It’s October – The One Thing You Should Be Doing

meeting voters

October is about one goal, and one goal only: talking to voters.  You need to be walking your district as much as possible.  For you that may be every single day, three weekday afternoons and the whole weekend, or maybe just the weekend.  Whatever it is, you must be giving it your all.

You’re so close to the finish line, and this is the point at which you need to be sprinting.  Your volunteers should also be walking for you, writing letters to the editor for you, and of course talking to their friends and neighbors about you.

If you’ve kept up an email list for volunteers, supporters, and people who’ve promised to vote for you, good job!  You should be using that email list about once a week in October (you don’t want to drive them crazy with daily emails) to let your supporters know where you’ll be and what you’ll be doing, and how they can help.

Hopefully your yard signs are already fairly distributed, but you still need to keep some handy in case you run into new supporters as you go door-to-door.

October is about voter contact, voter contact, voter contact, and getting out the vote (GOTV).

Focus on:

  • Voter contact – meeting as many voters as possible, and asking them for their vote.
  • Making sure your name is everywhere, via yard signs, a PR push in your local newspaper and other publications, and through paid advertising like billboards, radio or TV ads, or whatever you’ve determined is the best medium for your district.
  • GOTV – getting YOUR voters out and to the polls, and following through on your absentee ballot initiatives.

Now is the time to push on the gas.  No sleep.  Not much family time.  The race is nearly over, you must push through to Election Day, just a few short weeks away.  They will be over before you know it!

 

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

The beginning of campaign season!

It’s September!  Welcome to the semi-official beginning of “Campaign Season!”

“What?!?” you say?  “But I’ve been working my tail off for eight months already!?!?”  Yes, yes you have.  But not highly visibly campaigning.  Labor Day weekend kicks off yard sign, billboards, tv ads, and all the highly visual aspects of a political campaign, so let’s get to it!

  1. Door-to-door!  Hasn’t this been number one for the past 5 months or so?  That’s because face to face voter contact, real conversations, and hey, stumbling into barbecues!
  2. Yard signs!  Communications comes into play in a major way starting in September and continuing on through to Election Day.  All those people you talked to (and hopefully kept track of on a spreadsheet or something) that said ‘yes’ to having a yard sign – go deliver them!  In most towns the earliest you want to do this is around Labor Day weekend.  Some towns have ordinances dictating how early signs can go out – 30 days before Election Day, 60 days, etc.  If there’s nothing written in stone, Labor Day Weekend is the general rule of thumb.  Make sure to keep 10-20 in your trunk for giving them out when the opportunity arises!
  3. Coffees and teas.  Having a ‘coffee’ meeting in someone’s home with a handful of neighbors is a good way to come inside and have some deeper conversations on issues that are affecting your constituents.  Sometimes these events manifest themselves in other themes, but the general idea is to get together with a handful of voters for an hour or two.  Make a lasting impression and these people will be your biggest supporters, and the excitement will spread.
  4. Campaign Events.  I’m talking here about public events created and sponsored by your campaign.  This could be reserving a large room at the library or senior center and posting flyers inviting the public to a ‘town hall’ or ‘meet the candidate’ type event.  You can focus on a specific issue, if there’s a meaty one, or leave it open to respond to voters’ questions.  It’s basically an opportunity for direct conversation with the voters, and also, possibly some media attention.  Be sure, of course, the local papers and radio and TV stations are aware of any such campaign events.
  5. Fundraising.  Yep, this is STILL something you have to think about.  Money propels the campaign forward, and in the next two months, you’ll likely spend MUCH more than you did in the previous eight.

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It’s Summer! – 5 Things You Should Be Doing Now

summer campaigning

By now your campaign should be in full swing, and hopefully your family isn’t missing you yet, because it’ll be a loooong time before you can sit down and have a regular meal with them again.  July and August are fun on the campaign trail because summer is often full of fun events and lots of opportunities to meet people, which is pretty much the singular purpose of a campaign in summer.  You’ll need to be laser focused on voter contact while the weather is amiable.

