It’s May – 5 Things You Should Be Doing Now

May political campaign plan

May is quite possibly my favorite time of the campaign year; It’s warm and sunny but not blazing hot like mid-summer, and the campaignable (I totally made that word up) events are starting.  “But the Memorial Day Parade is weeks away,” you say, “what is there to do before then?”  Plenty, my friend, plenty!  And enjoy the sun while you’re doing it!  Because after May your entire life unravels….

  • Door-to-door!  Yay!  It’s finally time to start knocking on doors!  I know I said to do this in April, but April weather is hit or miss so you probably didn’t get enough time pounding the pavement, and people are much more likely to stand on their porches and chat in warmer, less rainy May.  Make this a fun activity and take a kid or two along.  This is the most important thing you will do in your whole campaign, so you have to make it enjoyable if you intend to win.
  • Get your campaign materials!  This is one of my favorite campaign activities, maybe because it’s kind of like shopping, or maybe because I have a hoarder-like obsession with collecting campaigning paraphernalia.  Be sure you order this stuff in time to receive it before you have any big events (parades, festivals, etc).  You also want to make sure your local GOP headquarters has materials available.  Read my post on the best and worst campaign materials to buy, it’ll steer you in the right direction if you don’t know where to start.
  • Parade prep!  If you live in America, and I’m guessing most of my readers do, there’s undoubtedly a Memorial Day parade in your town or district, and it’s very likely your local Republican group has a spot in it.  Get in touch with them and get on the list!  Get a banner, some T-shirts, and maybe even some of those awesome parade bags, and lots and lots of candy.  Get out and talk to your voters.  I promise, it’s fun!
  • Hold a fundraising event.  A barbecue themed Memorial weekend fundraiser is actually fun!  Friends and family can help out with food, decorations, and prep, making it a cheap and minimally time consuming way to get a fast infusion of campaign cash.  Just don’t forget to record any cash or in kind donations as well as your expenses for your campaign finance reports.
  • Enjoy your family a lot!  Ideally they’ll be running right along side you for the duration of your sprint on the campaign trail, but you’ll still spend a lot of extra time away from them.  May is likely your last opportunity to plan real, quality time with your spouse and kids without the stress of feeling like the clock is ticking and there are a million things to do.  Make. It. Count.  And for the love of Pete, do not forget Mother’s Day.

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Carol Way – Doing GOTV Right

It’s Friday before Election Day and I get a text from my husband at 6:30am – “Hey, guess who’s at the train station!”  Followed by this pic:

IMG_6110

It’s my hubby Matt with Connecticut State Representative candidate Carol Way, whose clever and memorable yard signs I simply LOVE.

The day before (5 days before E-Day), we got a nice mail piece from the Way campaign – I saved it to remind myself to contact them about getting a yard sign of my very own.  I finally remembered around 11pm, and shot off an email via the campaign website asking them to get me a sign.

By 11 am the very next day – *boom* – a volunteer had plunked a yard sign in our yard, and it’s a good thing, too, because despite covering the city pretty well, it’s the only one in our neighborhood.

I just moved to this area a few months ago, and therefore have zero name recognition with any of the candidates starting out in this election cycle.  A blank slate!

So let’s run this GOTV effort down:
First contact – Excellent yard sign distribution effort, most likely driven by a great group of dedicated volunteers
Second contact – One well-timed mailer, 5 days before the election – I’m curious to see if another hits on Monday
Third contact – Met candidate in person at the train station, the perfect hub for greeting large numbers of voters in a short amount of time.

So far the Way campaign is doing fantastic!  Let’s hope for her sake it continues.

Now let’s compare this to her opponent, Cristin McCarthy Vahey.  This campaign has clearly sunk a lot of money into mail drops, because I’ve gotten at least five separate mailers from them.

There’s nothing wrong with a focused mail effort.  However, there’s something very wrong with a mail effort that starts dropping pieces months in advance of the election, and then sends nothing in the weeks and days leading up to the election!  At least not yet; we’ll see what happens Monday!

I will give the Vahey campaign credit for putting together a decent door-to-door effort over the summer.  But her yard sign coverage is anemic at best.  Compound that with a longer and less memorable name and you get low name recognition numbers.

I do, however, recognize her tag line: Community. Service. Integrity.

