19 would play a major factor. I had basically my entire platform in my head and spent a few hours writing it up. I continued crafting it over about a week’s time to get it to what it ended up as.

As for why the House? I’m not interested in local politics. Rightly or wrongly, I believe the House has a particular purpose that deviates from how quite a few people in it appear to view it. I believe the true intent of the House is to represent your district for the good of the country, not to bring pork back to your district. It’s also disgusting to me that the typical House seat costs well over $2 million dollars to win. That’s ‘the people’s’ seat, and something has to change. A good representative, to me, brings back good things to every district with good policy. If a member of Congress is obsessed with getting pork back to the state, I think that member should be working at the state or local level. I also think that kind of ‘advocacy’ is more intended for the Senate…again, that’s just my personal opinion.

Cliffs: It was a combination of the events going on, the cynicism of people thinking nothing can be done, not being able to sit on the sideline, an incumbent that massively irritated me, and feeling the need to press a particular set of ideas to a much wider audience (a large part of that message is voting).

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First I want to say congratulations on living your values.

My (related) question is: how does it feel to have completed this effort? Did it give you any more hope to be a part of that process? On a personal level do you feel like a little weight was lifted in that you weren’t so much screaming from the stands, but actually in the arena?

Lastly, in your more heated moments did you consider telling the rep that they are a good rep and you like them very much?

Thanks for sharing.

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gogogo

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Thanks. I’m hoping this was a once in a lifetime thing, especially as my message was forward and generic facing in the sense that it wasn’t geared to win the seat but to show how important the 2020 general election is. I was on the side of the fight of trying to stave off ‘burning it all down’. If this election goes wrong, well…

The effort was interesting. Throughout the run, I had no idea how I would do. I set my over/under at 3 votes (me, my wife, and ???). I have no idea what kind of ‘conversion to vote’ percentage there is out there, but more people selected my name on the ballot than visited my website. That just seemed mind boggling to me.

I can’t really describe the feeling of the first vote drop happening (votes came down in three batches on election night). I couldn’t believe how many people selected my name on the ballot (it wasn’t a ton of votes, but very far above expectation), and I thought I had a realistic chance of crossing a threshold that I never realistically expected to cross. I did end up blowing past that threshold, but got to have the sweat of a lifetime for what place I would finish in. And yes, it felt so much more like I was doing more than screaming from the stands. People around here would probably be surprised how much influence they might have on the typical voter. I certainly didn’t anticipate there would be that many people who would be willing to use my name as their avatar for their feelings.

I told the rep that I had voted for the rep in all primaries and general elections and that I would do everything in my power to primary the rep if the rep didn’t go on the record. Little did I realize at that time that meant running against the rep. That was kind of the equivalent of the old inside joke on here.

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It’s over, brother.

Congrats on running and exceeding your expectations! I’ll bite… How much did you spend? Do you think the dynamics of being in a pandemic hurt you? I would imagine they would, although if you used social media and technology really well, maybe not. Seems like on a shoestring budget as a relative unknown, being able to go door to door and make legitimate in-person connections is essential.

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Question - Did you consider using this space as a resource at all? Id say we have a fairly wide political footprint. Did you think that we might be able to assist in spreading the word in any way?

Curious as to roughly how many votes you got.

Thanks. Including ballot access ($300), I spent $1391. I spent $875 on ‘reach’ material (the actual campaign cost). I spent about another $216 on a few other small things (including being able to save editable elements of the logo I designed), some of which weren’t able to be used either due to quality (a stamper) or because of the pandemic rendering them unusable (business cards).

My goal was to create a ‘viral’ campaign where people would see somewhat unique material and be drawn to find out more about what it was about. Road signs were originally going to be a part of that, but the pandemic killed that. Dropping business cards in strategic places was going to be another, but the pandemic killed that too.

If anything, I think the pandemic helped me. I was never planning on doing any kind of public campaigning (it was all about trying to create message visibility) and once the pandemic hit everyone running was basically shut in. The turn out was absolutely crazy for this election (we were still waxed by the incumbent) and my guess is that my vote total wouldn’t have been drastically different if it had been a low turnout election like I expected. My highest percentage of the vote actually came from in-person voting, which was pretty surprising. I was trying to create a particular reach, and it seems like the decisions I made reached a lot of the right people, far more than I expected.

I made a few timing mistakes that I think hurt me (lost a week twice, once due to ballots going out 10 days earlier than expected, and the other being a technical problem related to ID verification to run political ads), but they might have only caused a few hundred people who might have selected my name to not have any awareness of me, so nothing earth shattering. I also had an issue with a printer not getting back to me fast enough when I wanted to do another printing, so I had to abandon something I’d planned on doing (would have made the campaign probably cost another $200 or so as I would have allocated final funding differently). That printing might have had a significant impact on my vote total, but I’ll never know for sure.

No, I was trying to create a baseline of what could be possible by basically doing ‘nothing’ but having a strong message and wearing what I believe on my sleeve (something uncommon for nearly every political candidate). The goal going in was to try to create a low grade GOTV campaign, but it exceeded that much more than my wildest realistic expectations. The election was never about me, but about what I feel elections for the House should be about if that makes sense.

1,431

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That is actually amazing. Well done.

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Only about 1,200 people in the district landed on my website and I doubt much more than 50 percent of them selected my name. I have absolutely no idea where the rest of the votes came from. I’m looking forward to doing precinct level analysis.

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I know we haven’t gotten along in the past but good work. It takes guts to do what you did and undoubtedly you would have been an improvement on whoever you ran against.

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Are you comfortable sharing what percentage of the vote this was?

Would you do it again? What are some of the things you would do differently? And what advice would you give someone who wanted to give it a go?

I can certainly relate to being irritated by elected officials being unresponsive. When you get that generic form letter response, it feels like they either didn’t actually read/understand the specific thing you contacted them about, or that they did, but they’re blowing you off. Both possibilities are annoying.

I was reflecting on the bolded part above. I realized that running for office does give you access to some channels to amplify your message that you wouldn’t otherwise have access to, for low/no cost as well.

For example, in Washington state, you’d have the chance to write a statement that’s included in the voter’s pamphlet that’s sent to all households in the state. Obviously not everyone reads every statement but a lot do.

Also there are things like candidate forums, panel sessions, debates, etc. that are put on by the party apparatus, League of Women Voters, etc. That’s a good chance to get in front of people and say your piece.

Anyway, it’s not something I’d be inspired to do, but still it seems worthwhile if you are.