If you have never run for office before here is a simple list of things that my many years working and volunteering around campaigns has led me to believe all new candidates should know. For a more in depth take on running for office read our So you want to run for office article.
50% + 1
Winning most elections means getting 50% plus 1 more vote to win. So figuring out how many votes that is and then collecting data on who will potentially vote for you, so you can do Get Out The Vote (GOTV) work at the end of the campaign, is vital. Trail Blazer is built to help with the data analysis and collection to help you achieve that goal. If you are in an area that has ranked choice voting (RCV) the math is similar, but you may need to calculate things a little different. There are also the multiple choice (vote for 2 or more) elections where the top 2 (or more) win. This is usually lower vote totals since they are lower offices. The process and math to figure out how many votes you will need is slightly different depending on the election type. Those formulas tell you the number of voters you will need to win. Regardless of how you figure out the number of voters it will take to win, collecting the information to do your GOTV work is much easier with Trail Blazer.
Lawn signs don’t vote but name identification matters
There is a saying you hear a lot of political consultants say “Lawn signs don’t vote”, it means that they really don’t do much to win elections. A great Washington Post article (here) talks about scientific studies on the effectiveness of lawn signs. A key point it talks about is that at best they can find only about a 0.7% - 1.7% increase in votes based on lawn signs. It goes on to say “To a campaign manager, lawn signs are similar to randomly handing out fliers at a grocery store: a waste of time, money and energy.” The caveat on use of law signs is regarding name identification, if you have low name identification lawn signs can help to reinforce other advertising. Again, be careful that you don’t spend too much time, energy, or money on them. Trail Blazer streamlines management with the tools it has for tracking of lawn sign locations.
Know constituent and other local issues
You will have your reasons for running for office. It’s also not a bad idea to see what others are thinking. You can do this by going door to door (Canvassing), going to any meetings of the office you are thinking of seeking, reading the local letters to editor. What you hear and read are the hot bed issues of your area. From that you should take your own ideas and those you have studied to form the base of your platform as a candidate. They will be the things people will ask you about and what you will talk about the most. Knowing them early and educating yourself on them before you announce will allow you to not be accused of waffling or changing positions. By using Trail Blazer to track what side people are on (or what issues they care about) for those issues you can target mailing and door knocking activities.
Family support, spouse support is a must
In our article So you want to run for office we say
“your time is going to taken up by campaign activities. Tasks like day-to-day house work, shuttling kids to different activities, and spending time with family will likely be cut down. Your family will also need to understand that if you win your election, you may have some late night meetings, as public service positions can be a 24/7 endeavor vs your average 9-5 position.”
Having the support of your spouse is key. Make sure they understand the commitment and are on board with helping. Campaign events can be hard emotionally on the family, tired kids and spouse can make for long events. Make sure child care and support for your spouse are available throughout the campaign. Plan time with the family and stick to it! Campaigning on an empty stomach is not unusual. Plan on snack and meals to keep from being “hangry” with your family. One last note on family support; plan for rides anytime where alcohol might be involved.
Running for office is hard work. No one is sitting at home waiting for a candidates magic tweet (or other social media magic) to influence them. There are very few people that are so politically in-tune that they are seeking out policy blog posts. After 17+ years of helping clients the Trail Blazer staff all have stories of candidates who think they have a better way to campaign, they are not tales of victory. There are tools you can use different than other campaigns but the bottom line is meeting people and talking to them one-on-one is the best way to win votes. Whether it is door to door, town hall style meetings, participation in other community events, or candidate forums. You can not take shortcuts. There is no magic facebook post, twitter tweet, viral blog post, or secret email marketing campaign that will win an election for you. Those things are tools to reach out and re-connect with people after the initial interaction. Without hundreds or even thousands of personal connections you will not win your election. So plan on working hard to win support.