It’s memorable because she’s using my 3-Word Campaign Slogan Strategy!  Kudos, Vahey communications team.  Clearly the Fairfield Dems are reading GOP Campaigner.

And finally I have to give a special mention to State Representative candidate Tony Hwang, whose campaign came up with the positively brilliant idea to advertise here:

Tony Hwang for State Representative

You know that restaurant in town that serves breakfast 24-7 and is positively packed on Sundays?  Every town has one, right?  That picture is of the placemat at ours.  Depending on how many franchises they did this in, I’d wager thousands of voters spent a lot of time with Hwang’s full-color campaign message right next to their orange juices and coffees.  Genius!  Definitely worth the money on the weekend before Election Day.  The Hwang campaign also has a solid yard sign presence.

Earlier this year, an editorial opined that Fairfield County would be make-or-break for the 2014 Connecticut Gubernatorial election.  If the local candidates’ ground game is any indication, I’d say Fairfield GOP has their act together and will likely pull through for repeat candidate Tom Foley.  Those factors coupled with the Independent candidate dropping out and endorsing Foley add up to very good news for CT Republicans.

I’m excited to watch the results come in Tuesday and see which strategies win out!

What’s the take-away for you future candidates out there?

Be where the voters are!
(and not just where they expect to see you)

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How to Run for City Council – Finding the Magic Number

Election Results determining campaign strategy

If you’re super lucky, you’re running for city council in a district that has embraced technology and has all the election data for the past several election cycles, broken down by precinct and in Excel format, available online, ready for easy download.  If you’re not lucky at all, you’ll have to make another trip to the voter registration/elections office, sift through paper records, and pay ten cents a page to copy the data you need, and then enter that data into a spreadsheet so you can sort and filter that information.  Most likely you’ll find some results online that you can start with, but you’ll need to run copies of the precinct by precinct results.

Believe it or not, I prefer the old fashioned method of putting together an election data base by hand–it forces you to get up close and personal with each and every number on the page.  By the end of the process, there should be no doubt in your mind how many votes you need to win and where those votes should come from.

Determining Your Win Number

“Win number” or “target number” are terms used to indicate the number of votes you’ll need to win the election.  The equation for this is the total number of expected votes (T) divided by 2, plus 1.  Sounds super simple, right?  And it is.  Sort of.  The hard part – and it really doesn’t have to be that hard – is guesstimating what T is.  Here are some rules for figuring it out.

First, ignore the total number of registered voters.  Many voters on the books are dead or have moved and simply haven’t been scrubbed off the list (these things take a while).  And only a fraction of the voters that are legitimate actually vote consistently.  To determine the total number of reliable voters for a given district, simply look at how many people have voted in the past in your district over the past 10 years or so.

You’ll likely notice a trend that in election years that include a presidential election, there is a significantly higher number of voters.  In years where perhaps municipal elected offices are the only races on the ballot, voter turn out will be at its lowest.  Where does it fall for your current election?  If it’s a presidential election year, you’ll have a lot more voters to get than if it’s not.

Let’s say that your city council seat is elected every 4 years in an off-election year–it’s an odd year (2015) in which there are no national elections at play–and so the number of voters are typically low.  In 2011, 1,032 people voted on your election.  In 2007, 1,115 people.  And in 2003, there were 997 voters.  That’s an average of 1,048 voters.  Since we want to pick a Target Number that’s conservatively on the safe side, and since there are no glaringly obviously outlying numbers here, I recommend using 2007’s 1,115 number as your “T” or Total Number of Voters for the purposes of determining your Win Number.  You may even want to round up to 1,200, so you don’t have to break out a calculator.  Half of 1,200 is 600, add 1 and your Win Number is 601.

BOOM!  It’s that easy.

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How to Run for City Council – Know Your District

City Council District Map

Guess what!  It’s time for a geography lesson!

Clearly, you need to know where your district actually is if you are going to run and win a political campaign there (duh).  But district boundaries can be tricky!  Often, you’ll find that the streets at the perimeter of your district may be split – perhaps the east side of the street is in your district, but the west belongs to a different one.  You certainly don’t want to waste precious door-to-door time talking to people who can’t vote for you (although if they’ll stick your campaign sign in their yard, it’s not a total loss).

