Photo: Hamilton Nolan

Last month we profiled Greg Sagan, the Democratic candidate for Congress in Texas’ 13th district—the single most Republican district in America. He did not win. Greg was kind enough to share his post-election thoughts with us, below.

The Republican incumbent in TX-13, Mac Thornberry, won the election 82%-17%. Late on election night, I emailed Greg Sagan to see if he had any final thoughts on his experience as a first time candidate in the reddest of all red districts. He replied, “We’re filing the papers tomorrow to run again in 2020,” and shared the following yesterday:

Hi, Hamilton. I’ve had a chance to “process” the election and to do some quick debriefing with my team, and here is what we’ve learned.

First, we collected just under 34,000 votes and spent around $40,000 to get them. That’s about a dollar a vote. It’s also about a dollar per square mile for the District. This tells me that money, though an important consideration, is not the ball game.

Second, then what is the ball game? I believe we attracted these votes in so red a district because we (1) listened to the voters and (2) gave substantive answers to their concerns. In my opinion, THIS is what the Democratic Party needs to learn how to do. The tendency of today’s politicians is to mechanically repeat vague, antiseptic, non-controversial statements anchored in approved party talking points, statements that do not convey respect for either the voter or the issue, to every question posed, and voters are too smart to be fooled by these “synthetic” pronouncements. Voters want answers they can trust, answers they can talk about, even argue about, answers that create in them a feeling of having been “heard.” This is, I believe, what killed Beto O’Rourke. He had a great show, but in the end he didn’t really say anything; and it looks like he spent something north of $100 million to not say it.

So, finally, we think we have a better answer for 2020. It involves creating a finance committee that is smart, disciplined, and effective at raising at least $500,000 over each of the next two years. It involves a central scheduling authority that will put me in front of the largest possible number of voters in the twelve months leading up to the 2020 election. And it involves listening to voters, at every chance I can manage, to find out what their “right now” needs are and to craft solutions that Congress can and should implement even if they contravene certain elements of Party dogma.

That’s as smart as I am today. I hope this helps.