Libertarian State Leadership Alliance
Winning Local Elections Made Simple
By Ghazey H. Aleck II
Liberty Leadership Council
I am pleased to present to you with the best of what I have learned in over 25 years of campaigning and winning local partisan races. I won the first county wide race for myself in 1992 getting myself elected to the office of Prosecuting Attorney. However, I started helping win county races in 1976 running my first campaign in 1980. Since 1980, I have been a significant part or managed 16 partisan races winning all but 2. I have provided advice locally in over 35 races.
When I decided to write this booklet and entitle it Winning Local Elections Made Simple, I was apprehensive at first using such a title because winning local elections are anything but simple. Winning is hard work. However, I finally decided to keep the title because the point of this booklet is to make the science behind winning elections known to Libertarians. Exposing Libertarians to what is behind winning elections will, in fact, make winning local elections more simple. Lastly, I thought that the title will make the idea of winning local elections more user friendly and thereby not lose anyone from the outset.
As you consider the possibility of trying to win a local election, ask yourself "what am I prepared to do to win?" The answer must be, "I am prepared to do what it takes to win!" You then have the competitive spirit necessary. If you like to compete, politics is one of the most exciting competitive arenas you will ever find. I like to say that politics is war because oftentimes in war, a good general can be creative in the battle, a battle where he can write the rules. Consider playing a baseball game where you can impose your own creative or stubborn will during the game to write your own rules and win--that's politics!
I have endeavored to make all the principles that go into winning a local election as simple as possible. I know that you will find this booklet informative and helpful but you may be left with some questions. If so write to me at email@example.com or visit my PAC site for the Liberty Leadership Council at www.makingfreedomring.com and I will be more than happy to help.
Finally, the fact that you are taking the time to read this booklet means that you are willing to step forward to be a Libertarian candidate or run a Libertarian campaign. For this fellow patriot, I thank you.
Liberty Leadership Council
A Michigan Political Action Committee
The Liberty Leadership Council (LLC) is a Michigan Political Action Committee (PAC). A political action committee is the mutual fund of politics. Consider contributing today to help Libertarian candidates later.
We are tough, hard hitting and exciting Libertarian marketing professionals. The Liberty Leadership Council boasts over 85 years of combined political marketing experience and by guaranteeing you that no one associated with the LLC will receive any salary or compensation, you can rest assured that your money will be put to good use developing real muscle for the Libertarian Party and its candidates.
Also, when you contribute to the LLC, your money stays right here in Michigan to help candidates, and for developing literature, radio ads, television ads and other promotional materials for use within the boundaries of the State of Michigan. Help make freedom ring in Michigan by joining the LLC today!
Winning Local Elections Made Simple was made possible by sponsorship of the Liberty Leadership Council.
The Top Reasons Why Voters
Choose A Candidate
Personal Familiarity: Personal friendship or knowing the candidate can overcome many obstacles that usually prevent people from voting for you. If you are easily likeable or respected, then the more people you can make personally familiar with you the better. However, if you have a hard time making friends with people, this can cut the other way. Know yourself and use your strengths to your advantage while hiding your weaknesses. Personal familiarity is increased by door to door knocking, meetings, and any other face to face type contact.
Name Recognition: Name recognition is very valuable when voters have little information about the candidate. It is common that candidates receive a good number of votes just because they have been "heard of". Name recognition is increased by massive yard signs, prominent display of name on literature, ads or mail. Also, prominent display of name in media news releases.
Party Affiliation: Party affiliation is the anchor that many people use when choosing their candidate. About 60% of the voters identify with one of the two major parties, leaving about 40% of the voters that vote independently. Voters, however, do understand that not all democrats or republicans are the same. They also believe, though, that generally a candidate from their party is more likely to reflect their views than one from the opposing party. This is the biggest challenge to overcome for a Libertarian candidate. A Libertarian candidate should consider working for a year before the campaign trying to create a higher base of support for the Libertarian Party in the district he will be campaigning. This creating and shoring up the "base of support" ahead of time is essential. In the campaign itself, de-emphasize your Libertarian party affiliation to republicans and democrats as you will need to take at least 10% of the vote from each party to win.
