So you lost an election? Here’s what to do next.

Nicole Carlsburg | Jul 3, 2019

You can read the complete Barbara Lee Family Foundation research memo, Relaunch: Resilience and Rebuilding for Women Candidates After an Electoral Loss here

The 2018 midterm elections saw more women run for elected office than any other time in U.S. history. While that meant that a record number of women would win their elections, it also meant record losses. Few people realize that on Election Day 1992—the “Year of the Woman”— more than three times as many women lost their bids for Congress as won them.

So often in the past, women have been blamed and shamed for losing campaigns, and have faced a harder road back to politics. However, recent Barbara Lee Family Foundation research shows a welcome change in voter attitudes. Relaunch: Resilience and Rebuilding for Women Candidates After an Electoral Loss found that voters are incredibly open to the idea of a woman candidate relaunching herself after a loss and running for office again.

This is good news because, post-2018, we’re already seeing women who lost jump right back into the fray. One example: MJ Hegar lost her congressional race in Texas in 2018, but has already announced that she is running for Senate in 2020. Hegar even highlights her unsuccessful previous campaign in her announcement video.

For those women who lost and are contemplating another run, here’s what our research found:

  1. Prioritize post-election messaging.

Voters want to hear a positive and hopeful post-election message. They want to hear women candidates reiterate their beliefs and how they will continue to fight for them.

  1. Choose next steps carefully.

According to voters, successful repeat candidates will remain in the public eye by helping other women run for office, taking a position within their party, or conducting a listening tour. Women candidates who choose issues-oriented, public-serving positions will fare much better in future elections than women candidates who write a book or take a high-paying private sector job.

  1. Be forward thinking.

Don’t dwell on the past! Voters are quick to pick up on any perceived whining or blaming.

  1. Run again.

BLFF’s study found that voters do want to see women run again if they lose. Contrary to what we’re used to hearing, one woman’s loss does not represent the end of her political career to voters.

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