The morning after an election is a weird time for all of us. Campaigns that seemed to have lasted forever have come to a sudden end. Some in victory. Others, a swift and final stop. A few more must re-invent themselves for another nine week sprint. Those who worked on the ones that fell short will go through their own process that is very much one of grieving. It’s hard to do when others around you are either celebrating or immediately getting back to work. For those moving on, grass can’t grow under the feet. For those who are not, there are questions of what to even do today. And tomorrow.
One of those campaigns that will not be moving forward is that of Karen Handel, and that’s we’re I’ll begin my post-election thoughts. I had met Karen a few times over the years, but I really “met” her in the sense of more than grip and grins at functions a bit over four years ago, well into the Governor’s race. I wasn’t an instant supporter but over time she became my candidate. Four years ago, her campaign fell short by roughly 2500 votes. For her and those around her, it hurt.
One of my personal axioms of politics is that you never really know a politician until they lose a race. When you meet someone while they are running for office, you never know if you’re getting to know the real person, or if they are trying to be the person they think you want them to be. After a loss, there’s no reason for the pretense. Many who lose I never hear from again, or only rarely and usually out of political convenience. Not Karen.
Karen and her husband Steve stayed close, and we became friends. In the political sphere, I don’t use that “f” word lightly. But above all else, whatever you know of Karen Handel as a politician, I hope you’ll know that Karen and Steve are good people. Many of the anecdotes I could use to demonstrate that are personal and will remain that way. It’s just something I’ll say is true, because it is.
Over the last four years I’ve had a front row seat to an amazing journey that they have been on. I was there when Karen first started working with Komen. I know why she was hired and much of what happened while she was there. She didn’t take that job to make her more politically relevant. Sometimes life just ….works out in weird ways.
I know how Karen has treated her friends and those that supported her during this time. Even last night in defeat I’m told that she spent her time making sure that the members of her team were OK, and that things were going to be OK.
Four years ago we got the moniker of being “Handel Pundit”. We still sometimes joke about that, but also made a conscious effort to try and play this election cycle straight. It’s something I discussed early with Karen and Steve, and it limited the amount of help I could provide. I’m not arrogant in thinking I could have closed the gap, but I’ll have my own questions going forward if I could have done more to help my friends.
Y’all know Karen’s background, and her entire resume says “survivor”. We’re going to hurt together and separately for a while after this loss. That’s natural for anyone who enters this arena and those who support them. Yet the Karen and Steve that I have come to know and truly appreciate will find a path forward, and they will do more than just survive. They’ll thrive.
I have no idea what paths they will chose to take going forward. They likely don’t either. They were all in on this one, and now they’re going to have to take some time and figure it out. But good people do, and good people have friends that will help them along the way. I’m not happy with the way this one ended. Not at all. But I am happy that I’ve come to know Karen and Steve as my friends.
While the path is uncertain, there will be new challenges ahead, and opportunities that present themselves. And when they do, I’m sure there will be a strong and audible voice that greets them with “Bring it on”.