You Won Your Primary Election Campaign: Now What?

Most candidates running for office spend so much time focused on the campaign that when it is over, they just want to go on a long vacation and take some time to recover.  Campaigns are all-or-nothing affairs and to win, many candidates in tough contests spend 16 hours a day campaigning, 7 days a week, for months on end.  (In fact, taking nights and weekends off is on our list of How NOT to Win Election Campaigns).

Once you win, it’s natural to want to spend some time away from the campaign grind.  Before you head off for some much deserved R&R, read this article!

Contested primary elections are difficult affairs that often put a real strain on the party faithful.  If you just won a tough primary election, here are five things you need to do immediately after you win to make sure you’re in a strong position for the general election:

1.   Make Peace with Your Primary Election Opponent(s)

Primaries often fracture parties in a way that no general election can.  As the winner, it’s up to you to mend wounds and heal the rift.  Not only is it good for the party, its good for you: your campaign will need all the support it can get in order to win the general election.  So don’t just call your primary opponent (or opponents, if it was a multi-candidate election), sit down with them, share ideas, and bring them on board with your campaign organization.

2.  Make Peace with Your Opponent’s Supporters

The next step in healing the divide is to sit down with the key party leaders, elected officials, and special interest groups that supported your primary election opponent(s).  Find common ground, pledge to work with them on those areas where there is agreement, and invite them into your campaign organization as well.

3.  Present a United Front

Once you make peace with your opponent(s) and their key supporters, its time to let the party rank and file that supported your opponent know that they can safely lend their support to your campaign.  The best way to do this is to very publically show the voters that your opponent(s) and their key supporters are on your campaign team.  Hold a press conference or other event to show a united front, and show the party faithful that didn’t support you that the time is right for them to jump on board.

4.  Merge Grassroots Organizations

If your opponent(s) had strong grassroots organizations during the primary election fight, either district-wide or in their own geographical base of support, do your best to bring that organization into the fold.  Invite precinct-level leaders, block captains, and ward chairmen to come into positions of leadership within your own grassroots organization.  (For more on building your grassroots operation, read The 5 Secrets of Successful Grassroots Organizations).

Doing so without upsetting your current leadership is sometimes a bit of a trick, but can usually be done by inviting your opponent’s leadership to come on board in a parallel (co-leadership) or subordinate (vice-leadership) capacity.

5.  Launch the Attack

Finally, once you have made peace, presented a united front, and merged organizations, its time to get the team moving in the same direction.  The best way to do this is to launch your first attack on your general election opponent.  Doing so lets your team know who the real enemy in the election is, and gets them working towards a common goal.


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