Appearance: Candidates that look friendly, honest and trustworthy are likely to gain support simply due to their appearance. Think carefully about those first campaign photos. Dress appropriately. Maintain a pleasant demeanor and remember people are always watching. Get a professional photo and spend the time and money to get them exactly right. A friendly smile in all photographs is essential so practice it if you must.
Issues and Positions: Having the same issue position as a voter on a view that is deeply held by that voter can move that voter away from their party and toward you as a candidate. Find those issues or frame the Libertarian issues in a way that helps the voting public understand them as one or more of their deeply held beliefs. This is the key to winning a tough campaign and all Libertarian campaigns are tough.
Endorsements: While endorsements receive tremendous emphasis with campaigns and the media, voters usually do not rely on endorsements, unless they don't have enough information to make up their minds. Endorsements can bring early credibility to a campaign as well as assist in fundraising, but be careful about putting too much weight behind them on election day.
Your Campaign Plan Outlined
- I. District Background
- A. Past Elections
- B. Socio-Economic
- C. The Incumbent
- II. Candidate Background
- A. Why are you running
- B. What do you need
- C. Assess your strengths and weaknesses
- III. Race Analysis
- A. All Candidates Strengths
- B. All Candidates Weaknesses
- C. Analysis
- IV. Voter Persuasion
- A. Name Recognition
- B. Earned Media
- C. Literature
- D. Paid Media
- E. Direct voter contact
- F. Stealing Republican votes
- G. Stealing Democrat votes
- H. Independents
- I. Coalitions
- V. Campaign Organization
- A. Off-year
- 1. Planning Committee
- 2. Finance Committee
- B. Election Year
- 1. Campaign Manager
- 2. Campaign workers
- a. Precincts
- b. Issues
- c. Fundraising
- VI. Opposition Research
- VII. Polling
- VIII. Mailings
- IX. Recruiting volunteers
- X. Campaign Finance
- A. Individual Fundraising
- 1. Direct mail or direct contact
- a. Family and Friends
- b. Libertarian Regulars--Statewide
- c. Libertarian Party members
- d. Republicans, Democrats and Independents
- e. Fraternity Affiliation
- f. PAC Fundraising
- g. Libertarian Affiliated Organizations
- 2. Events
- a. Large Donors
- b. Small Donors
- c. Others
- XI. Get Out The Vote (GOTV)
- A. Absentee Ballots
- B. Telephone banks
- C. Election Day
Make A Written Campaign Plan
One of the most difficult challenges for every candidate is writing the campaign plan and trying to envision the big picture for what must happen in a campaign. This is especially difficult for first time candidates.
A written campaign plan is absolutely critical because it helps you formulate a strategy, decide what you will need, create a timeline and most importantly, create a budget so that you do not spend your money too early or waste it on the wrong things.
One other benefit is that you are more likely to gain a contribution from a large contributor if you are able to sit down with them and give them a campaign plan that is well thought out. Even as an underdog, you can get large donations from individuals and PACs by showing them that you are a legitimate candidate.
In developing a campaign plan, answer the following questions:
1. What are the voter registration numbers for your district?
2. How many democrats, republicans, independents and libertarians vote in the presidential election?
3. What is the past voting history of your district?
4. What are the age demographics in your district?
(Knowing how many people are registered to vote in certain age groups will help you with strategy and issues. Typically 18-24 care about environment and tuition, 25-44 care about education, family issues, crime and tax increases, 45-55 care about property taxes, retirement issues and welfare abuse and 60+ care about property taxes and traditional values. As a Libertarian you may want to target democrats and republicans under 44 years of age in an effort to shake out that 10% from each of those parties that you will need to win.)
