How to Run for City Council – Where the Rubber Meets the Road

how to run for city council choosing your campaign team

Chandler for Borough President!

Now that you’ve gotten your paperwork in, you’re really running for city council!  Except not really, at all.  Anybody can slap their name on some forms and drop them off at the city building and get their name on a ballot as city council candidate.  Now you’ve got to prove to the voters–and yourself–that your heart is in it.  This is where the rubber really meets the road.

The Campaign Plan

I’m not going to cover the entire task of putting together a campaign plan in one post; that would be a disservice to you.  You can expect to see the various parts of the campaign plan systematically detailed in the coming posts, but if you’re really ready to hit the ground running, buy the Campaign Planbook, which will walk you step-by-step through the process of putting together a fully fleshed out, slam-bangin’ campaign plan in very little time.

The first step to writing a campaign plan actually has nothing to do with writing, yet.  You first need to gather together your gang/posse/crew – essentially, your ‘campaign team.’  There is a strict rubric you must follow when choosing people to be on this very short list.

  1. Do I really trust this person?  They will be keeping ALL your secrets.  You need to know they are telling no one.  Literally, no one.  You wouldn’t believe how much info I can milk out of your buddy’s 10 year old daughter’s classmate.
  2. Does this person have valuable input?  Just because Joe Shmoe is your best friend doesn’t mean he has anything meaningful to say about the city’s political affairs.  Additionally, just because some muckety-muck is the county representative to the state GOP doesn’t mean his opinion is worth two cents either.  You want to tap people who are close to you that are also actively engaged citizens.
  3. Does this person have the time to dedicate to this campaign?  Ideally, they should be able to put in as much time as you.
  4. Does this person have a talent or skill that is critical to campaign success?  If they are an accountant they’d make an excellent treasurer.  If they run a small business or manage a franchise (well, they’re probably too busy, but…) they’d likely make a good campaign manager.  Do not bother inviting people into the ‘club’ that don’t have anything to offer but moral support or a duplicate of someone else’s skill.  Pick the best man for the job and go with it.

Other things to consider: Will this person tell me to slow down when I’ve run myself ragged?  Will she pick up the slack if I need a break?  Will he tell me when I’m just plain wrong about something?  Will he put the well-being of my family/marriage ahead of the campaign?  In other words – is this person a true friend?

Because as a candidate you will likely give in to the temptation to believe that you are some sort of demi-god and the world revolves around you, or you will spend so much time going door-to-door that you miss every little league game of the season, or you will get so narrowly focused on what you think is important, you’ll forget to consider what the voters in your city think is important.  These people in your core campaign team are not ‘yes men.’  They need to be the ones that smack you in the face when you’re being dumb.

Once you’ve narrowed your group down to 3-5 individuals, then you’re ready to call a meeting and bust out the pens, the paper, and of course your brand new copy of the Campaign Planbook.

I should also mention here that spouses play a pivotal role in the development and implementation of the campaign plan.  I’ve been re-reading my favorite campaign planning book of all time (besides mine, of course) and it actually recommends keeping your spouse out of this group, citing that they’ll have the chance to help out by “putting up yard signs, answering phones, passing out literature, etc.”

“Um, excuse me?  So you’re basically saying my opinion means nothing to you but you still want me around for the grunt work, is that right?  Pfft!  Hope you like the couch, honey, because that’s what THAT conversation just won you,” is exactly what I would say to my husband if he relegated me to yard sign coordinator.

Chances are great that your wife couldn’t care less what’s in your campaign plan.  But you’re dragging her into this year of craziness right along with you.  It will affect her life tremendously.  And your actions as a public figure and political candidate will reflect on her public image, too.  That’s why I start every campaign plan with an agreement between candidate and spouse, so that all the cards are on the table, and both parties completely understand what’s expected of the other during this time.  Trust me, you need the support your spouse provides for you.  Additionally, you do not need the marital discord political campaigns can cause.

And if you need another reason: lack of communication can lead to major campaign faux pas in the future.  Let’s say, for example, you’ve decided you’re anti-spinach.  You’ve positioned yourself as the no-spinach candidate and the voters love you for it.  And then a reporter calls your wife and asks how she feels about spinach.  “Oh I love spinach, in fact I’m making creamed spinach for dinner tonight!”  Tomorrow’s headline: So-Called Anti-Spinach City Council Candidate John Smith Eats Spinach Twice a Week!”