  1. Door-to-door.  I hope you picked some really fun campaign tchotchkes, because this is when they’ll get the most use!  You’ll knock on hundreds of doors this summer, and run through at least two pairs of walking shoes, but think of how awesome your legs will look at the beach!  (Just kidding!  You don’t have time for the beach, unless there’s an event there where you can mingle with voters!)
  2. Events!  Parades, fairs, and festivals are my favorite summer campaign activities!  Tossing candies to the little children?  Love it!  Be sure to make the most of these, but don’t just attend everything for the sake of being seen.  It’s about actually meeting and greeting and discussing the local issues with voters.  If an event doesn’t give you much opportunity for that, ditch it and go back to door-to-door.
  3. GOTV groundwork.  As you go door to door, make your best effort to recruit volunteers, record which voters are supportive, and ask people if they’re willing to put a your sign in their yard.  You’ll need all this data in the future when you implement your 72-hour GOTV plan.
  4. Plan your communications.  You’ll need to make a concerted effort to raise your name ID and spread your campaign message through a formal paid communications and public relations strategy.  Are you going to do TV or radio?  What newspapers or other periodicals do you need to be seen in?  Should you buy print ads for that or initiate a letter-to-the-editor campaign?
  5. Plan to spend some money.  Along with planning what you’re going to do, plan what it’s going to cost, and when.  Make sure to plan ahead with your fundraising.  I like to pay early if I can, just so that the important things are locked in, and I’m not left with empty pockets when the bill comes due.  Knowing what you’re paying for next gives you a selling point in your fundraising efforts as well.  Saying “We’re planning to make a large placement in radio on WTOP next week and we need your help,” plays very well with donors.  They know exactly what their money is doing, and they like that (I do, too).

Now go get ‘em, Tiger!

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

Guess what?  You get the month of April off!  No campaigning for you this month.  Take a spring break.  Go for a vacation.

…April fools!  No, no, my friend, April is just the time to get fired up and serious!

april-fools-day-obama-political-campaigning

  • Fundraising!  If you haven’t started in earnest, now is the time.  You need to put that Rolodex to work!  You know, if you still actually own one of those things, but you get my drift.
  • It’s tax time!  Sometimes candidates campaigning (especially for Congress or state level positions) will take the opportunity to send a strong tax message on or around April 15th.  Make a fundraising or public relations event out of it!  I knew one candidate that passed out flyers with his fiscally conservative campaign message close to the local post office (where everyone would be bringing their forms to mail in).  He was sure to check local/state/federal regulations on how close he could actually be to the post office, as partisan activity is prohibited within a certain distance.
  • Data.  If you haven’t started planning your grassroots strategy, put pencil to paper and figure it out.  Go to the courthouse or voter registration office and get past election results and voter files, and start planning where you plan to focus your voter outreach efforts.  I will have a very detailed post on how to do this soon in my Running for City Council series.
  • Door-to-door.  If you haven’t had a chance to begin honing your one-on-one communication skills as a candidate, spring weather is perfect for strolling around a precinct and knocking on doors to talk to voters.  Get your walking lists together for the first few precincts on your priority list and start talking.  Face-to-face, one-on-one communication with voters is absolutely priceless.
  • Get some goodies!  When you’re going door-to-door, you will definitely need something awesome to leave behind so that your voters will remember your name and how absolutely enlightening it was to speak with you (hopefully).  Name recognition will be everything come Election Day, so slap your name loud and proud on some campaign materials and be like a post-ghost Scrooge with them – generously give them away!
    I hate it when campaign managers – knowing the cost of each notepad, t-shirt or bumper sticker – try to be stingy with them, only wanting to give them to people who’ll display the items religiously, wearing their campaign-themed apparel every waking hour.  This is counter-productive!  If people want your stuff, give it to them!  Be generous and they will use and display your campaign materials appropriately.  This is a key factor in increasing the reach and saturation of your name and message.
    Need some ideas on what to buy?  Here’s a list of my favorite (and least favorite) campaign materials – but keep in mind what works for your community, too.  Maybe those canvas reusable bags are a good buy in your neck of the woods – by all means, get some made with your name, campaign logo and tagline emblazoned on it.  I’ve outlined some tried-and-true winners, so pick a few of those must-haves and pass them out (or leave them on door handles if the voter’s not home) when you’re making your door-to-door rounds.

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My Frank Assessment of the NYC Mayoral Race

Lhota, DeBlasio NYC Mayoral Candidates 2013

Caveat – this is by no means comprehensive.

Funny story: On Election Day for the primary this year, I voted very late – got in a few minutes before the polls closed at 9pm.  I recognized the poll worker from my Church :)  She gave me a card and directed me to the voting machine.  I pulled the lever back and tried to toggled my choices for the Republican mayoral candidates, and none of the Republican levers would move.  I stuck my head out from the curtain and asked for some help – I demonstrated that my choices wouldn’t move, and the poll worker said, “Oh, you’re a Republican.”  She and two others needed help figuring out how to switch the machine to allow a Republican primary ballot to be cast, because I was the first – and only – Republican to vote in my polling place!  After a few minutes of discussion they figured it out, and I was allowed to cast my ballot and go home.  On my way out, I chatted with Church-lady, and she confirmed I was the one and only.  Ha!  Life in Harlem…

Anywho.

An intelligent and no doubt attractive new reader that happens to be from my town asked me my thoughts on New York’s mayoral race in the comments of my last post.  And when I thought about it I figured other candidates – especially in big markets – might glean some helpful insights.  So voila, a post is born.