5. What are the social demographics of the respective precincts in your district?
6. What is the background of your opponent?
7. If incumbent, what has he done, what committees ect. has he served on?
8. If incumbent, what are the key votes cast?
9. What are the stands of your opponent on key issues?
10. If incumbent, how high is the absentee rate for voting?
11. Does your opponent have a home in the District?
12. What are your political or personal strengths in light of the district and the upcoming election?
13. What are your political and personal weaknesses in light of the district and the upcoming election?
14. What is your background (include political campaigns, education, jobs, awards, other recognition, memberships, ect.)
15. What image or emotion do you want to evoke?
16. What do you want to accomplish each week in the months leading to the election?
17. How are you going to build your campaign to a frenzied peak for the day of the election?
18. How much flexibility are you going to be able to have if you need to change directions late in the campaign?
19. Do you have three good reasons for voters to vote for you?
20. Can you develop two good reasons for the voters to vote against your opponent(s)?
21. How will you go negative against your opponents in the final month before the election?
22. How much money will you need to win?
23. What types of campaign materials will you need?
24. How many volunteers will you need?
25. Why are you running for this office?
The Campaign Budget
You need to write out a proposed campaign budget before you ever buy a single item. In order to complete a proper budget you will need to do all of the research previously covered. You should know your district very well including the geography and roadways. If you know of someone who has campaigned to win in that district, talk to them about costs. If you do not have anyone that ran in that district before, talk to someone that has run in a district of a similar size. Consider the following in completing your budget:
1. How much do you intend to spend on yard signs?
I suggest billboards of either 2x4, 4x4 or 4x8 to go along with the small yard signs. Take into account the size of your name when deciding on the size of your signs. For rural counties you should have no less than 50 large signs per county or 25 per county commissioner district.
Also for rural counties, you should have no less than 500 small yard signs for a countywide race or 125 per county commissioner district. The larger the population, the more you will need. Shop for the lowest costs. Use the yard signs with wires. Watch out on prices, some quotes are per one sided sign--or in other words you double the cost quote for a two-sided sign. Keep the text limited to logo, name and office. Leave off your party affiliation. As for timing, look at the section entitle, "Timeline". However, you should start with the major parties during their primaries building up to the primary election at about 1/3 to 1/2 speed that you expect to use in the general election, then pull down all of your signs and wait until mid-September or about 45 days out and build up your sign presence again. Check your local sign ordinance before actually implementing this advice.
2. How much do you intend to spend on literature? You can get all kinds of different kinds of literature. There are hand cards, tri-folds, bi-folds, tabloid-sizes, etc. There are colored, black and white and there are slick magazine type flyers. You need to look crisp and professional. If you do, then black and white is fine. Cost less too. You need room for three good reasons for people to vote for you and your picture. If you have room, you should include other action photos too. Order at least enough for three complete deliveries to your whole district. You can mix the kinds--1st delivery hand cards, 2nd delivery tri-folds and 3rd delivery tabloid size. Just make sure they all look basically the same with consistent use of logo, name and office as well as the same three good reasons to vote for you on all three types of lit. Repetition of the message is essential. All of your advertising, be it signs literature, newspapers ads, radio or TV should look and sound the same.
3. How much do you intend to spend on paid media like newspaper, radio, television or direct mail?
Typically, newspaper, radio and television comes in the last month unless you are really good at raising money. For radio and television, frequency of the ad is most important. Repetition is key. Keep in mind for everything that you are doing it takes at least six contacts with the voter to penetrate with a message. This is why you should use three issues and keep pounding away at them. Direct mail is good any time but especially a few days before the election, again depending on what you can afford.
4. How much do you intend to spend on other campaign items like bumper stickers, parade accessories, event supplies, etc?
