An Election Reflection for Political Professionals

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As some of you know, I had my first victory as a campaign manager on Tuesday. Through the efforts of countless volunteers, Tim Scott became Carlisle’s first Democratic mayor since 1978 and the borough’s first African American mayor. I am immeasurably proud of the campaign we ran—we ran a positive race based on policy, knocked many thousands of doors, and set a great example for future campaigns in south central Pennsylvania.

I learned a lot about campaign strategy, communications, and fundraising, but more importantly I remembered why I got into politics in the first place.

After the polls closed, Tim and I were driving back to our campaign HQ. We were both exhausted and sitting silently, staring at the road ahead. With a long sigh, Tim started talking about how many people were counting on him to win—not just because of his campaign promises, but because of what his victory would mean for the community.

Carlisle, which sits 30 miles north of the Mason-Dixon line, is one of the more racially segregated towns in the state, literally divided by a set of train tracks. A vast majority of the black voters who cast their ballot Tuesday voted in just two of the borough’s nine precincts. As recently as September 2000, the Ku Klux Klan held a rally on the steps of the town’s courthouse.

Tim moved to Carlisle from Virginia with his mother in 1978 and lived with his aunt and uncle Roosevelt, who was Carlisle’s first African American policeman. For a time, Tim lived in public housing on Lincoln Street and later lived on post at the Carlisle Barracks when his mother married his step-dad. After he finished college, he moved back to Carlisle and served three terms on borough council to give back to the community that had given him so much.

Many members of the part of the community where Tim grew up put their heart and soul into his mayoral campaign. And as we drove back to campaign headquarters to watch the results come in with our supporters, we knew that if we lost, their collective disappointment would be far greater than ours.

As it became clear from the election returns that we were going to win, the emotion in the room was palpable. The reporters kept talking about the historic nature of Tim’s win, and Tim’s family frantically called their friends and neighbors to let them know that victory was at hand. It was a victory for the whole community—a community that elected a man based on his policy platform and not his personal identity.

For the first time in years, I remembered at that moment why I got into politics way back in high school. Politics is about effecting change in your community, putting progress in front of partisanship, and, well, doing good.

Somewhere along the line, I forgot about that. I’ve spent the last few years thinking only about strategic communications, fundraising numbers, and opposition research. Being a professional political operative became more important than issues and improvement.

I’m blessed to have rediscovered the real reasons for getting involved in campaigning. Election returns are important, but it’s crucial that we occasionally return to the reasons we got into elections in the first place.

About Jake Sternberger

Jake Sternberger was a contributing writer at Keystone Politics from 2011 to 2014.
This entry was posted in Elections, Harrisburg / South Central, Munipocalypse 2013.

One Response to An Election Reflection for Political Professionals

  1. Congratulations to you and Tim, and thanks for giving me hope after a tough election here… if you guys can take Carlisle, we can someday take back (once strongly Democratic) Western Pennsylvania. And not by running DINOs, either!