The Song Remains The Same

Having looked at the recent Republican primary elections, we turn our attention to the party of which I am not a member.

I do so with great trepidation as I am constantly educated on its inner workings.

My education includes a very interesting conversation with Delegate Mark Sickles over beers and dinner several years ago in which Mark and I discussed caucus elections. I was incredulous to the fact that his caucus actually had contested elections for the various leadership posts therein. He was incredulous to the fact that we did not.

His caucus actually had/has contests for Sargeant At Arms and we usually had, from time to time, a contest for caucus chair.

In 2012, 13 Congressional incumbents lost primary elections presumably because the incumbents had not been sufficiently Democratic/liberal or Republican/conservative enough. Seven Democrats lost and six Republicans lost. 22 incumbents lost in the general election in November and another 42 retired.

Both parties have the same internecine contests and every incumbent is aware of them. Painfully so.

The contests for Lieutenant Governor and Attorney General on the Democratic side were very close with Senators Ralph Northam and Mark Herring winning respectively. And respectfully.

Those contests were not very hostile and appeared to be coin tosses for most voters with the victors being seen as the better general election candidates. Not entirely sure as I am not a Democrat and I am open to be proven wrong.

There were two challengers to incumbent House of Delegates Democrats – Delegate Algie Howell and Delegate Rosalyn Dance. Both African Americans in majority minority districts that Republicans will not field likely winners. So, the primaries ARE the election.

Dance was challenged for being insufficiently supportive of President Barack Obama. Howell for being more independent in his voting than members of his party would prefer. Algie has been challenged in primaries a total of four times since winning his first election in 2003.

Howell has won overwhelmingly in each primary challenge and crushed his most opponent on Tuesday with 68% of the vote gaining over 1800 raw votes. By now, Algie has built up a dependable base of support within his district and his campaign operation has gotten used to dispatching primary opponents.

Because he is constantly challenged from within, Howell is in a state of perpetual organization development and retention. Which is why he continues to win.

Dance, on the other hand, faced stiffer competition and even lost, barely, her hometown of Petersburg. Dance racked up enough support in newer parts of the district and was able to win. Given this threat, Dance will likely be more engaged with the base voters in her party and will, like Howell, be more able to withstand future internal contests.

No incumbent is guaranteed re-election, but a challenged victorious incumbent will learn a great deal from the experience.

The lesson for ANY incumbent, as clearly shown from Tuesday’s outcomes, is to constantly be recruiting new and talented people to your organization. In any facet of life, attrition is constant. Retention is key, but not nearly enough.

Incumbents should have an active, robust, and sustainable program of volunteer recruitment.

Campaigns, businesses, schools, organizations, economies, and, yes, families, need constant attention to growth and development.

Look at the most successful teams in sports – they are relentless in their pursuit of talent recruitment and then its development.

From there, the challenge becomes one of management.

Organizations must manage their teams to stated goals and objectives based upon the talent within it.

Barack Obama’s campaign for re-election, whether you voted for him or not, was brilliant in this regard. They registered voters, recruited volunteers, and executed the basics of a winning campaign with laser precision. Yes, Obama lost voters from 2008 but he made up for the attrition through recruitment while retaining a high percentage of previous supporters.

The song remains the same for all parties be they Republican, Democratic, TEA, Green, or Libertarian.

Recruit, recruit, recruit.

Politics, like life, is an exercise in addition.

It ain’t rocket science, it’s simple math.

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Chris Saxman

About Chris Saxman

Father of four, small business leader, retired politician, and Executive Committee member and former Chairman of an international trade association, Chris Saxman delivers strategy and insight as a political coach and keynote speaker. Contact Chris.

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