Your first order of business, if you didn’t pick it up on your initial filing trip, is to stop by the voter registration office and request copies of a map of your district.  Some counties actually have them online now.  Hopefully the maps are of a good enough quality that you can take them to Kinko’s or Staples and get a good blown up copy to hang on the wall.  You’ll want to have several copies on hand to mark up and use with volunteers as well.

For a city council race, you’ll have one to ten precincts within your district; most will have about five.  I recommend you grab some highlighters of various colors and choose one to outline your whole district, then pick a different color and outline each precinct.  Or if you want to get super fancy, borrow your daughter’s glitter markers and color code each precinct.

If you can’t make up your precinct maps from the district map available at voter registration, you can make up your own at the American Fact Finder website.  It takes a little time of playing around to get the hang of it, but once you’ve got it figured out, this website has a wealth of information beyond precinct boundaries.

After you’ve made up your maps, you’ll want to do some research using the census data available on American Fact Finder.  You should be able to get a pretty good idea where in your district seniors live, what areas have kids at home, you can break your district out by race, household income, education level, etc.  This information is invaluable, because these factors influence the issues that will most likely resonate with your voters.  For example, young families will care a lot about the local schools, seniors might care about a proposed community center, etc.

Once you have your maps in order and have studied them well enough to have a solid lay of the land, you’re ready to move on to the second (and even more complicated) piece of the data mining process: deciphering past election results.  We’ll get to that next.

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It’s March – 5 Things You Should Be Doing Right Now

march political cartoon irish st. patrick's day

Top o’ the month, to you, my faithful politicos! I’ve got another monthly update for you. Let’s touch base with what your campaign should be doing now that spring is nearly upon us…we hope.

  1. It’s time to put the pedal to the metal on planning your campaign strategy!  If you’re running for city council, and even if you’re running for something else, take a look at the first couple of posts in my Running for City Council series.  They’ve covered the steps preceding and up to this point – be on the look out for another post very soon that delves into campaign planning a little deeper.  You can also check out the campaign planning posts in the get started section, and it’s a good time to get the Campaign Planbook if you haven’t already.  Between now and a week or two before Memorial Day is the last opportunity you have to really sit down and put together a plan and schedule before things get crazy.  The earlier you plan the campaign, the sooner (and better) you can actually start campaigning.
  2. Attend city council meetings.  One would think this is a no-brainer, but I know plenty of candidates who don’t bother to attend current city council meetings.  This is not a place for campaigning, but for learning.  You’ll pick up on the issues that are important.  You’ll see how the current city council members interact.  Maybe you’ll even make a few friends.  Get yourself ahead of the curve and start picking up the councilman lingo now – it’ll make you a more confident and prepared candidate and elected official.
  3. Attend community events, if there are any.  March is the beginning of springtime and the excitement of Easter is mounting.  St. Patrick’s Day is a huge event in some communities.  In some places Dyngus Day is big.  Is there a Maple Sugar Festival in your neck of the woods?  Conversely, some communities are still totally dead in the early spring, and don’t have any big community events until Memorial Day.  If you are lucky enough to have these springtime activities in your town, they are great ways to get your face out there in front of potential voters early in the year.
    *Important Note* Sometimes these events are politician friendly, and sometimes it’s poor taste to wear your campaign pin and pass out campaign literature.  Throw your campaign gear in the trunk just in case, but assume you’ll just be gathering the family and enjoying a good time with friends and neighbors.  Feel free to talk about your run for office with others – get opinions, rouse excitement, but don’t feel like you have to be Mr. Candidate just yet.
  4. Expand your horizons.  You probably decided to run because you feel passionately about a handful of key issues affecting your city.  But there are probably many, many more issues out there that perhaps you never even knew existed.  Scour your local paper for public meetings of special interest groups in your area that are discussing local political issues that are new to you and attend those meetings.
    Don’t worry if it’s hosted by a traditionally anti-Republican organization.  The point is to open your own mind, exercise your ability to discuss issues with people who may disagree with you, make connections with activists in the community, perhaps build some unlikely alliances, and take a chip at the giant wall separating Us and Them.
  5. Do some legitimate campaigning!  When the weather allows, that is.  In much of the country, March is half winter and half early-summer.  Of course, you never know which days will be which!  However, take advantage of the cold days to focus on planning, planning, planning.  And when a warm day hits, take a walk around the neighborhood and actually knock on some doors!  Maybe practice on some neighbors you already know, and then branch out to a few streets that are new to you.  You don’t have to have your shiny campaign button or a slick brochure, but if you can print up a professional looking flyer on your home computer it’s a plus to bring it along (remember to put “Paid for by Committee to Elect John Doe” – or whatever your campaign’s name is – at the bottom).

