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Life after losing an election

Mon, 30 Apr 2012 03:52:26 CDT
By: IPR's Sam Hudzik

Life after losing an election Tuesday (May 1) marks six weeks since Illinois voters went to the polls for the state's primary elections. It was a happy day for winners, and a devastating one for the losers. IPR's Sam Hudzik talked to some candidates who know what it's like to fall short, and then have to ease back into everyday life.


In an effective Election Night concession speech, you gotta show some fire, grace, humility. And...don't forget the thank yous.

MONTAGE: I just want to thank you all...for the opportunity to be here...so many names, so many people...I just spoke to the congressman...and we had a very very pleasant phone call...and I wish the victor all the success...let's stick around for a little while. I've got a lot of hugs to give out. I love you all very very much. Thank you very much.

And then, after the hugs, having sunk their life into a months- or even years-long campaign, what's a losing politician to do?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: I slept a lot. (chuckles) I slept a lot. I ate a lot. I slept a lot.

Raja Krishnamoorthi lost a primary for Congress last month. Two years ago, he lost one for state comptroller.

Krishnamoorthi's post-defeat activities included spending time with his two young kids.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Got to see my family in the daylight hours, which was really rare in the months leading up the election.

He waited three weeks before returning to his day job, as president of a research lab.

The transition from campaign to LIFE is not an easy one, he says.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: It's kind of like you're going a hundred miles an hour. And then all of a sudden you stop. And you're going zero miles an hour. And inevitability there's some whiplash.

All of a sudden, the urgency is gone and what's left is the mundane: shutting down a campaign: paying bills, cleaning up.

That was an especially big job for another defeated candidate, Debbie Halvorson.

HALVORSON: The one campaign office I had in Crete I've had for probably ten years...And so, that was a bit emotional going through everything.

That Crete office was with Halvorson when she was a state senator, when she won and then lost a seat in Congress, and during her unsuccessful comeback attempt this year.

With no leftover campaign cash to keep the doors open...she packed up old thank you notes, awards.

HALVORSON: Just things...you...had to go through and letters you had to read and...decide what you really had to keep and what you couldn't. I didn't do very well, because I've got boxes and boxes of things that I marked, just called 'memories.'

She stuffed those boxes in her crawl space at home.

Halvorson says now she's finishing her memoirs, and getting back to work as a consultant and lobbyist.

Stella Black didn't wait long to get back to work after her TWO election losses for water reclamation commissioner.

Both times, the 70-year-old tax consultant was in her office less than 12 hours after the polls closed.

BLACK: I get here at 5:55 almost every morning.
HUDZIK: My goodness, Stella. Even after election night you didn't sleep in?
BLACK: Absolutely, that's the best thing to do is just to get back in...

Black's election loss this year was different than when she ran in 2010.

Her son...died this past November.

She says the campaigning helped her get through the unhappiness. And this election, she says, felt smoother.

BLACK: This time it just seemed like I had an angel on my shoulder. I know that's corny, but I just felt different about it. And I guess I felt in my heart I had a better chance of winning.

She finished...last in a field of six, but has no regrets.

Still, like several losing candidates I've talked with - Black can't help but wonder, 'What were those voters thinking?'

BLACK: Nobody cares, it seems. I shouldn't say nobody cares. But if you want more of the same which I think in this race it looks like people did...

Tony Peraica felt that same way after he lost a 2006 campaign for Cook County Board President.

PERAICA: I went down to Florida for a couple of weeks and rested...
HUDZIK: Just felt like getting out of Cook County.
PERAICA: Definitely, definitely. This place can get to you if you let it.

Peraica lost again two years later in a run for state's attorney.

And then AGAIN in 2010, when he tried for reelection as county commissioner.

PERAICA: Disappointed? Yes. Surprised? I'm not surprised by anything. I just didn't have the same fire in the belly I suppose as I did in previous elections.

Compounding the disappointment - Peraica was ARRESTED two days before that election, for allegedly destroying a yard sign of his opponent.

Peraica says this is all "ridiculous"...as his opponent was mayor of suburban McCook...and he was arrested IN McCook.

In July, Peraica goes on trial for a misdemeanor charge of criminal damage to property.

PERAICA: It's frivolous. It's a waste of taxpayer resources. It's a farce.

Maybe, but it's also a lingering reminder of an old election loss.


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