The Campaign Manager
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The Campaign Manager

Running and Winning Local Elections

Catherine Shaw

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  1. 338 páginas
  2. English
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eBook - ePub

The Campaign Manager

Running and Winning Local Elections

Catherine Shaw

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Everything you need to know about Vote by Mail!

Successful campaign manager and three-term mayor of Ashland, Oregon, Catherine Shaw presents the must-have handbook for navigating local campaigns. This clear and concise handbook gives political novices and veterans alike a detailed, soup-to-nuts plan for organizing, funding, publicizing, and winning local political campaigns. Finding the right message and targeting the right voters are clearly explained through specific examples, anecdotes, and illustrations. Shaw also provides in-depth information on assembling campaign teams and volunteers, canvassing, how to conduct a precinct analysis, and how to campaign on a shoestring budget. The Campaign Manager is an encouraging, lucid presentation of how to win elections at the local level.The sixth edition has been fully revised to include new and expanded coverage of contemporary campaign management-from digital ads and new social media tools to data-driven voter targeting tactics and vote by mail strategies.

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Before You Begin

By Catherine Shaw and Daniel Golden
Play for more than you can afford to lose and you will learn the game.


• How to Use This Book
• A Message for the Candidate
• The Framework
• Know the Law

How to Use This Book

THIS HANDBOOK WAS WRITTEN TO ACCOMMODATE POLITICAL NOVICES and veterans, technical newbies and experts, career political operatives and academics. Each chapter is designed to stand alone—if you’re late to the game and lawn signs must go up, flip to the lawn sign chapter and come back for the rest of the story another day. With that said, you should begin with Chapter 2, “Precinct Analysis.” Your efforts will be wasteful at best, and counterproductive at worst, without a precinct analysis as the basis for your campaign road map.
Your labors will be most effective when you implement each component of your campaign with an understanding of its relative significance, so I recommend that you read this entire book cover to cover before you get to work. Nevertheless, I realize that some readers will choose to read as they work. This book can accommodate that approach, too, but you should be aware that the earliest campaign activities begin four months before Election Day. Should you choose to read the chapters in this book out of order, I recommend that you review Chapter 8, “Targeting Voters,” and Chapter 12, “Getting Out the Vote (GOTV),” as soon as your precinct analysis is complete—otherwise, you might miss the opportunity to identify your base in time for the election.

A Message for the Candidate

This book was written for the campaign manager (CM), and it’s almost never a good idea for the candidate to manage his or her own campaign. However, I always recommend that the candidate read it as well. As your campaign revs up, you will constantly find yourself meeting deadlines and going to events with not quite enough preparation time. You will be far more successful coordinating your efforts if you share a common literacy of the same playbook. With that said, if you are managing the campaign for a client who has not read this book, be sure he or she at least reads this section.

Why Are You Running for Office?

The most commonly stated reason first-time candidates give for running is probably some version of “I want to give back to the community that has done so much for me.” But never forget: If you choose to run, it can’t be about you. The measure of a public servant is his or her success in managing the issues that affect the electorate. Begin with the end in mind—list the reasons you want to serve and let them guide your message. What’s broken that you’d like to fix? What’s at risk that you’d like to save? If you’re running for a school-board seat, your reasons might be opportunity for our children, continuous improvement of the education system, and economic growth. A candidate hoping to serve on a library board might talk about resource management, efficient budgeting, hours of operation, and materials. A seat at the county commission? Your issues could be traffic, air quality, land use, or public safety. There are many good reasons to serve, but none of them are personal.
Many enter public service as a spokesperson for a hot-button issue, but single-issue candidates don’t usually make good elected officials. Governance is a complex business; it demands that office holders be attentive to the many facets of the public corporation. Single-issue candidates often struggle with the diversity of duties in office, sitting disengaged until the governing body hits a topic relevant to their issue. It’s frustrating for the office holder, their colleagues, and their constituents. However, there’s nothing wrong with a pet passion. If your favorite issue is an example for a larger pattern of government dysfunction, you have yourself a platform.
I was first compelled to run for office in 1988, after a sewage leak had contaminated my pond. When the public works director and his assistant came to my home to examine the merits of my complaint, he looked down the steep incline to the pond, some five hundred feet from where we stood, and said, “It’s only decomposing plant matter. The city doesn’t even have a sewer line down there.”
I suggested we walk to the pond so he could see and smell it for himself. He said, “If I were to spend time on every complaint I get from every housewife in town, I’d get nothing done.” His assistant cringed.
With no admission of guilt or help from the city, we had the pond water tested, which was indeed contaminated with human waste—and it was from a broken sewer line near the pond. We sent the lab results and bill to the city, and although they reimbursed us, I decided to run for mayor that year, winning my first of three terms. You might say my pet issue was municipal wastewater management, but in my view the sewage leak and subsequent response were symptomatic of a larger problem that needed fixing.