Here’s a bonus tip for those of you working on your Campaign Planbook right now:  If you’re struggling in an area, use the GOPCampaigner.com search bar – there’s a good chance there’s already an article about it on the site.  Additionally, do not hesitate to ask a question in the comments or email me at GOPCampaigner@gmail.com.  I love questions from campaigners ‘in the field,’ because if you’re wrestling with something, there’s a good chance other candidates and campaign managers are dealing with the same issue.  It helps me to better serve the rest of the GOPCampaigner.com community when I have specific issues/topics to discuss.

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How to Run for City Council – Where the Rubber Meets the Road

how to run for city council choosing your campaign team

Chandler for Borough President!

Now that you’ve gotten your paperwork in, you’re really running for city council!  Except not really, at all.  Anybody can slap their name on some forms and drop them off at the city building and get their name on a ballot as city council candidate.  Now you’ve got to prove to the voters–and yourself–that your heart is in it.  This is where the rubber really meets the road.

The Campaign Plan

I’m not going to cover the entire task of putting together a campaign plan in one post; that would be a disservice to you.  You can expect to see the various parts of the campaign plan systematically detailed in the coming posts, but if you’re really ready to hit the ground running, buy the Campaign Planbook, which will walk you step-by-step through the process of putting together a fully fleshed out, slam-bangin’ campaign plan in very little time.

The first step to writing a campaign plan actually has nothing to do with writing, yet.  You first need to gather together your gang/posse/crew – essentially, your ‘campaign team.’  There is a strict rubric you must follow when choosing people to be on this very short list.

  1. Do I really trust this person?  They will be keeping ALL your secrets.  You need to know they are telling no one.  Literally, no one.  You wouldn’t believe how much info I can milk out of your buddy’s 10 year old daughter’s classmate.
  2. Does this person have valuable input?  Just because Joe Shmoe is your best friend doesn’t mean he has anything meaningful to say about the city’s political affairs.  Additionally, just because some muckety-muck is the county representative to the state GOP doesn’t mean his opinion is worth two cents either.  You want to tap people who are close to you that are also actively engaged citizens.
  3. Does this person have the time to dedicate to this campaign?  Ideally, they should be able to put in as much time as you.
  4. Does this person have a talent or skill that is critical to campaign success?  If they are an accountant they’d make an excellent treasurer.  If they run a small business or manage a franchise (well, they’re probably too busy, but…) they’d likely make a good campaign manager.  Do not bother inviting people into the ‘club’ that don’t have anything to offer but moral support or a duplicate of someone else’s skill.  Pick the best man for the job and go with it.

Other things to consider: Will this person tell me to slow down when I’ve run myself ragged?  Will she pick up the slack if I need a break?  Will he tell me when I’m just plain wrong about something?  Will he put the well-being of my family/marriage ahead of the campaign?  In other words – is this person a true friend?

Because as a candidate you will likely give in to the temptation to believe that you are some sort of demi-god and the world revolves around you, or you will spend so much time going door-to-door that you miss every little league game of the season, or you will get so narrowly focused on what you think is important, you’ll forget to consider what the voters in your city think is important.  These people in your core campaign team are not ‘yes men.’  They need to be the ones that smack you in the face when you’re being dumb.

Once you’ve narrowed your group down to 3-5 individuals, then you’re ready to call a meeting and bust out the pens, the paper, and of course your brand new copy of the Campaign Planbook.

I should also mention here that spouses play a pivotal role in the development and implementation of the campaign plan.  I’ve been re-reading my favorite campaign planning book of all time (besides mine, of course) and it actually recommends keeping your spouse out of this group, citing that they’ll have the chance to help out by “putting up yard signs, answering phones, passing out literature, etc.”

“Um, excuse me?  So you’re basically saying my opinion means nothing to you but you still want me around for the grunt work, is that right?  Pfft!  Hope you like the couch, honey, because that’s what THAT conversation just won you,” is exactly what I would say to my husband if he relegated me to yard sign coordinator.