Here’s his question:

“I just found your interesting site by chance while researching materials for an NYC grassroots campaign. Are you still located in NYC? If so, what’s your critique of the Mayoral Race conducted by Republican candidate, Joe Lhota?”

This is for you, Thomas! (Also because I’m too lazy to write up a review of the whole race for non-New Yorkers, I’ve included links – like this one – in case you want to get an idea what current events I’m referencing).

Interesting question! You know, I’m surprised he hasn’t wrapped himself more around the issue of school choice. Last week charter schools took a half day off to march in the streets with parents and children – Lhota marched with them, and if it hadn’t been for the debate, I wouldn’t have known about it. De Blasio is staunchly anti-school choice – this should be a single issue campaign!

Now, I live in Harlem, so my on-the-ground perspective may be a little skewed; school choice
would be a super-hot topic here, and in a good way for Lhota.  Don’t forget – parents who care about their kids’ education are much more likely to be registered/reliable voters. But I would expect a Republican campaign in the city to start in SI and Brooklyn and work from there, so Harlem may be the last place on their mind (and rightly so, story above is exhibit A).

One other issue is that this biking/road-rage incident harkens back to the bad old days of ‘wilding’ in the late 80s/early 90s. Manhattanites who’ve been around long enough may fear the results of rolling back Giuliani/Bloomberg policing policies and that could be a winning issue for Lhota, too. Here in Harlem, those bikers are a real problem. I often see them tearing down Fifth Ave from the Bronx, popping wheelies and caring very little about pedestrians.

I realize this critique sounds pretty negative on Lhota, but it’s hard for me to get a frank assessment on the positives because I don’t see anything from the campaign, no doubt because of where I live.

I will say in regards to the debate (which was a little pointless since De Blasio chickened out – he can only hurt his campaign if he exposes just how liberal his platform is), Lhota didn’t seem as calm, confident, and prepared as Carrion – not as prepared, perhaps, or simply not properly prepped on how to respond to questions you’re not expecting.  Be decisive, not flustered!

Holy smokes, I just realized I haven’t seen any Lhota commercials…I don’t watch a ton of TV, but that should start soon, if it hasn’t already.  You can’t even hope to win city-wide in NYC if TV and radio aren’t a major part of your communications outreach.  Well, I guess there’s always hope.

And before I close out the topic, I can’t resist mentioning that Lhota’s nomination in the first place is classic establishment-Republicans-shooting-themselves-in-the-footism.  They chose to back the man they thought could win, instead of the best and most genuine Republican choice.  When will they ever learn that the voting public has an eerie knack for seeing through that play?

Thomas mentioned he was researching for a grassroots campaign in NYC.  So come along with me on a stream-of-consciousness ride through that subject, will you please?

I have no idea what your issue or candidate is, but I’m betting this post about fundraising will be helpful, along with  this one on GOTV organization, and this one on 72-hour campaigning.  There are more, but three self-promoting links is enough for now, I think.

Here’s the rub – “grassroots campaigning” doesn’t really exist in NYC.  There’s always some loon on the corner using traditional grassroots techniques (that work out in the real world of ‘Murica) to try and recruit Communists, or that guy who runs for whatever race is happening every single year on the Upper West Side – you know, the one with his name plastered on a van he leaves parked on the street – but he never wins, of course.

What “grassroots” would translate into here in the Big Apple (and most major metropolitan areas) is actually ‘influencer collection.’ I just made up that term, because as far as I know there isn’t a formal term for it yet, but the concept is not new.  The book Applebee’s America digs into the idea much deeper, but in summation, it’s the practice of locating significant members in a community – organization leaders, respected pastors, other politicians, union leaders, neighborhood/apartment complex/block association presidents, etc. – and convincing them to support you, thereby winning the votes of all the people they ‘influence.’  And because this city doesn’t have any real community, this system strangely works really well.  Influencers direct, and followers do what they do best.

Now, this phenomenon does work in more average towns and cities, too.  But not nearly in the extreme way it does here.  I believe it’s partly out of necessity.  With so many dwellings being locked-up apartment buildings and gated/guarded condos and townhomes, traditional door-to-door is impossible.

The point?  Aim for community leaders.  Get your candidate/representative in front of their organizations.  If that ends up being difficult – maybe your issue just isn’t in play right now and you can’t get the attention of any of the typical, busier influencers – aim for the tenant and block association leadership.  At the very least you can plan your grassroots effort around getting into those buildings so you can actually talk face-to-face with voters, leave campaign literature, and push your issue’s name ID.

They say if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.  While I disagree with most interpretations of that quote, I agree that NYC politics is about as harsh as it gets.  Anyone who simply survives it deserves a merit badge, and if you can win here, you can be successful in most of the rest of the political world.

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