Replace “spinach” with your town’s most recent fringe issue, and kiss your political aspirations good-bye.

Before you sit down with your team, you need to sit down with your spouse and determine how they would like to participate in the political process.  If she doesn’t want to be involved that much, that’s totally cool.  But if she wants a ‘seat at the table,’ I say give it to her, and take what she says seriously.

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It’s January – 5 Things You Should Be Doing Right Now

Running a campaign in the new year

Happy New Year!

Welcome to a brand new election cycle.  Even though the national media has already completely blown off the 2014 elections in favor of covering the eating habits of every potential 2016 presidential candidate in the country, here at GOP Campaigner we care more about who’s running for town council.  And with that in mind, I’ve decided to start the new year with a post that will hopefully get you focused on your goal for 2014 – winning your political campaign!

So what should you be doing right now?

  1. Decide.  I mean really decide.  Get introspective, and deep, and truly determine whether you’re ready for this monumental challenge.  How to do this?  Here are some questions you need to answer for yourself:
    • Why do I want to run for office?
    • Do I want to be mayor/city councilman/state representative because I really want the job?  Or is it because I don’t like how the incumbent does it now? (Hint: Running just to unseat a jerk is not a good reason!)
    • What do I want to accomplish in this elected position?  What issues are important to me?
    • Is my family prepared for a run for office?  Remember, it’s not just your life that will be in upheaval.  Your wife and children will definitely be affected, and will suffer if you don’t prepare.
    • Finally, search your heart.  Sit in silence in some peaceful, spiritual place, and just wait.  Do you feel excited at the prospect of running a campaign, like you’re starting a great adventure?  Or do you feel apprehensive about your ability to handle the attention, the work, the upheaval?
    • Is your spouse on board?  Because it’s never worth it if you don’t have full spousal support. 
  1. Mentally prepare yourself for losing.  Yes, you could lose.  That’s always a possibility, even in races that seem a sure bet.  So make sure you’re emotionally capable of handling a loss.  Too many candidates put their whole self worth into the voters hands on election day and let me tell you, the voters do not care about your ego.
  2. Consult the family.  This is the time for scheduling out the important parts of your life so that later you can schedule campaigning around your family life, instead of the other way around.  All too often soccer games and dance recitals and supporting your wife’s interests and hobbies are an afterthought, after you’ve already set up a campaign schedule that dominates your evenings and weekends.  If you’re in a stage of life where you’re raising a growing family, they should always come first.  Always.  The voters will forget about you by December, whether you win or lose.  Your kids will never forget that you missed their biggest events of the year.
  3. Figure out your one big reason.  When someone says, “Why are you running for county commissioner?”  You should have a simple, heartfelt, one-sentence response that lines up with both your values and the community’s needs.  It needs to be genuine, not strategic.  It needs to be specific, not vague.  Make it universal and personal at the same time.  You’ll know it when you find it.
  4. Paperwork.  You’ll have to go to the courthouse or voter registration office in your town (or county seat) and file documentation stating that you intend to run for elected office.  You’ll also have to open up a business bank account for your campaign.  Now before you go running to the city building to sign up, you should know that it’s not always in your best interest to file on the very first day.  There are plenty of reasons you may want to wait and file as late as possible.  Usually, however, just making sure you get the paperwork done in a timely manner is good enough.  This is the first official step you’ll take as a candidate for elected office.
Here’s some further reading to help you through this process:

That’s pretty much it for now.  Don’t worry about talking to voters, getting the media’s attention, or pulling your campaign team together for recurring meetings.  It’s way too early for that.  Enjoy the rest of January, because when spring rolls around, the crazy starts, and it only grows from there until you’re barreling into November at break-neck speeds.  Now is the time for a calm, peaceful, family-filled start to the new year.

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When Your Wife Is A Better Candidate Than You

When your wife is a better candidate than you

Yay!  A gratuitous candidate’s wife post!

If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, or scoured some of the older content, you know that I love candidates’ wives.  They make dealing with their husbands a little less like banging your head against a wall.  And if you’ve got my Campaign Planbook, you know that getting the full support of the candidate’s wife is always my number one priority.  So I like to give them a shout out every now and then.

