Worst Mistakes Candidates Make #1 – Ignoring Their Family

The worst mistakes I’ve seen candidates make. First in a series.

Today. If your family isn’t on board, you will hate your life as a candidate for public office.

Early in my career I was shooting commercials for a gubernatorial candidate on a cold winter afternoon.

The candidate’s spouse was at the grocery store when the crew arrived at his house to shoot footage for what was to be a spot about his children, family and supportive spouse. When the Mrs. returned from the store, she found eight members of the camera crew in her house, wires all over the kitchen floor, kitchen door propped open, hot lights illuminating her daughter’s bedroom and three cameras in various locations. In the middle of a take she erupted at the top of her lungs, screamed at everybody in sight, then proceeded to berate her husband for allowing the crew to shoot footage in her house. He erupted back, told her to get out of the house if she didn’t like it. Then, after pausing a few seconds, he suggested she pack her bags and not come back at all. We did eventually finish the spot, but the wife wasn’t in the commercial.

It was obvious to all who witnessed the show down that she was not on board with her husband’s ambition to be Governor. In fact, as she exited the house, a suitcase in each hand, she reminded the candidate at a piercing decibel level that she had begged him not to run.

It was one of the most uncomfortable moments in my career. It was the last time I saw my client’s house, for shortly thereafter he moved to a hotel room in a different city, and to the best of my knowledge did not return home during the campaign. I did have a second encounter with the wife the day after he lost the election as I watched her again berate her husband and laugh at his loss, which I have come to know was the greatest disappointment of his life.

So, file this one as one of the biggest mistakes a candidate for public office can make…failing to consult with spouse and children. Failing to secure their support and approval. Failing to let them know the sacrifices involved. Campaigns are draining—physically, emotionally, mentally. And after a week of 18 hours days pressing the flesh, giving interviews, asking for money, fielding difficult questions from reporters…the last thing a candidate for public office needs is a spouse who rants at midnight about the absence of the candidate, or the pressure on the family budget, or children who resent the mom or dad who no longer has time to be a mom or dad. Make sure your family is OK with what you are doing, that they know in advance the sacrifices involved, and at every opportunity include them in the campaign. No candidate can be a good candidate if the spouse and children refuse to be team members in the mission.

And one more thing worth noting. If there is a current or past affair, news of same is quite likely to surface during a campaign. It is best to let the spouse know beforehand. It’s ugly when they read about it in the newspaper.

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Political consultant Jay Townsend works with smart, passionate candidates who want to run for office, win elections and make a difference. He has successfully helped candidates learn how to run for the U.S. Senate, how to run for Congress, how to run for Mayor and develop a winning campaign marketing strategy.

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