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June 3, 2010

The politics of losing

Amanda Haddaway

A political campaign, even at a local level, is an intense combination of hard work, countless hours and sometimes sleepless nights replaying the last candidate forum or question from the media. So, why would anyone willingly enter their name into the craziness that is campaigning?


It's really quite simple.


Many people, who run for elected office, do so because they think that they can impact change on a certain issue or series of issues. It was indeed this reason that prompted me to run for the Board of Aldermen in Frederick City. Although my campaign wasn't victorious, it was the opportunity of a lifetime and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.


It may be an odd perspective to take, but losing wasn't so bad after all. After the tears were shed on election night due to the sheer exhaustion from many months of campaigning while working full-time, I gained perspective on the entire situation.


I worked hard, but I just couldn’t overcome the level of name recognition that some of the other candidates have. I was also working at an experience deficit. That is, I was the youngest candidate by at least 10 years, and I heard extensive feedback that my youthful appearance probably hurt me with some of the more “experienced” voters. I suppose I’ll have more wrinkles and gray hair as time goes on!


Very early in my campaign, I met with several local political sages. Former state Delegate and County Commissioner J. Anita Stup invited me into her home and told me that it was important to connect with voters. She shared some tactics that worked for her previous campaigns, and I employed some of those same tactics in mine.


Commissioner Blaine Young told me that knocking on doors is the most important thing a challenger candidate can do and he was right. Former state Delegate Rick Weldon encouraged me to keep doing what I was doing, which may not seem like much advice, but it was precisely the confidence boost that I needed as a first-time candidate. And there were many others, including several columnists from The


I used these conversations to shape my campaign. I knocked on doors (lots of doors!), I asked questions and I researched the issues. When I was done with that, I researched some more. My goal was to be ready for any question that was asked of me and I think that I did a good job of preparing for the rigors of an elected position. There are times when you can beat yourself up for not trying hard enough, but this wasn't one of those times.


My greatest take-away from the campaign was the people. The people who willingly gave their time to my campaign as either advisors or volunteers in many different capacities are people who I now call friends. If I hadn't run for office, I might not have had the opportunity to meet and get to know so many of these wonderful people that make up our community. It’s the average citizens who have an interest in this community who make it such a great place to live.


The second gift that I earned from my campaign was a renewed sense of pride in Frederick City and the surrounding area. While we may sometimes complain about the decisions made by our local officials, we should all take a step back and realize that we live in a pretty great place.


The greater Frederick area has a lot to offer – from arts and entertainment to fine dining to historically significant places. Our hometown is more robust and has more to offer than many cities of similar size. Could it be better? Sure, but what place couldn't? It's all about perspective and I'll take Frederick any day over a lot of other places.


While my own bid for office wasn't successful, I encourage you to run if you have been thinking about it. Take the risk. The only thing you have to lose is the election itself and that's really not so bad.


Our community needs leaders who care about our future. This year’s elections afford many opportunities to get involved from county-level positions to state-level positions. If you are unsure about what a specific position entails, ask the person doing the job now. I have found most of our elected officials – and former officials – to be very receptive to speaking with someone who shows an interest in the job.


If you’re not ready to throw your own hat in the ring as a candidate, think about assisting a candidate on his or her campaign. There are plenty of volunteer opportunities on political campaigns and candidates are usually hungry for additional assistance with their campaign efforts.


For additional information on how to run for office in Frederick County and the candidates who have already filed, visit the Board of Elections web site at


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