Bumper stickers are not very popular and often times $200 to $300 is wasted on buying these and that money could be used elsewhere. I suggest you do a budget and add 15% to cover contingencies. That way if you really could use bumper stickers, you could buy them or perhaps you will need parade accessories or something last minute to offset your opponents activities.`
5. How much will your fundraising plan cost?
This will depend heavily on where your funds come from. PAC money has virtually no cost. For direct mail or events, there are some simple rules to estimate you costs and income. First, figure you costs per mailing to be about 50 cents per package. This should include postage, printing, addressing etc. For a normal fundraising mailing to a large group of contributors, you should receive a 5%-10% return with an average return of $17-$30. This depends on how much you ask for and who you mail to, but it will probably land within these numbers. Irregular contributors usually drop to about half. A mailing to 1500 people should cost about $750 and yield about $4500 which is $3750 profit for the campaign. There is a list of other fundraising things under "Fundraising Plan".
6. How much will you spend for the final push and GOTV?
You will need to build your campaign to a fevered pitch in the last week. Usually this means more radio or TV, poll workers, phone banks, last minute mailings, absentee voter mailings, etc. depending on what you can afford. Some candidates put "Vote Today" flourescent decals or signs on their big yard signs. You need to turn out people who will vote for you or who may forget to vote but would vote for you if they remembered.
Whether you intend to raise money from events, direct mail, or personal solicitation, a list of potential contributors is necessary. In all fundraising, you need to have a group of contributors that will be motivated by your message. Naturally, as a Libertarian candidate, your most sympathetic audience will be people who have given to Libertarian candidates in the past.
Therefore, you should collect as many lists of active Libertarians as possible. Michigan has about 1600 Libertarians listed with the State Party but all of the local parties have people who refuse to join the State Party and many past Libertarian candidates have found their own Libertarian contributors. You can get these lists from the following:
1. The State Libertarian Party.
2. The County Libertarian Parties.
3. Contributors to other Libertarian Candidates.
4. PAC or Organization Lists like certain gun groups open to the Libertarian message.
5. Don't forget to make your own family and friends list.
The key is to be creative. Almost any list can be used to raise money or to gain votes so push your supporters to come up with lists and never throw a list away.
There are many ways to raise money, consider the following:
1. The Fundraising letter.
Keep the paragraphs short. Tell the reader what project you will use the money for. Always ask for a specific amount. Include a date by which you need the money. Include a reply piece. The reply piece is the card they fill out and return. Include a self-addressed reply envelope. Consider using e-mail fundraising letters as well.
2. PAC Fundraising.
Send PACs your fundraiser letters. This should be enough.
3. Fundraising Dinners or Picnics.
This takes some planning and investment of funds so make sure you sell tickets! Otherwise, you are just burning up campaign resources. However, if you pull it off, it usually brings in a good deal of extra money from people who have not given yet. A good fundraising dinner should get you $2000 or more.
4. Garage Sale/auction/bazaar/bake sale. If you can get your supporters to donate these items and if you work together with the local party or other candidates, you could raise $500 or more.
5. Raffle. At your events or party events have an item to raffle. It's an easy way to raise up to $300.
6. Hold A House Party. A house party is an informal campaign fundraising event, held at the home of one of your supporters. It can be a Sunday brunch, an afternoon coffee or an evening reception. A house party is usually only a couple of hours long.
There are plenty of other ideas, but the key is to be creative and be sure to frequently give people the opportunity to give. Many want to give but need a nudge. It works, and, it will go a long way toward making you the next elected official.
Always make sure contributors get thank you letters for their contribution. Plan to raise enough money to implement your campaign plan.
Now that you have planned and plotted you course, you will need to think about getting underway. These are the steps you should consider.
1. Line up the necessary paperwork and votes for the nomination at the State Libertarian Convention from your Local Party and from the State Party.
2. Find out about the requirements for filing your statement of organization and financial disclosure reports for Campaign Finance from the Secretary of State, Bureau of Elections--ask for the booklet and forms.
