How To Be a Good Loser
Separate the defeat from the experience. Don't have any regrets. Get back to work. And keep your options open.
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WE WENT TO OUR HOTEL on election night to await the outcome of the governor’s race. We kept hoping, obviously, and praying for the best, but, you know, it didn’t happen. After I spoke to my supporters, my wife, Tani, and I went up to the room to sleep, but we didn’t talk much. We visited a bit about our children and what they were going to do that evening and about the friends who had come in from all over to hear the election results. I just lay in bed thinking about the campaign that I should have run. I made some mistakes, and I went over them mentally that evening—the things that I would have done differently.
The next morning, we woke up and had breakfast, and then I got on the phone to thank my supporters around the state for their help. Right after lunch, I believe, I went down to the campaign headquarters and gathered the staff. I told them how much I appreciated them—what good friends they’d become to me and my family. That took most of the afternoon because I went around to each one personally. We had a tremendously dedicated staff, and they worked their hearts out. And there were a lot of teary eyes. That really bothered me, so I’d move away for a while and come back.
Then we boarded the plane to go home to Laredo. I noticed Tani was very quiet. When I motioned for her to turn around and look at me, I saw that she’d been crying. I said, “You know, that’s fine. Go ahead. But in my judgment, this is not something to cry about. Separate the loss from the experience. The experience is something we’ll never forget.” By that I meant not only did we learn a lot about the issues and about the people of Texas but we made a lot of friends. In this campaign, I visited practically every corner of the state more than once. Had I never run for office, I wouldn’t have gone to all these counties in East Texas, West Texas, North Texas.
When we landed, we went straight to the house. After more phone calls to people I thought should hear from me, Tani and I talked about what we did wrong. We concluded that there was not a lot we could have done from a strategic standpoint that would have allowed me to win. The voters of Texas just don’t want to hear from a Democrat today. I say that because I was not the only one who was turned away. A man like John Sharp, with all of his experience and all of his relationships—he was turned away.
That realization helped me get on with my life. You know, I’ve been in the oil-and-gas business for more than thirty years. I’m used to dry holes. I’m used to failing. You get real disappointed when you spend a bunch of money on a well that you expect great things from and it doesn’t turn out that way. So when the hammers hit you again and again over a long period of time, you become callused. You get used to the fact that things are not always going to go your way, no matter how good your intentions.
Regrets? You can’t have them, because they consume you. If you start feeling sorry for yourself, if you point fingers and get angry at this person or that, what good does it do? Who’s gaining from that? I lost. It was my fault entirely that I lost, not anybody else’s—not anybody in the campaign. I was the head of the campaign; everything stopped with me. I come back to my business: If I moaned and groaned every time I drilled a dry hole, I wouldn’t have time to do anything except be sad. You just can’t move forward that way.
So I’ve gotten back to work on a full-time basis. The election was on a Tuesday, and I was back in the office on Thursday. And I haven’t stopped. I’m thinking about so many things right now, drilling a number of wells, exploring in different areas of the state. We’re doing some really neat things in our research department, and I’m investing in the markets. It certainly helps. I mean, when you’re worried or sad, being occupied takes your mind off it.
Many people have asked me if I’m going to run again for governor. I’ve thought about it, and the conclusion I’ve reached is that I’m not going to think about it—not yet. But I’ll tell you this: If I decide to run, I’ll work even harder than I did in the last campaign to bring people together and to focus on issues that affect all Texans, not just Democrats or Republicans. Losing an election is not the end of the road. It’s only a stop along the way.
Tony Sanchez, the Democratic nominee for governor in 2002, is the CEO of Laredo-based Sanchez Oil and Gas.