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Running Is Winning

Updated: Jul 30, 2023

Democrats often ask, “Why run for office in Henderson County when there’s hardly a chance of winning?”

The first answer that comes to mind is that no matter who gets the most votes in a race, the very act of running as a Democrat in a red district is winning. Hear more about that on August 11 at Running IS Winning with Eric Ager.

I could elaborate with a lot of feel-good philosophical reasons to explain why I believe this is true, but I’d like to focus on the proven and practical. Here are just a few points.

It gets our message out in a way nothing else can.

There are people in our area who rarely hear a perspective other than the conservative point of view. What if their friend or neighbor—or even someone they casually know--ran for county commission or school board? They likely would start to think about issues they have never examined. They would pay more attention than they would in an uncontested race.

It builds our “Reverse Coattails.”

In both 2020 and 2022, several analysts reported on a reverse coattail effect in which lower-level Democratic candidates running in red, “nearly hopeless” districts helped win extremely close national and statewide races. Local candidates having conversations in their communities get out the vote in ways that nothing else can. Every vote counts and running in a local race strengthens the reverse coattails effect.

It builds infrastructure for future elections.

Run for Something is a Political Action Committee whose goal is recruiting and supporting young, diverse progressives to run for down-ballot races. I like how they explain their strategy. “Our risk tolerance is high: Like incubators or venture capital firms in the tech world, we don’t expect all of our candidates to win the first time out. By getting on the ballot, holding opponents accountable, and getting Democrats engaged through safe voter contact, our candidates will be effective in building out the party at the local level, thereby increasing the likelihood of another young Democrat running in the future.”

Representation matters. Young voters are watching--closely.

Imagine that you’re a GenZ voter who hates book bans and active shooter drills and homophobia and other Republican stances, but you haven’t even heard of a Henderson County candidate running against the extremism. Why would this young person bother going to the polls? If they don’t, that leaves us stuck exactly where we are today.

The unexpected can and does happen!

This one is from a Republican pollster: “Both parties should want to have strong candidates running for office up and down the ballot because parties never know what districts will become competitive.” If something unexpected happens—which tends to occur frequently in life—we need to be ready to take advantage of it.

I could go on and talk about how local elections have a bearing on day-to-day life such as our schools and land use. Or how small down-ballot races impact the state power structure, which affects things like redistricting, which influences the national balance of power. But I think you get the idea – regardless of the outcome, you will make a difference by being in the race.

I am grateful for all our candidates who have put themselves out there to run for office knowing that they have an uphill battle. Running is not for everyone, but here in Henderson County, we have such an abundance of smart, dedicated, service-minded Democrats that I know we have many potential candidates who would do a great job. HCDP will fully and enthusiastically support our candidates with website assistance, mailings, motivational support, and other tactics, to make the experience as positive and meaningful as possible. We want to help you run and win!

If you have questions or ideas about running for office, I hope you join us on August 11 for Running IS Winning with Eric Ager. We feel hopeful about the momentum we’re building and the demographic changes in the county. We’re on it – we’re already preparing for 2024.


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