3. Make sure you know the dates for the general election and yes, the primary election for the two major parties.
4. Find out if there are any sign ordinances.
5. Find out when all the parades and fairs in or near your district will occur.
6. Find out when all of the county, city and township meetings are held in your district. Also become aware of who all of the elected officials are. You can get a booklet with this information from your county and city clerks.
7. Find out who is in charge of all of the service organizations in your district.
8. Start implementing both your fundraising plan and your campaign plan within a Timeline.
A well thought out timeline with flexibility is important. The guideline set out below should be tailored to fit your circumstances. You should write out your own timeline for your campaign.
The timeline below is only a brief example based upon the best of circumstances. Many more details can be added and some of the items need not be done, but with campaigns the more you do, the better off you will be.
If you are running a good campaign, be prepared for negative attacks on you near the end of the campaign and be ready to move quickly--never defend, only attack. You opponent is downgrading because he is desperate! A quick denial (or no denial just blame it on something like the "right wing conspiracy") along with a tough attack on your opponent is the only way to respond, otherwise you will get bogged down in the details. Also, unless your opponent can repeat the same attack for at least 2 weeks in a row, ignore it. A changing attack each week is no attack. Repetition is the key to winning an election and for properly going negative.
1. Prepare at least one full year before you start your campaign.
2. Officially announce your candidacy to the public and the Libertarian Party (State and Local) around St. Patrick's Day of Election Year and get your first fundraiser going (probably direct contact and letters). Also make sure all of the filings for campaign finance are done at this time. Schedule when each report is due and make sure they are filed on time.
3. Go to meetings and parades as they come up. Start going door to door yourself as soon as possible with lit and try to cover the whole district.
4. Get your first lit drop or full direct mailing done in May or June.
5. Make sure your paperwork and nomination papers are done at the Convention (presently around May of each year).
6. Start putting up yard signs in mid-June. Use only 1/2 of what you would use for the general election. Divide that half into 3 parts and put 1 part up for each 3 weeks to look like a building up of support. Take them all back down after the major parties primary. You won't have a primary but you need to use the time to build name recognition. Check local ordinances for restrictions before putting up signs.
7. Hold a fundraising barbeque in June and put out a news release. Send out letters requesting attendance and sell tickets directly. Afterwards follow up with a letter to those who could not attend asking for a donation.
8. Do a second lit drop or direct mail in July.
9. Do a third lit drop or direct mail in September and a fundraising dinner in September. Put out another news release about the fundraiser. Send out letters requesting attendance and sell tickets directly. Afterwards follow up with a letter to those who could not attend asking for a donation.
10. Start putting up yard signs in mid-September. Divide the signs into 3 parts and put 1 part up for each 3 weeks to look like a building of support going directly into election day (you may want to save back some for near polling places or for poll workers to use and to just plaster anywhere you can including right of ways the night before the election--use everything up because they are no good to you if you lose the election, so hold nothing back). Check local ordinances before putting up signs.
- October is a big month! Finish signs. 3 lit drops or direct mail including a direct mail to hit just a few days before the election. Get absentee ballot lists and send them a piece of lit. Run newspaper and radio ads all month long increasing the intensity in the last two weeks. Go negative against your opponent with a direct mail piece, newspaper ads and radio all saying the same thing for at least 2 weeks, if not 4 (you can build negative with small newspaper ads for the first 2 weeks, then direct mail, newspaper and radio the last two weeks). Set up phone banks for the night before and day of election. Set up poll workers to work the polls. Set up election night party for your workers and supporters.
12.You win and assume office!
News releases are the way that you earn free publicity. You should know the addresses, phone numbers and news contacts for your local newspaper(s), radio station(s) and television station(s). You should also know the deadlines for each type of media. You should use your news releases to enhance the credibility of your campaign. Not all releases will be published but do not despair, keep putting them out when the occasion arises. News releases are good for announcing things like when an influential person becomes your chair or manager, fundraisers, special events or activities or even possibly for pointing out a blatant lie or some unforgivable blunder by your opponent. One of the most important news releases is your first one, the announcement of your candidacy. Below is my actual news release announcing my candidacy when I ran for prosecutor in its proper form.