So what’s this post about?  Oh that’s right, your wife is a better politician than you are.

Let’s face it.  The Republican Party is not famous for touting tons of female candidates (neither is the Democrat Party, for that matter).  And that’s not changing any time soon.  We don’t want all that drama!

Ipso facto, most candidates for political office, and elected officials, are men.  And those men, if they’re smart, have wives.  And more often than not, those women are pretty awesome.  Not only are Republican women inherently pretty, but women are physiologically programmed to have engaging, attracting (flirtatious?) personalities.  It’s no wonder you’ll often hear a campaign manager  say, “Have Mrs. Candidate do the fundraising calls, she always closes twice as many.”  And yeah, I’ve actually heard that.

So what does that mean for the candidate?

Well mostly, it’s good news!  If your spouse is an outgoing, personable, and supportive individual, you can essentially count her as another you – doubling your efforts as candidate.  Personal contact with the candidate is the most effective way to win votes, and with a wife pulling equal weight representing you, you can essentially cover twice as much ground.

Think about it: a spouse’s endorsement is critical.  Who knows the candidate better than his wife?  When a candidate’s wife knocks on a swing voter’s door and can speak eloquently and passionately about her husband’s platform, qualifications and accomplishments, you can virtually consider that vote won.

So how do you leverage your awesome wife?


Door-knocking, parade-walking, public events, and everything in between, make sure she’s there, and always mention her in your speeches (when appropriate, like talking about your background).

Campaign Communications 

One of the first and most effective ‘wife tactics’ I came across in my political career was the use of “the wife letter.”  The wife letter was usually on pretty stationary, always handwritten, and only slightly overly sentimental. 

It’s sent out as a direct mail piece, timed to hit mailboxes within 2 or 3 days of election day, and addressed to the female voters in the household.  Designed to look like a ‘real,’ personal letter from the candidate’s wife, this mail piece always gets a huge, vocal, positive response.

I’ve seen the ‘wife letter’ concept translated to radio for local and state candidates, and to television for congressional candidates.  The idea remains the same – a romanticized, personal ‘sneak peak’ into the life of the candidate.  Works like a charm.


Being in Two Places at Once

Two important events in one night?  No problem!  Send the Mrs. in your stead.  Wives are ideal representatives at local Republican Party events and public/community events like fairs, festivals, or any sort of event where your campaign or the party might have a table set up.

Enticing Volunteers

Meeting/spending time with the candidate’s wife is pretty much just as exciting as spending time with the candidate himself for a young volunteer.  It makes them feel like they’re not just part of the team, they’re part of the family.

There are numerous ways your wife can be your campaign sidekick.  Get creative.  And remember, the family that campaigns together, stays together.

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Your #1 Campaign Calendar Priority: Family

political calendar family time

Family?  Yeah, fellas, that’s right!  In case you haven’t noticed, family is important to me, even especially on the campaign trail.  In fact, your wife should subscribe to this blog, because I often write for her, too.  If you’re a single guy – lucky you, you can afford to be a workaholic so you can skip this post if you want.

But most candidates are married.  And since most Republican candidates (any candidates, for that matter) are men, we’ll just assume for the purposes of this post you’re married to a woman (although not necessarily).

When it comes to the candidate’s schedule, the first thing a campaign manager or scheduler should do coordinate all the candidate’s household/family responsibilities in one place.  You’ll need to coordinate directly with the candidate’s wife for this section, and here’s why: you need to know the real priorities of the family.  If you ask the candidate what family time is sacred and what can be moved around, nine times out of ten they’ll say something like, “well we always have date night on Fridays, but if it’s really important, we can skip just one…”

And it’s a downward spiral from there.  Kids go rogue.  Marriages deteriorate.  Divorces happen.  It sucks, and you don’t want to be a part of that.  So just talk to the wife.  She’s the one who’ll tell you that Sally would be devastated if her dad missed her school play, or you absolutely must have a long weekend getaway over your anniversary, or she’s planning a surprise birthday party for him.  This is also your opportunity  to get to know the candidate’s wife and make clear the part she needs to play in the campaign (more info about that in the Campaign Planbook).

