Thursday, June 19, 2008

So you're running for office...

A winning campaign plans ahead. That's why this post is timely and important for your race. In 2009.

Local elections happen in the "off-year" elections. That means city council members, some mayors, some municipal judges, municipal clerks, school boards, educational service center boards, and other municipal elections are on the ballot.

Now is the perfect time to start thinking about your run for office next year- I'm going to lay out some of the preliminary things you should accomplish during the coming months.

First things first:

1. Gather Information: You'll need to get two kinds of data together: public and personal.

Public: Go to your local board of elections- you're going to need to get some documents there. Medina County, for example, doesn't have any previous municipal election results listed on the internet. To my knowledge, no local board of elections has financial data online.

Get these documents:

- Election Results from the previous cycles. You'll want to get precinct by precinct results from the previous elections involving the position you're looking at. The last two times the position has been up is more than sufficient.

-Filing Deadlines for the position you're looking for. What are the requirements? How many signatures do you need to have? When do the petitions have to be turned in? Strategically, you may not want to pull petitions just yet- but you need to know what time frames you're working toward.

-Voter Files (you may be able to get this from your local party as well) with the registrations for your entire area. In "off-year" elections, you have to make sure you're hitting the voters who will definitely vote.

-Financial Data. Pull up any and all information on your potential opponents either in a primary or a general election. Pull up information on any local clubs (example: Lodi City Libertarian Club) that might be helping to fund a candidate.

-Other Considerations: be sure to find out what your district encompasses. Some school districts are not equal to the municipal areas and some municipal areas have pockets of townships.


- People you know. Make a list of all the people you know on a spreadsheet. Get out lists of who you send holiday cards to, wedding guests, anything that you can think of. This is critical. It doesn't matter if they don't live in your city. This should also include any political contacts. All you know. Everybody. Don't skip anyone.

- Groups you're involved in. What kind of organizations are you involved in? If you're not involved in any, start getting out there. You need to be involved in the community you're planning to run in.

- Lists of party donors. Get any information you can about frequently donors in the Democratic Party in your county and in your city. Typically, these are your secondary donors including like minded groups like labor unions, progressive groups, etc.

2. Planning

-Materials: These will make your life easier. Buy a large calendar, get a map of the area you're campaigning in (broken down into precincts even!), at least one clipboard, have a spreadsheet program that you know how to use, and some envelopes/stamps.

-Media Costs: How much do newspaper ads cost in your area? How much do signs cost? What about mailings and literature? Figure these things out!

-Making the overall plan: This is going to brush over what can be a complicated process with a simple goal: how many votes do I need to win and how many times do I need to get my message to a voter to get their vote? Think: ideally I'd have a mailing at these times or I'll hit the doors this many times. Write it on the calendar.

-Make the Budget: This is also simplifying the process: but make a spreadsheet of the things that you wanted to do when you made your plan- place the costs next to it. What's the total? That's your fund raising goal. Place everything possible on here, you can take out things later if the money isn't coming in.

3. Action

Get Involved!

-Work on campaigns now- pick a race that gets you knocking on doors and meeting people. The race that will help you the most ISN'T for President. It's a local race involving local issues. Also, if you help get someone elected to a county office they will still be around when you're running next year. No matter what amount you help Barack Obama in 2008, he won't be around to hit on doors for your school board race in 2009.

- Join community groups- being involved in local community groups will help you meet contacts and network. This is about the number of people that will vote for you and if you know more people you know more votes. Plus, this can be fun. Join a community service organization, or even one that relates to a hobby of yours. Just be smart- you can't put your membership in NORML on a campaign flyer.

-With the Democratic Party- is there a mailing list? Are there precinct chairs in your city? Is the party having an event coming up? Make appearances and network. If the first time you meet the democratic party in your county and city is when you start running and ask for help and money... don't be shocked if they're less than willing to support you.

-Remember that list of names? Keep adding to it. When you meet someone them on it.

-Open a committee/fundraising- Depending on the amount of money you need and your budget, you may want to open a fundraising committee sooner rather than later. Find a treasurer and send out a mailer using the envelopes and stamps you bought that lets the people you know (remember that list?) know you're thinking of running and you'll need their help.

Summary: You've got to plan now to run in the future. It's like any business, sports team, or relationship. You need planning. A campaign is not magic- it's a strategic marketing campaign. Any questions? Or if you want to run- make a comment on this post or email MCDAC and let us know.

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