Lessons Learned

The yard signs are long gone; the new Council has been seated. Detailed voting data is now available from the Cook County Clerk's office. I support Alderman Grover and I offer belated thanks to my supporters. Running for public office is a learning experience and I would like to share my lessons.
While I am, of course, very grateful to my friends and acquaintances who voted for me, I want to especially thank those who voted for me, not because they knew me personally, but because they researched the candidates, listened to our pitches, weighed our credentials, and then cast their votes for me. I guess that more than 3/4's of my votes were from those who did not know me personally. For the candidates and their ardent supporters, the issues matter a great deal. But to most voters, there was no burning issue around which opinions polarized.
I was surprised at how little the issues really mattered. Indeed, towards the end of the campaign, I sensed that the positions of all the candidates for aldermanic office were converging. For example, at one forum held for all the contested wards, all 10 candidates, but not the incumbent, spoke of their opposition to the 708 Church St. development. Attempts to magnify differences of opinion or to make big issues out of political party affiliation came to nothing.
Throughout my campaign, I strove to get people to check out the web sites- mine, my opponents, EvanstonNow.com and the Central St. Neighbors site. I tracked the number of hits and unique visitors to my site and could see spikes in traffic when I mailed a brochure, received an endorsement, or dropped a flyer. Yet, the total number of unique visitors to my site was less than 200. Bill Smith, of EvanstonNow.com, reported that my blogs received almost 2600 page views, the second most popular on his site. However, those views were from all over Evanston and beyond.
I learned that, if one runs for a local office, one needs to be involved in civic organizations that are based in the local district. I am grateful to my many supporters who knew me from the Democratic Party of Evanston, from the Save the Civic Center Committee, from AYSO soccer, but many of them do not live in the 7th Ward. Ald. Grover was very active with the Kingsley/Haven PTA. Those members are much more highly concentrated in the 7th.
Reflecting upon the differences in our bases of support, I was struck by another realization. Women dominate politics in Evanston. 7 out of 10 members of the Evanston City Council are women. For both the school boards, the ratio is 10 of 14. Add in the local elected officials that are prominent in local politics (congressman, st. senator, st. representative, county commissioner, MWRD commissioner) and the total ratio becomes 20 of 29.
Voter statistics tell a similar story. Based on the Cook County voter registration database, 51% of Evanston registered voters are women. This past November, 53% of cast ballots were by women and in April, 56% of the voters were women. The higher turnout by women seems related to school board elections- in April 2007 and 2005 (the last aldermanic election), over 55% of voters were also women. I also noted that my neighborhood precinct (which I carried) had one of the lowest percentages of women voters, 51%, compared to the winner's neighborhood precinct's 57%.
Being a number-cruncher, I also determined the average age of those who voted in each ward/precinct. I ran best in the two oldest precincts and Ald. Grover's neighborhood precinct was the second youngest.
Looking towards the future, I desire to remain involved in local issues. The spirit that motivated me to run hasn't disappeared just because I lost. I discovered a new interest in writing about Evanston and will continue to do so. I welcome your comments.


John, thank you for sharing your thoughts and reflections. We encouraged blogging during the campaign; although still presumably filtered, there is potentially more immediacy and authenticity to such communication than from a slick, static mailing. I also feel that online communication, done properly, helps humanize candidates to voters.
It takes some courage to "put yourself out there" for any office, even the most local; indeed, sometimes the more local, the more personal it feels. As does a loss. And if one feels one was right "on the issues," then it's hard not to conclude that rejection by the electorate must have been for some other reason. And the more similar that candidates are on the issues, the greater the danger that the race detours into irrelevancies.
The answer, sometimes, is that no one was "rejected." The 7th Ward race was one of several in the city in which many felt there was more than one good candidate and more than one potentially good alderman.
I hope that you will continue to share your thoughts on this website, and continue to be a voice in local issues.