Family time is also important because it’s a part of your candidate’s positive image.  People like to vote for a guy they identify with – a fellow husband, dad and family provider.  Additionally, candidates (like anyone else) need life balance in order to be at peak productivity.

So here’s a checklist of tips you ought to keep in mind as you to pull together the family portion of the calendar:

  • Collect little league game and ballet recital schedules, doctor’s appointments, dates of anniversaries and birthdays, and anything else you can think of.
  • Work with the candidate and candidate’s spouse to strategically plan vacations during times you think the campaign will be slow – typically that’s the whole holiday season and most of January, and a dip after parade/fair season and before Labor Day weekend.
  • Front-load vacation time in the winter months, then plan 2-3 vacations that are 3-4 days long, rather than a 2 week summer vacation.  I also recommend taking 1 or 2 days here and there to spend exclusively with family.
  • Keep family members in mind for campaign events and ask them to participate – campaign/family cross over helps them feel involved in the candidate’s life outside the home.
  • Spread family time out evenly.  Resist the urge to jam a couple extra family items in September so you can skip them in the crucial month of October.

After you’ve had a discussion with the appropriate family members and copied down the requisite appointments, set that calendar aside for now, and get ready to put together the next section!

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What Is God’s Role in Politics?

Gods Role in Politics Republican Democrat Cross Elephant Donkey

Since it’s Sunday, I thought I’d get up on my pulpit and do a little preaching.

Earlier this election cycle, there were several talking heads and political writers that poked fun at all the GOP presidential candidates who believed they were ‘called by God’ to run for president.  Why would God be calling all  these people to run for president when only one can win?  And the vast majority of Americans, like the mainstream media, laughed off the idea, relegating it to the fairy tale or ghost story category.

But what if God really is calling you to run for office?  And what if your opponents really do feel they’re being called, too?

This is why one of the very first steps in my Campaign Planbook is to pray about the decision to run for office, and to talk about it with your spouse.  God says to ‘pray without ceasing’ (1 Thes 5:17).  This is even more important when you are putting yourself and your family under the public microscope.  Every action an elected official takes directly affects many other people – in some cases, the whole nation.  Of course God wants to be involved!

Now here’s the hard part.  If you’ve given yourself time to interpret God’s will and you’ve decided to become a candidate, you must resign to the possibility that God may be calling you to lose this election.  Every candidacy has a purpose.  Maybe your real purpose for running is simply to be a voice for an otherwise voiceless minority, like the unborn.  Maybe your candidacy will play a pivotal role in the outcome of a completely different race on the ballot.  Maybe the reason you’re called to run has nothing to do with politics at all, and simply serves as a catalyst to change the direction of your life.  Like most things with faith, you won’t know the real reason God is calling you to run for office until long after the campaign ends.

There are a lot of political-types on both sides of the aisle that firmly believe in the separation of Church and State – to such a strong degree that they check their moral compass at the Capitol Building door.  This has led to a significant divergence from the founding fathers’ intent for our nation.  The original purpose of the First Amendment was to protect religious groups from the government – today it’s being used to shield the government’s immoralities from its Judeo-Christian constituencies.

If you are one of God’s chosen winners this election cycle, make a commitment to take Him with you for every vote.  Don’t compromise your principles to keep your political career.  You certainly can’t take it with you.

And if you lose in November, try to keep your spirits high, your heart open and ‘give thanks in all things’ (1 Thes 5:18).

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How to Form Your ‘Inner Circle’ When Running for Public Office

Your inner circle is a group of close friends and family that you bring into the discussion very early in the decision-making process when you are considering a run for public office.  These are folks whose opinions you hold in high regard.  They don’t have to be in the district you plan to run in, or even in the same state, but they need to be close to you in an emotional or spiritual sense.  Obviously they need to be people who care about you and want the best for you, and want to see you fulfill your calling in life, whatever that may be.

Your inner circle should be limited to about 4 or 5 people other than yourself.  Luckily, most of the decisions will be easy.  One important note before we start – these 5 people should not also be your top 5 volunteers/staff.  The purpose of the inner circle is to be representatives of common sense in the interest of the greater good and of your personal well-being, not representatives of what’s best for the campaign.  That’s not to say they can’t be involved in the campaign side of things, but that isn’t their primary role.  Remember, these are the people you talk to about running before you even decide whether or not you’re going to.  They should be people with whom you have deep, meaningful relationships that can’t be shaken by political disagreements or power struggles.

