I have over time mentioned the words and tones used by a candidate when conceding an election. There are classy ways to handle what is, without doubt, a tough moment and then there are dreadful ways to make the statement to the winner. The statement that was submitted by Brandi Grayson, the CEO of Urban Triage, following her opponent taking 65% of the vote this week was the most stunning election night comment I have ever become aware of over the decades of following politics.
I deeply respect the handshakes and quick banter that two professional tennis players allow each other following a mentally and physically punishing game. It is an honorable way to conclude the contest regardless of the outcome. When it comes to the end of a political campaign I also desire to see the best of one’s character shine.
Madison Isthmus reported the following about Brandi Grayson who was seeking a seat on the city council.
Grayson had some missteps that may have cost her. She sought, received and then shunned an endorsement from Progressive Dane. The political party shares many of her policy positions, including the need to invest more in city services other than the police department. But in January she called the political party “dangerous.” Grayson also strayed far from local issues, drawing criticism from Indigenous people for calling them “red” and claiming that Black people were “the original inhabitants of the land known as America.”
After the results came in, Grayson said her southside district “voted for anti BLACKNESS.”
“It wasn’t just [white] people, it was Black people. Lots of Black people. Elders. Church folks. Conservatives. Moderates. And others who just didn’t vote,” Grayson wrote on Facebook on election night. “It was CONFIRMATION that Madison will kill me and allow the mayor and the same alders to show up to give condolences.”
That reminded me of an embittered Richard Nixon who lost his 1962 California gubernatorial bid and then lashed out at the media. His famous line still echoes with “you don’t have Nixon to kick around any more, because, gentlemen, this is my last press conference.”
Over the years I have been able to see in real-time how a concession is handled, while more often reading or watching such a happening through the media. But in each case, a concession following a hard-fought campaign shows the mettle of a person perhaps better than any other facet of seeking office.
I found it troubling a few years ago when Wisconsin State Assemblyman Adam Jarchow was reported to have tweeted his concession to the victorious Patty Schachtner following the special state senate election. I grasp the fact that everything these days is seemingly done on the gadgets people carry around like aged smokers do with their oxygen tanks. But when it comes to concessions there is a need to be personal and more connected. Surely the phone number for the opposing campaign was available. Call me old-fashioned but just pick up the phone and place the call!
The morning following the 1988 election victory of State Representative Lary Swboda the phone rang in his Kewaunee County home. I had worked in the district often that fall on the campaign and as I stood in the kitchen as Lary answered the call I was privy to one of the gracious acts of politics. Bob Papke, then Door County Clerk, had run, up to that time, the most expensive race for the state assembly. He had been condescending and rather mean-spirited during the months leading to Election Day. But on the phone, as Papke spoke to Lary there was a gentlemanly quality to the conversation and though the two would never be friends, an air of good sportsmanship was most apparent.
I have no partisan stake regarding concessions as shown when a woman I deeply respect failed at the art of being professional and gracious on election night. That person was a Democratic candidate–and one I had supported–Kathleen Falk.
I was very disappointed to have read that she did not show up on Election Night to greet campaign workers and countless Democrats who worked so very hard for her over the past many months. On Election Night she did not need to concede, (given the closeness of the race) but did need to say thanks. To stay at her home and watch the returns come in was not what many expected.
It is Saturday afternoon as I write this post, and I am unhappy that Kathleen has not conceded the race for Attorney General. Being defeated in an election after a well-fought effort should not be an embarrassment. But not being a better sport in the arena of politics is much worse than coming in second place.
The gracious nature of Vice-President Al Gore following the grueling legal wars of a recount in 2000 demonstrates the reasons character matters when it comes to our elections. The same rules of the road apply in local elections, too. Being graceful with concessions makes for a strong mark of character.
And so it goes.