Chances are great that your wife couldn’t care less what’s in your campaign plan.  But you’re dragging her into this year of craziness right along with you.  It will affect her life tremendously.  And your actions as a public figure and political candidate will reflect on her public image, too.  That’s why I start every campaign plan with an agreement between candidate and spouse, so that all the cards are on the table, and both parties completely understand what’s expected of the other during this time.  Trust me, you need the support your spouse provides for you.  Additionally, you do not need the marital discord political campaigns can cause.

And if you need another reason: lack of communication can lead to major campaign faux pas in the future.  Let’s say, for example, you’ve decided you’re anti-spinach.  You’ve positioned yourself as the no-spinach candidate and the voters love you for it.  And then a reporter calls your wife and asks how she feels about spinach.  “Oh I love spinach, in fact I’m making creamed spinach for dinner tonight!”  Tomorrow’s headline: So-Called Anti-Spinach City Council Candidate John Smith Eats Spinach Twice a Week!”

Replace “spinach” with your town’s most recent fringe issue, and kiss your political aspirations good-bye.

Before you sit down with your team, you need to sit down with your spouse and determine how they would like to participate in the political process.  If she doesn’t want to be involved that much, that’s totally cool.  But if she wants a ‘seat at the table,’ I say give it to her, and take what she says seriously.

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It’s January – 5 Things You Should Be Doing Right Now

Running a campaign in the new year

Happy New Year!

Welcome to a brand new election cycle.  Even though the national media has already completely blown off the 2014 elections in favor of covering the eating habits of every potential 2016 presidential candidate in the country, here at GOP Campaigner we care more about who’s running for town council.  And with that in mind, I’ve decided to start the new year with a post that will hopefully get you focused on your goal for 2014 – winning your political campaign!

So what should you be doing right now?

  1. Decide.  I mean really decide.  Get introspective, and deep, and truly determine whether you’re ready for this monumental challenge.  How to do this?  Here are some questions you need to answer for yourself:
    • Why do I want to run for office?
    • Do I want to be mayor/city councilman/state representative because I really want the job?  Or is it because I don’t like how the incumbent does it now? (Hint: Running just to unseat a jerk is not a good reason!)
    • What do I want to accomplish in this elected position?  What issues are important to me?
    • Is my family prepared for a run for office?  Remember, it’s not just your life that will be in upheaval.  Your wife and children will definitely be affected, and will suffer if you don’t prepare.
    • Finally, search your heart.  Sit in silence in some peaceful, spiritual place, and just wait.  Do you feel excited at the prospect of running a campaign, like you’re starting a great adventure?  Or do you feel apprehensive about your ability to handle the attention, the work, the upheaval?
    • Is your spouse on board?  Because it’s never worth it if you don’t have full spousal support. 
  1. Mentally prepare yourself for losing.  Yes, you could lose.  That’s always a possibility, even in races that seem a sure bet.  So make sure you’re emotionally capable of handling a loss.  Too many candidates put their whole self worth into the voters hands on election day and let me tell you, the voters do not care about your ego.
  2. Consult the family.  This is the time for scheduling out the important parts of your life so that later you can schedule campaigning around your family life, instead of the other way around.  All too often soccer games and dance recitals and supporting your wife’s interests and hobbies are an afterthought, after you’ve already set up a campaign schedule that dominates your evenings and weekends.  If you’re in a stage of life where you’re raising a growing family, they should always come first.  Always.  The voters will forget about you by December, whether you win or lose.  Your kids will never forget that you missed their biggest events of the year.
  3. Figure out your one big reason.  When someone says, “Why are you running for county commissioner?”  You should have a simple, heartfelt, one-sentence response that lines up with both your values and the community’s needs.  It needs to be genuine, not strategic.  It needs to be specific, not vague.  Make it universal and personal at the same time.  You’ll know it when you find it.
  4. Paperwork.  You’ll have to go to the courthouse or voter registration office in your town (or county seat) and file documentation stating that you intend to run for elected office.  You’ll also have to open up a business bank account for your campaign.  Now before you go running to the city building to sign up, you should know that it’s not always in your best interest to file on the very first day.  There are plenty of reasons you may want to wait and file as late as possible.  Usually, however, just making sure you get the paperwork done in a timely manner is good enough.  This is the first official step you’ll take as a candidate for elected office.
Here’s some further reading to help you through this process:

That’s pretty much it for now.  Don’t worry about talking to voters, getting the media’s attention, or pulling your campaign team together for recurring meetings.  It’s way too early for that.  Enjoy the rest of January, because when spring rolls around, the crazy starts, and it only grows from there until you’re barreling into November at break-neck speeds.  Now is the time for a calm, peaceful, family-filled start to the new year.

