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Recovering From Campaign Activities

A Note to Judges

By Sue Strausbaugh (2010)
Defiance, Ohio
Member, Supreme Court of Ohio Advisory Committee on the Judicial Family Network

It is about 6:30 p.m. on election night and the polls will soon be closed. You are attending the sausage and sauerkraut election night dinner at one of your local churches. Your emotions are running wild. Did I do enough? Maybe I should have put out a few more yard signs or knocked on a few more doors. You and your family spent the week at your county fair last summer. You ate at all of the soup suppers, pancake breakfasts, and chicken dinners you could attend. You participated in the year’s area parades. Soon you will know if all your hard work paid off. When the dust settles, the votes are all counted, and you have officially won, it will be time to focus on your new future. There are five topics I think are important when recovering from campaign activities: celebrate, clean up, relax, transition, and make amends.

Celebrate.  You, your family, friends, and campaign team have worked hard to get you elected. Have a party! Election night parties are fun and exciting for everyone involved. I have worked on five of my husband’s campaigns for different political positions and also worked hard for several other political campaigns at the national, state, and local levels. Election night parties are always a great way to celebrate. Have fun—you won. The voters put their trust in you and elected you to a judgeship.

Clean Up. The next day, after a short night, you are faced with cleaning up your campaign materials. We work on yard signs first. There is nothing worse than seeing yard signs weeks after the election is over. It is always a full day of driving all over the county in a pickup truck pulling out yard signs and talking to supporters about the election results. I would recommend buying a few large totes to store all of your other campaign material. You never know when you will need these things again. Write thank you notes and letters. If it is standard in your community, be sure you publish a "thank you" in the newspaper.

Relax.  After a few days of cleaning up, take some time off. You worked hard to get elected. You and your family deserve it. It is normal to feel a little out of sorts. For the last six to 12 months you have gone like crazy running your campaign and now you have come to a screeching halt. Go out of town, plan a short vacation, or just have dinner out in a different town. Do not feel guilty. You worked hard to become well-known and sometimes it is hard to have privacy when you are in a local restaurant having dinner. My husband and I try to get out of town for dinner at least twice a month.

Transition.  Next, start planning your transition, if you have not already done this. You may have a private law practice to close. You should start prioritizing your time for the few months until you take office. Make plans for a "swearing-in" ceremony. If possible, visit the court in order to familiarize yourself with your new office and staff.

Make Amends.  Last, and most important, make amends with your opponent or opponents. If you have not heard from them, send them a letter. There is a great possibility that your opponent will appear in your court. Campaigns can get messy and feelings may be hurt. It is important to turn the other cheek and move on. This is especially important in smaller counties where you see each other professionally. Remember, you won. This is in your hands.

Last, do not ever stop campaigning. The voters like to see elected officials out and about, and you never know what campaign might be next.

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