Here are my recommendations/qualifications for filling this group.  Feel free to tweak as necessary.

  1. Your spouse (or a serious significant other).  This one is mandatory (unless of course you’re single).  You could also include your grown child that you trust.
  2. Your best friend or close sibling.  And when I say ‘best friend’ I mean someone who knows the twisted story about how you got that suspicious scar, or someone you want in the delivery room with you, or someone who was there 20 years ago when you got that ridiculous tattoo you now go to great lengths to hide.
  3. The person you would choose as your campaign manager.  Most likely this is someone who is politically minded, perhaps already involved deeply in local politics, and hopefully someone you definitely trust.  I know I said your inner circle shouldn’t be campaign people, but this is the one exception, because this person needs to be able to step back and get a bird’s eye view of things when necessary.  They may be the only person present to pull you back from the edge of a precipice at some point in the campaign.
  4. A pastor or other spiritual leader type that you are close to and trust.

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Female Candidates: What to Wear

sarah palin clothes what to wear female candidate for office

What to Wear:

  • They will judge you regardless, so be bold and wear what suits you best.
  • Take color into consideration:  red is bold and powerful, blue is calming and peaceful, and black is always slimming.  Avoid bright oranges and yellows unless you are very dark complected, and opt for ‘conservative’ colors, like cream instead of neon pink.
  • Shoes – In the past few years high-dressing women in a variety of professions have been able to pull off more daring shoe choices, like pairing a bright red pump with a conservative black skirt-suit.  Just make sure whatever you choose is comfortable enough for the activity you’re appearing for.
  • Long suit jackets give the illusion of height and give a woman more authority than short jackets.

What NOT to Wear:

  • Bouses or shirts that show cleavage.
  •  Short skirts.  Don’t use the ‘finger-tip’ rule – you’re not in high school anymore.  Aim for an inch or two above the knee to an inch or two below the knee.
  • Too-high heels.  Falling is embarrassing.  Getting stuck standing for hours in pinchy heels is unbearably painful.
  • Believe it or not, pants are a lot trickier than skirts.  If you can, try to wear skirts rather than pants, but of course that’s not always possible.

Upstaging Your Opponent

If you’re running against man – which you probably are – there are a few other optical illusions you can use to make yourself the more dominant candidate on the rare occasions you’re side by side.
The average female candidates are significantly shorter than the average man.  If you find yourself on stage next to your opponent as you would be at the end of a debate, for example, make up for this height difference by standing a step or two closer to the audience than your opponent.  Obviously this will look awkward if you’re inches apart, but if there are a few feet between you no one will notice that you’re actually closer to the front than the other candidate.
You can also take an educated guess at what your opponent will wear, and then wear a bolder outfit.  Don’t go crazy, the idea is to look powerful, not loud.
Another stage trick is to make your ‘presence’ bigger.  You can do this with a broad smile, a wider arm position and stance,
michele bachmann line up gop candidates

I hate when they do this to poor Michele. She looks like a dwarf!

Take a look at Michele Bachmann in this line up.  Can you even see her?  I’d recommend a red or blue suit, or else a red blouse under her jacket, taking a half step forward and taking a wider stance, with one foot a bit forward and hands on hips or waving so that she stands out more.  I love the peep-toe shoes, obviously she chose reasonably low heels since she would be standing for a couple of hours fielding questions.  As a side note, this jacket is a little boxy on her – female candidate’s shouldn’t shy away from a feminine figure, it would help Michele stand out in this crowd.


