Growing from a slap in the face

Failing at an election is a slap in the face for candidates who have worked their guts out for months, says MARK PARTON. He should know, he was one once…

OF the 74 candidates contesting the election, 17 were successful, but 57 missed out and were rejected by the electorate.

Missing out is a slap in the face for those who have worked their guts out for weeks and in many cases months and even years to win support.

You’ve worn out shoes door knocking; survived on five hours sleep a night; spent so much time raising money; spent your own money, all in the belief you could win a seat in the three-ring circus on London Circuit and make a difference.

When you don’t make the cut, how do you deal with it ?

As an independent candidate for Ginninderra, on election night in 2008, I was quietly celebrating with supporters at home till around 8 o’clock. At that stage, the Elections ACT website and various media outlets suggested that I was a serious chance of winning a seat. I hightailed it to the tally room in Reid to get close to the action.

I can distinctly remember being approached by veteran political commentator Malcolm Mackerras on the floor of the tally room.

Malcolm had declared in radio interviews during that week that I had no chance of winning a seat. At about 9pm, as I edged further and further in front of Vicki Dunne and Mary Porter, he declared to me: “You’re in the Assembly, Mark!”

He was wrong and it became apparent later that night that I would just fail.

How did I deal with it?

I got very, very drunk. I’m not a big drinker, so it didn’t take much for me to achieve that. I got a cab home at around 3am and I can remember getting a call from “The Canberra Times” six hours later. They wanted to come around and conduct an interview. When? Right now!

I got the journalist to “hang on for a moment” while I threw up and suggested that they give me half an hour. I can remember being so unsteady on my feet that I couldn’t stand up for long enough to have a shower.

When the hangover subsided, I was able to get the experience into its context. It’s a brave and courageous thing for anyone to stand for public office. Every beaten candidate should be proud of every single primary vote they achieved. Everyone who stands as a candidate at this level grows from the experience. There is no shame in defeat.

Ros Dundas, the former Democrat MLA and now head of the ACT Council of Social Service, chimed in on twitter on this topic late last week. Her advice was: “There are many ways to be engaged with the community outside the Assembly. Follow your passion… but have a holiday first.”

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