INTRODUCTION

SAMUEL S. CHEN

THIRTEEN MINUTES

Winning, Losing, and Living as Taught by the 2016 Election

SAMUEL S. CHEN

INTRODUCTION

            “John Kennedy had thirteen days.  John Kasich has only thirteen minutes.”

            So quipped reporters the afternoon of March 10, 2016.  The first sentence was referring to the thirteen days that President Kennedy had to deescalate the Cuban Missile Crisis; the second was referring to the thirteen tardy minutes that threatened a legal challenge to remove Ohio Governor John Kasich from Pennsylvania’s presidential ballot in 2016.

            Some background: In Pennsylvania, candidates for political office are required to obtain signatures to earn their spot on the ballot for the election.  Following a short period of signature collection, voting residents of the state are permitted to challenge the signatures in an attempt to remove candidates from the ballot.  In the spring of 2016, Governor Kasich’s nominating petition to be placed on the Pennsylvania ballot faced such a legal challenge.  The challenger was a college student supporting fellow candidate Florida Senator Marco Rubio (the effort appeared coordinated by the Rubio campaign, but that’s another book entirely).  According to virtually every news report, the challenge was filed thirteen minutes past deadline and, thus, a mere thirteen minutes stood between a surging presidential candidate and the end of his presidential campaign.

 

            Of course, there is much more to that story.  Significant details were conveniently left out of the news reports; details such as the petitioners having not one, but two legal filings and failing to file either one by the deadline as stipulated by the state law.  One filing was thirteen minutes tardy (with petitioners knocking on the locked doors of the Pennsylvania Department of State) and the other, despite being a digital filing, was well over an hour past deadline.  Or details such as the petitioners attempted to argue in court that deadlines don’t matter in the digital era.  So why did only the “thirteen minutes” portion of the case make it to the press?  Simple, it’s a catchier headline.  (It made you pick up this book, didn’t it?)  Countless other important details were similarly disregarded, as they didn’t make for the type of dramatic story for which 2016 became known.

 

            Fast forward a few years and I’m writing this introduction in a DC coffee shop, between a meeting and a reception, as the 2020 presidential primaries begin to heat up.  As I sip on my coffee, fond (and some not so fond) memories are flooding back from 2016.  It was an exhilarating race for those who observed it and much more so for those of us who lived it.  As a member of Team Kasich, I experienced a bit more drama than most, something I was reminded of as I watched my former boss on CNN last night recounting why he didn’t endorse his own party’s nominee for president and, as a result, wasn’t welcome at the 2016 Republican National Convention, held in his home state of Ohio.

            That’s how we got to where we are today—me writing this in a coffee shop and you reading this (hopefully, in a coffee shop).  The advice in these pages is not your traditional career advice.  I’m not convinced we need any more books or motivational speakers telling us of the importance of networking and working hard.  There are also no trade secrets in this book; I’m not laying out how to win the next election.  (For those familiar with our work at The Liddell Group, you know we deliberately have no playbook, so there’s not much to share anyway.)  Rather, these are life lessons that I learned through my experiences in 2016 and beyond.  Lessons that won’t guarantee you a job, and certainly not a win, but may lead you toward personal growth, if you lean into them.  These are lessons I wish someone told me when I entered politics, but I’m grateful the craziest presidential election in recent history—along with a chorus of other experiences—allowed me to experience them firsthand.

            So let’s get started.  There is so much from 2016 that I’m eager to share.  When you finish, if you have questions or want to dive deeper on any of it, drop me a line and let’s talk (preferably, over coffee).  Above all, I hope you grow from reading this book; I know I grew from writing it.

SAMUEL CHEN

© Samuel S. Chen, 2020