Three weeks after the election, while the votes were still being tallied and the
outcome remained unclear, the wife of a personal friend and generous campaign donor
passed away. She had much to live for, including several children; but her two-and-a-half-year
struggle with cancer had left her exhausted. Among the things she left behind was
the new dress she had ordered to wear for her daughter’s upcoming wedding.
Around the same time, the 26-year-old daughter of another friend and donor died
of complications from a lifelong battle with hydrocephalus. Despite severe chronic
pain resulting from over 100 brain surgeries, she had remained kind and selfless
and even grateful to the end. At her memorial service, the choir from her high school
Mindful of those losses, I tried to put ours in perspective. “It was just
an election,” I would tell disheartened supporters. “Not a life. Not
a loved one or a friend.”
For a few weeks following my concession, it seemed as if the campaign hadn’t
ended. More nights than not, Elayne and I found ourselves at central committee meetings,
candidate appreciation nights, or other political gatherings. At each, we encountered
melancholy volunteers who had put heart and soul into the campaign, and we tried
to console them.
Sometimes I wasn’t very sympathetic. “You’re the most morose group
I’ve greeted yet,” I told the Tri-Valley Republican Women Federated
at their annual Christmas party. “Remember, we’re happy warriors! Lighten
In attempting to reinvigorate discouraged allies, I would recite the campaign’s
accomplishments. I’d remind them how close we’d come. Although we’d
had a bad night in California, we’d had a great night in the rest of the nation.
Outside money spent defeating me couldn’t be spent on other races, enabling
good candidates elsewhere to win upset victories.
Still, the sadness lingered. On further reflection, I think I understand why.
Activists on the right are often mischaracterized as angry or hateful. My experience
has been the opposite. What prompted the outpouring of support for our campaign
was love: love of our families and our neighbors … our homes and our neighborhoods
… our lands and our livelihoods … our rights and our freedoms. We
treasure our liberties, so we want our loved ones to enjoy them as well —
and not only our families and friends, but all people. A patriot is one who loves
his patria, his country; and along with
our country, we love our countrymen.
How felicitous that our Declaration of Independence recognizes, among the most fundamental
of rights, the pursuit of happiness. Just as we want to be free to pursue our own
happiness, we want others to be free to pursue theirs. Apprehensive that the political
class was smothering the pursuit and implementing its antithesis — federally
guaranteed minimum levels of happiness, with a blizzard of happiness regulations
drafted by bureaucrats in the Department of Happiness and enforced by the happiness
police, financed by happiness bonds and a happiness tax — Americans rose up
to reclaim the rights, and the risks, of freedom.
That’s what our campaign was about: the pursuit. It was a labor of love. All
of us were engaged in a worthy cause much greater than ourselves. We were happy
in our work, in our association with each other, and in our engagement with the
To those distraught by the outcome, or going through withdrawal from the camaraderie
of the battlefield, please understand that the depth of your disappointment reflects
the height of your commitment. Your effort wasn’t wasted; good things resulted;
and greater opportunities lie ahead. I was honored to serve as your spokesman, and
I’m grateful for your continuing friendship.
David Harmer was the Republican nominee for the U.S. House of Representatives from
California’s 10th District in 2009 and the 11th District in 2010. His father,
John Harmer, served as Lieutenant Governor under Ronald Reagan.
Early in his career, David served as counsel to a subcommittee of the U.S. Senate
Judiciary Committee. He took his expertise in constitutional law to Pacific Legal
Foundation, where he defended property rights and other freedoms. David was also
a Resident Fellow at the Heritage Foundation, and his book on education reform was
published by the Cato Institute. The National Republican Congressional Committee
named David a ”Young Gun“ — the top status in their candidate