Swedish musician Tove Lo said, “I am an open book, and I’m fine being me: I’m not a perfect person.”
While I have never listened to Tove Lo’s music, I do have to admit her logic is wise. The thing the past twenty years has taught us is that many voters are not expecting their elected officials to be perfect, but they do hate surprises. So are you ready to be an open book? Is your family? If you are not, grab a good book, sit by the fire and stay home because you should not run for political office.
This is one of those candidate “characteristics” that may make you crazy. You are opening up your life. Old lovers are still mad. If you are successful, someone thought you screwed them over. The list goes on and on. Obviously, the level of office you seek also increases or decreases the personal scrutiny. That being said, if there is something in your past that you are embarrassed about or could embarrass your family, there is a high chance it will come out.
So what do you do?
- Opposition Research. Do opposition research on yourself. Be honest and do not approach it with rose colored glasses. If you do not know what rose colored glasses are, here is the definition: “An optimistic perception of something; a positive opinion; seeing something in a positive way, often thinking of it as better than it actually is.” Suggestion: Do. Not. Do. That.
- Family Matters. Referring to your past, most of us can handle the heat when people say or think awful things about us, but our family? Different story for a normal human being. We do not want to embarrass or hurt those we love. So do not keep them in the dark.
- Open Book. A candidate we worked with had a colorful career. He did opposition research on himself and brought each political reporter to his office and went over the material. At the end he simply asked them “does any of this disqualify me from running for office?” The reporters appreciated the honesty and replied that it did not. When his opponent tried to bring up some of the issues during the campaign, the reporters ignored them and told them that the candidate had provided full disclosure. That is more difficult to do today with social media, so if there is something you feel is a black eye, you release the information with full disclosure and control the message.
- Full Disclosure. Full disclosure means all of it … do not leave a little bit behind. Because the “little bit behind” always comes out.
Mistakes happen. We are all human. However, it is foolish to think opponents or envious acquaintances will not bring up our flaws and failures. Be prepared. Stand tall. If you can not do that, stay home.