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How to Be The Candidate’s Wife

candidate's wife run for office
Obviously, there are candidate’s husbands, too.  But you’ll very rarely see them.  Most everything still applies.
  • Don’t talk about issues unless you’re actually qualified to (a teacher/parent talking about education, a nurse/doctor about healthcare).
  • Don’t ever presume to speak on behalf of your husband when it comes to political issues.  Be your own person here.
  • Dress well (a.k.a. permission to shop for new clothes)
  • Be there for photo ops.  Don’t be camera shy.
  • Smile all the time.  All the time.
  • Be involved in the campaign, at whatever level you can afford to be.
  • Deal with your candidate-spouse’s new schedule.  Don’t buck it, embrace it.  Bitching about it doesn’t change it and adds stress for both of you.
  • Take advantage of the opportunity to go out to fun and fancy events and meet cool new people.  Please don’t be a homebody who leaves her hubby alone on the campaign trail.
  • Don’t emasculate your husband.  It’s good to be a strong woman, but tone it down if you seem like you over-power your husband.
  • Make sure the campaign respects private family/spouse time.
  • Don’t believe everything the papers say about your spouse.
  • Most importantly, don’t let being in the public eye affect personal decisions.  Your life and your family is your business.
  • Get to know – and be one of – the ‘big players’ in your spouse’s campaign team.  You should be on a first name basis with the campaign manager.

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15 Tips for Handling Candidate’s Wives (for Campaign Managers)

Jackie Kennedy Campaign Wife
  1. Do not – I repeat, not – accept an offer to work on a campaign without meeting and getting the approval and full support of the candidate’s spouse. Ever.
  2. Develop a relationship with the candidate’s wife in which you are comfortable calling and emailing each other directly.
  3. Make sure the candidate’s wife is at all top-level-only meetings and her opinion is weighted as heavily as yours.
  4. Find out what sort of events the candidate’s wife wants to be included in and be sure to include her.
  5. Always profusely thank her for taking time out of her busy day to help the campaign.
  6. If you sense the slightest bit of marital distress between candidate and spouse, immediately give the candidate time off strictly for the purpose of spending time with his family, short of major fundraising and media events only.
  7. Use her, if she’s willing, to make fundraising calls – she’s often better at it than the candidate.
  8. Voters like candidates with a visible family so beg her to attend public photo ops and walk in parades.
  9. Ask for her help if your candidate’s being stubborn.  She can use more convincing tactics than you can when you need to win the candidate over on an idea.
  10. Use the candidate’s wife on the campaign trail.  She is virtually a carbon copy of the candidate during grassroots efforts; a call or visit from the candidate’s wife is as effective (if not more so) than one from the candidate himself.
  11. Write thank you notes and emails when she participates in campaign events.
  12. Send her flowers from the candidate for no reason, (let him know so he’s not caught off guard).  Don’t ever let him slack on anniversaries, birthdays and special holidays.
  13. If you are a woman (and even if you’re not) keep your relationship with the candidate at the highest level of professionalism.  Never go out to dinner with the candidate without his wife right next to you.  There is no reason for you to be alone with a candidate – always have a volunteer or staffer with you that can verify your activities.
  14. CC the candidate’s wife on schedule-related emails for events that will take place outside of office hours.  Always reschedule if at all possible if she alerts you to a family event that should take precedence.
  15. If there are skeletons in the closet that your opponent will reveal, do not let her find out about it in the newspaper.
There is a very good reason that the Spousal Agreement is the very first section of my Campaign Planbook.  A candidate’s spouse can make or break a campaign, therefore she should be viewed as a very important piece of the campaign.
Buy The Campaign Planbook

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Make Out with Your Wife, Just Not on Camera

Al & Tipper Gore Kiss

There it is, folks.  The lip-smack heard ’round the world.  Most people remember the media field day that followed this rather long kiss between Al and Tipper Gore at the 2000 Democratic National Convention.  People didn’t stop talking about it for days.

Some would probably vouch that the gentlemen of the Good Ol’ Party are more tight-lipped, but even a Republican candidate gets a little tongue-tied now and then.  Here’s the thing – don’t do it in public.

Yes, voters and the media want to see a healthy and happy marriage between candidate and spouse.  A hug, holding hands, a peck on the cheek, are all fine public displays of affection and highly encouraged during public appearances.  Just save the rest for private time.

That being said, your spouse is the most important person in a political campaign, aside from the candidate.  Running for office is a team effort for a married couple, so maintaining a healthy relationship with your spouse is absolutely key throughout a political campaign.  Campaigns have been known to strain marriages to the breaking point.  Don’t let it happen to you.  Make sure your spouse is on board and that you continue to be attentive, even when the campaign stress and schedule makes it seem impossible.

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