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Political Technology: Why You Probably Shouldn’t Care

Quick story:

One fine day, I was managing a campaign for a typical Republican candidate in a slightly left-leaning district when, about 48 hours before Election Day, I was informed that I’d need to take 30 of my volunteers off important jobs like phone banking, door-knocking, and giving voters a ride to the polls, and have them sit in the polling stations next to the Big Book of Registered Voters, using their cell phones to tick off the names of the Republicans who came in to vote for some new technological doo-hickey thingamabobber…apparently the state party had put this all together for all the Republican candidates.  I still don’t know what it was, because it probably hasn’t been used since.

Anywho, I tried to cobble together some kids to do this incredibly boring task, but when E-Day came, I had better things to do and, whoops, apparently my race was the ONLY one not popping up numbers on their fancy new thingy they probably spent WAAAY too much money on, and boy did I get an unprofessionally worded phone call from my napoleonic boss!

Oh, but I won that race.  By a significant margin.  And you know who didn’t win?  Every. Other. Republican. In the state.  Well, running for a contentious seat in the state legislature.  We lost a ton of seats that year.

And what did I get for my insubordinate success?

you're fired political campaign

Except Trump is way better looking than my then boss.

But I was like –

Whatever political campaign

Whatevs, sucka.

And I moved to DC and never looked back.  Luckily, this experience was on-the-job learning gold.  After that, I had a whole new set of rules and tools that helped me avoid future techno mistakes.

So without further ado, here are the 5 rules of political technology:

  1. Don’t be distracted by shiny new gadgets or digital online thingies that promise to make Election Day run smoothly and give you the biggest win since GW the original was nearly crowned king of the USA.  
  2. Facebook likes and re-tweets are not votes.  And they never will be.  Even national level candidates still need to learn this fact.  I’ve actually seen campaign plans that based their numbers on the idea that maybe they were.
  3. If it’s not already in the budget, don’t spend money on it.  
  4. Yes, there are a few ‘technologies’ that you should invest in, the first being a website.  But not a $3,000 website some scheister tries to sell you on.  One your teenage son makes for you for like $10 a month through Hostgator (like this one!) and then uses to double as his final project for computer class.  You should have a presence on Facebook and Twitter because it’s fun and it’s free and it’s a great way to communicate, but it is NOT worth spending ‘real’ time or money on.
  5. Don’t let the state party, local party, a special interest group, or any other entity or person outside your campaign push you into spending time or money on something that’s not in your campaign plan.  You may be a Republican, but that does not make you beholden to them!
  6. Bonus rule!  You are running for county commissioner (or an equally local race), dude.  You do not need some crazy start up business sending texts on your behalf to every cell phone in your area code!  Do not pay for that $h*t!
At this point you are thinking, “Great!  I now know to be leery of political technology.  But I’m really not sure what that is.”  Ah, well, I’m glad you brought that up!  The term ‘political technology’ doesn’t really have a definition yet, but what you’re on the lookout for is -
  • anything online, including email and online fundraising
  • anything on cell phones, like apps voters can have on their phones, or texting services.
  • most things that give you ‘data’ that you can’t somehow dig up yourself, like a voter database.

These are the types to avoid, at least, because at the local level they’re really not worth the money.  If you’re in a really hot race and they really are worth the time and money, I guarantee a friendly special interest group will be more than happy to shell out the cash and manpower to make it happen.  If they aren’t willing to pay for it themselves, it’s probably not worth paying for.

In conclusion, while technological advances have definitely changed the way campaigns are run and won at the congressional and presidential levels, they simply don’t make much of an impact below that point yet in most of the country.  In more urban areas, *free* technology (not specifically political in nature, however) like Facebook has proven to be a method of breaking through the noise to get some attention, but still has no real impact on election results.  Stick to the basics, the methods that have worked from our nation’s Day 1, and you’ll carve out a clear path to victory.

