By Byron Donalds
Running for public office is exhilarating, exhausting and not for the feint of heart.
While I may not have won the U.S. House District 19 GOP primary, I have learned a great deal. I am today a better man, with a solid base of support, and I will be a stronger candidate in the future.
I'd like to share a few things I learned from the experience:
1. An unknown can win in his/her own territory, even if facing better-known candidates — if the unknown is surrounded by a strong, dedicated support team. I wouldn't trade my 400 volunteers for any high paid consultants. Individually, each did as much as they could. Together, we made a major impact in Southwest Florida politics, and their support was the key to my victory in Collier County.
2. Voter apathy is still a major problem. Thomas Jefferson said that an uninformed free society is an oxymoron. I am proud of the voters who became informed about the candidates, but saddened by the many who did not. I know that voters don't like robocalls, phone calls, mail and television ads, but these are necessary because too many voters don't do their own research.
3. You must define your opponents before they define you. In politics, perception is reality, and most voters don't have the time, ability, or tenacity to find out the truth. This doesn't mean that you should attack your opponents, but to be successful you must frame the debate for the voters and be clear about the differences between you and your opponents.
4. Grassroots campaigning still wins votes. Knocking on doors, participating in forums, marching in parades, and holding "meet and greets" are all great ways to promote a candidacy. Much of my momentum came from these activities, and many of the precincts we won were those where much grassroots effort took place. Still, there are far too many voters who will never engage with candidates face-to-face and wind up voting for a recognized name. Money doesn't equal electoral success, but it sure makes success easier.
5. You must be prepared to lay everything on the line. It will take all your effort to break though and win. If you are not committed personally, save your donors' money and your volunteers' energy. Your supporters have to know that you are all in if they are going to be all in. The voters will recognize this too.
I will not be discouraged by my defeat as a political newcomer, but I am instead strengthened by the lessons learned. Yes, I would do it all over again. And someday I just might.