Manage Your Expectations

An effective campaign will consume time and energy. You’ll recruit volunteers, raise money (a lot of it), run phone banks, create media presentations, organize canvassers, engage social media, and work tirelessly to get your base to the polls. Don’t take the plunge without a sober reflection on your outlook. A good precinct analysis will tell you, among other things, just how pragmatic your candidacy is. Cut your losses if your race is unwinnable. Pay no mind to the voices urging you to make a go of it, in the face of insurmountable odds, to bleed the opposition party of resources. In my experience, fielding a candidate in an unwinnable seat pulls more time and resources to help the unwinnable race than the opposition will spend in either regard.
If you intend to throw your hat in the ring to demonstrate your credibility for some later, more winnable, race, be sure to run a classy campaign. Attack pieces have become ubiquitous in national politics, but the techniques in this book were primarily designed for local elections. The people who run for the school board, city council, mayor, county commissioner, and state legislature are generally well known and respected in their communities. Candidates who run unwinnable races to improve their visibility in the community should never go negative. Even if your outlook is good, though, the rewards for attacking your opponent’s reputation in a local race scarcely ever outweigh the risks.

Be Vigilant of Your Campaign’s Tone

In The Odyssey, Homer describes an island inhabited by the Sirens. Their intoxicating song was known to lure passing sailors to the rocky coast and shipwreck. When Odysseus—the epic’s protagonist—nears the island on his journey, he instructs his crew to fill their ears with wax and to tie him tightly to the mast. He was curious to hear the Sirens’ song, but if he did, he knew he wouldn’t have the sound judgment to pass safely by the island.
Modern economists might call Odysseus a sophisticated consumer—someone who constrains their future decisions with the foresight to prepare for their own irrationality. For example, somebody starting a diet might discard all his junk food, not trusting himself to keep clean when the cravings begin.
If you’re going to run for office, choose your messaging strategy like a sophisticated consumer. First-time candidates can’t appreciate the stress of a heated campaign until they’re experiencing it. You’ll be deprived of sleep and recreation, you’ll feel emotionally and physically exhausted, and when some consultant urgently insists that you must air this ad or mail that literature, you might not have the sound judgment to push back. It will feel liberating to acquiesce the responsibility of decision making to the experts, whose confidence will easily overpower your fatigue. As the saying goes: Fatigue makes cowards of us all.
You must always remember that your name is the brand. In a few grueling months, it’ll all be over, and, win or lose, your community will remember how you ran your campaign. I’ve seen countless candidates enter their races as well-respected leaders in their communities, only to find their reputations in abject disgrace by Election Day. Your opponent will no doubt be well respected in the community as well, and when it comes to local elections, voters won’t forget a vicious smear campaign.
As I mentioned above, I never advise that my clients go negative—apart from the risk to their reputations, the evidence that attack ads even work is pretty thin (it may be that negative campaigns depress the opposition’s voter turnout, but this book will cover far more efficient strategies to achieve the same ends).
Should you choose to run a negative campaign, never break this rule: Keep it simple and topical. If your attack is confusing, or if you expose a skeleton that had been in your opponent’s closet for decades, the voters will assume you’re fishing for something—anything—to keep the spotlight off you. They will assume you are an empty, Machiavellian candidate, and if you should lose (and you very likely will), that’s the way your community will remember you.
Similarly, don’t sign off on a flattering character portrait if a salient counter example might come back to haunt you. Don’t present yourself as the law-and-order candidate if you have a criminal record. Don’t present yourself as the family candidate if you were ever late making child-support payments. The electorate can be remarkably forgiving of your mistakes, but in my experience, they do not forgive hypocrisy.
In general, the safest messaging strategy is also the most effective one: Stick to the issues, not character. But whatever you decide, make up your mind now, before the rubber hits the road. Don’t allow yourself to be swayed in the thick of the campaign.

The Framework

This book provides a field-tested framework for phone banks, campaign literature, fundraising, lawn signs, canvassing, social media, broadcast media, get out the vote (GOTV), branding, and volunteer management. Once you’ve completed your precinct analysis and settled on a basket of strategies, you should visually organize your campaign plan with a Gantt chart (Microsoft Project is a helpful tool), flowchart, or calendar. Written campaign plans are probably the most common organizational tool, but I recommend something that displays your timeline at a glance. Although your organizational documents will be one of your earliest tasks, the chapter on planning is placed at the end of this manual so campaign teams know what to include based on the various chapters leading up to it.
Chapter 2, “Precinct Analysis,” will show you how to efficiently ID voters on a map based on historical voting patterns. It will give you a realistic picture of your chances on Election Day and assist you in focusing resources for the greatest possible return. A precinct analysis will help you geographically parse your supporters from your detractors. Have it ready well before the campaign kickoff.
Chapter 3, “The Campaign Team and Volunteer Organization,” covers the small, select group who will develop and execute campaign strategies: the campaign committee and the greater force behind activity implementation, volunteers.
Chapter 4, “Campaign Messaging,” details development of a theme and message. Within this chapter, you will also find information on polling, slogans, logo design (also included in the chapter on lawn signs), a voters’ pamphlet, and tips on ...