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Campaign Calendar Planning: Campaign Finance

Naturally following a discussion on fundraising, we must cover our bases on campaign finance.  A missed deadline for a political candidate at any level will most certainly leave you open to criticism from your opponent and scrutiny from the media, not to mention that it’s not unusual for the public employees that run the elections office to mess up or completely lose vitally important forms and documents (accidentally or otherwise). Luckily, this part is fairly simple.

For your calendar, simply look up the list of campaign finance reporting due dates on your state’s campaign finance or secretary of state website.  If you have a Campaign Planbook, there’s likely a link to your state’s resource website in there.  If not, it’s easy enough to find through a Google search.

Once you find the information you’re looking for, jot down the due dates for every campaign finance reporting requirement.  To be completely sure you’ve got everything, stop by your local elections office and ask them for a list of all the due dates as well – sometimes local entities require more information or have more stringent requirements.  Don’t bother calling – in the case they actually answer the phone (unlikely), it’s too easy for them to give you a wrong date or miss one.  Generally speaking, all interactions with election divisions should be in person.

Other than the due dates themselves, you may want to schedule time to enter in all your fundraising and expenditure data, preferably in chunks rather than all at once – that usually leads to a last minute frenzy to get it all done in time.  Some campaign finance websites will allow you to fill in the forms online and let you save them.  There’s also online software like BackOffice that can help you, if you want to pay for it.  I recommend finding a trustworthy and mathematically-inclined intern to input the data once a week or so.

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Your #1 Campaign Calendar Priority: Family

political calendar family time

Family?  Yeah, fellas, that’s right!  In case you haven’t noticed, family is important to me, even especially on the campaign trail.  In fact, your wife should subscribe to this blog, because I often write for her, too.  If you’re a single guy – lucky you, you can afford to be a workaholic so you can skip this post if you want.

But most candidates are married.  And since most Republican candidates (any candidates, for that matter) are men, we’ll just assume for the purposes of this post you’re married to a woman (although not necessarily).

When it comes to the candidate’s schedule, the first thing a campaign manager or scheduler should do coordinate all the candidate’s household/family responsibilities in one place.  You’ll need to coordinate directly with the candidate’s wife for this section, and here’s why: you need to know the real priorities of the family.  If you ask the candidate what family time is sacred and what can be moved around, nine times out of ten they’ll say something like, “well we always have date night on Fridays, but if it’s really important, we can skip just one…”

And it’s a downward spiral from there.  Kids go rogue.  Marriages deteriorate.  Divorces happen.  It sucks, and you don’t want to be a part of that.  So just talk to the wife.  She’s the one who’ll tell you that Sally would be devastated if her dad missed her school play, or you absolutely must have a long weekend getaway over your anniversary, or she’s planning a surprise birthday party for him.  This is also your opportunity  to get to know the candidate’s wife and make clear the part she needs to play in the campaign (more info about that in the Campaign Planbook).

Family time is also important because it’s a part of your candidate’s positive image.  People like to vote for a guy they identify with – a fellow husband, dad and family provider.  Additionally, candidates (like anyone else) need life balance in order to be at peak productivity.

So here’s a checklist of tips you ought to keep in mind as you to pull together the family portion of the calendar:

  • Collect little league game and ballet recital schedules, doctor’s appointments, dates of anniversaries and birthdays, and anything else you can think of.
  • Work with the candidate and candidate’s spouse to strategically plan vacations during times you think the campaign will be slow – typically that’s the whole holiday season and most of January, and a dip after parade/fair season and before Labor Day weekend.
  • Front-load vacation time in the winter months, then plan 2-3 vacations that are 3-4 days long, rather than a 2 week summer vacation.  I also recommend taking 1 or 2 days here and there to spend exclusively with family.
  • Keep family members in mind for campaign events and ask them to participate – campaign/family cross over helps them feel involved in the candidate’s life outside the home.
  • Spread family time out evenly.  Resist the urge to jam a couple extra family items in September so you can skip them in the crucial month of October.

After you’ve had a discussion with the appropriate family members and copied down the requisite appointments, set that calendar aside for now, and get ready to put together the next section!

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