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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Overwhelmed: Balancing Work, Family, and Campaign

relax summer political campaign stress

Summer is an incredibly busy time for candidates.  Besides all the public events that summer brings, it’s also the high-time for traditional campaign activities like volunteer recruitment and good ol’ door-knocking.  On top of all that, you’re probably still trying to hold down a day job and be at least a halfway decent spouse and parent.  If you’re feeling overwhelmed with all the responsibility, it’s time to take a look back and remember why you’re running for public office in the first place.

What did you tell yourself when you convinced yourself to become a politician?  I’m guessing it was at least one of these:

  • I want to make a difference in my community.
  • I really want to change (whatever the pet issue is in your district/community).
  • I want to teach my kids civic responsibility and show them good values.
  • I care about my neighbors and want to help them.

Look back on what originally motivated you to run (ideally you wrote it down) and re-focus your time and energies into meeting those goals.  Win or lose, you can still most likely have an impact in the areas you’ve outlined just by having run your campaign.

Here are some other de-stressing tips I’ve collected from some campaign veteran friends:

  • Do some door-knocking, even if you have to go alone.  Talking to the voters one-on-one brings your ego back down to earth and good conversation is always a good way to relax.
  • Wake up early. Get all your “to-do” items out of your head and onto some paper. Delegate at least 3 of them to staff/volunteers, and send the emails asking them to do it before they’ve even woken up.
  • Take a day off.  Seriously.  Unplug completely.  Go to the golf course or take a day trip with the family.
  • Yoga.  Oh so much yoga…
  • Take one of your (older) kids with you campaigning for the day.  Having a kid along makes it fun and more casual and helps relax the people you’re meeting with as well.
  • Walk your district with your spouse after dinner.  If you’re running for something like city council, you could cover a good portion of your district, get acquainted with the boundaries for various precincts, run into potential voters and supporters in a less formal environment, all while spending quality time together and getting a little exercise.
  • Back off the political engagements.  You don’t have to be campaigning 24/7.  Have your scheduler reduce your campaign time by 10-25% if you’re truly overwhelmed.
  • Change your strategy.  No, it’s not too late.  While your strategy needs to derived from your district, it also needs to fit your candidate style.  If you’re awkward in intimate settings, but do well in public speeches and debates, a strong grassroots campaign may not be a winning one for you anyway.  Make sure you’re working in a style and environment that suits who you are, otherwise you’ll be uncomfortable in your own skin the entire campaign season.


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Summertime Campaigning: Putting Together Your Summer Events Calendar

summer political campaigning

Woohoo!  It’s my absolute favorite time of the campaign year – summer time!  Parades, county fairs, strawberry festivals, and more!  That’s right, folks, all those summer events you love to attend will still be on your calendar.  The difference is that you’ll be chatting up voters and handing out campaign collateral at the same time.

It’ll take some dedicated organization to make sure you use your summer hours as effectively as possible.  I highly recommend finding a college or high school student to intern as a Summer Events Coordinator (one of my first political jobs!) to keep your grassroots campaign effort focused throughout the summer months.

Putting Together The Schedule

Before summer gets here, you’ll need to put together a calendar of all the public events in your district – include everything, even the dinkiest little pie eating contest or watermelon festival.  You can make this a part of your ‘official’ campaign calendar, but it’s likely you’ll need a separate calendar exclusively for summer events just because there are so many – especially if you’re running for something like the U.S. House of Representatives and your district covers many counties (the county fairs alone could fill your calendar).

Prioritizing Your Time

Next you’ll need to determine what events the candidate will attend, which ones will have a campaign presence, and which ones you’re skipping.  Here are a few guidelines for figuring out who goes where and when:

  • The candidate can’t attend everything. Consider having the candidate’s wife, kids (if they’re old enough), or campaign manager be the official rep for the campaign at some summer events.
  • Be sure you know what’s required to attend the event.  List out the cost to attend, how many staffers/volunteers you’ll need, whether you have space for a campaign booth, etc.
  • Use your volunteers wisely.  You only need a couple of people manning a booth at the county fair.  You’ll need as many volunteers as you can get walking in an Independence Day parade with you.  Make sure your volunteer requirements are listed in your summer events calendar.
  • Estimate how many of your voters will be in attendance.  If your district has only one precinct in Madison County, it might be a waste of time and money to attend the Madison County Fair when there are several other counties comprising the lion’s share of your district.
  • Don’t under-estimate the importance of small events.  A smaller event in the heart of your district may be worth the while for a candidate to attend if you think it will have the most active voters in attendance.  It may get press coverage in the local publications, and if you’re the only candidate in your race that shows, all the better.

Bargain With The Rest Of The Campaign

Summer events are important, but all the other normal campaign activities are still important.  You’ll need to beg, borrow and steal time away from fundraising, debates, media events, etc. to make it happen.  The good news is that the summer stuff is fun, so it can double as great family time (every campaign kids live on funnel cakes/elephant ears/cotton candy/corn dogs/lemon shake-ups all summer – which is AWESOME).  Additionally, you’ll be getting a lot of face time with voters that are involved in the community, which makes up (to some degree) for cutting back on things like going door-to-door.

Don’t worry, after Labor Day the number of community functions drops off dramatically, so you’ll be back in the campaign office soon enough.  Of course, that’s when the REAL WORK begins.

Put Someone In Charge

And it can’t be the candidate.  This is an excellent role for the Summer Events Coordinator, and you may need a back up in case there are multiple events in one day.  Having a designated leader helps to make sure everything goes smoothly, the candidate is where he’s supposed to be, when he’s supposed to be there, and there are plenty of supplies to last the entire event.

Apply those tips and you’ll be well on your way to having tons of summer campaign fun!

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