(Beginning at the top of a page)
News Release For Immediate Release
Aleck To Run For Prosecutor
Contact: Robert Render or Ghazey Aleck
Ghazey Aleck, attorney at law, is announcing his candidacy for Prosecutor of Clare County.
Aleck grew up in Clare County, attended Clare Public Schools and graduated from Clare High School in 1979. In 1982, he received a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Central Michigan University and went on to earn his Law Degree from Thomas M. Cooley Law School. Aleck has his own law firm on South Clare Avenue between Clare and Harrison.
He is currently Chair of the Clare County Democratic Party and is a member of the Michigan State Bar, the American Trial Lawyers Association and the American Bar Association.
Aleck has an extensive background in law enforcement. Aleck's father, Gus Aleck, was elected Sheriff of Clare County and served until his retirement in 1985. Aleck served as a deputy sheriff, court officer and marine patrol boat officer.
"I have decided to run for Prosecutor based on my commitment to law enforcement and my desire to protect the quality of life that I grew up with here in Clare County and because we all want the same things for our families. Our children should not grow up with the fear of drugs and drug dealers in our schools. We should all feel safe in our homes and businesses. It's time to take a tough stand against the rising crime rate in our county and against drugs in our schools. I will work tirelessly for the people of Clare County to protect our way of life."
Aleck has provided free legal services to charitable organizations and needy people. He has been a very active community volunteer and has taught Marine Safety to youth.
Aleck and his wife Laurie reside in Grant Township with their three year old daughter Brianna and are expecting their second child in June.
A good news release uses short paragraphs, is well written, informative and in a form ready to print. You should make it as easy on the reporter as possible. Try to keep it to one page double spaced. If a news release is done right, it looks news worthy. Stay away from the cutesy pie play on words like the State and National Libertarian Parties put out. You want to be taken seriously in all of your news releases throughout the campaign. Leave the silly news releases to silly people or to truly silly situations. (Oh, by the way the news release above was written in 1992-I have come a long Libertarian way since then).
Winning With Local Issues
Oftentimes local candidates complain that they cannot find effective issues to campaign with in local races. The reality is that local campaigns usually have the best issues. The key is that you have to be diligent in searching them out.
You should consider collecting newspaper clippings involving the office you are going to run for, mailings sent out by the office holder, minutes of meetings, budgets etc. for at least a year before you start running for that office. You will be surprised at what jumps out at you while just casually looking over the material.
In fact, you can even take a typical newspaper article and turn it into a radio ad or research it further for literature or newspaper ads. Once again, try to find 3 good issues to run on. Try to make those issues ring home as being deeply held by the voters.
As a Libertarian you are about individual rights. Talk about the right a person has to be free of excess taxation and give an example of local taxation that fits the bill. A person has a right to ownership of property without interference from the government and then give them an example. A person has a right to be free but talk about rights! Each person loves his rights, the problem is that the majority of individuals still think that they are free; but everyone knows that they are losing their rights! Fight for each person's rights in each issue you raise.
Talk about rights with energy. Talk with a rhythm and in threes in front of audiences as follows:
"Thank you for the opportunity to be able to speak to you tonight about my campaign for county commissioner. I first decided to run for county commissioner because I know we can do better, because each person in this county is being abused by our county government, because property taxes, zoning and government fees have spun out of control."
This paragraph uses 3 because(s) and outlines the 3 issues (property taxes, zoning and government fees).
You can say that property taxes can and should be reduced because the county government has a surplus so high that the interest on the surplus is enough to run the government on alone, and:
"by reducing property taxes we are doing what is right in order to have and preserve honest government, by reducing property taxes we are doing what is right for each honest taxpayer and by reducing property taxes we are doing what is right for the county".
Each person has a right to not have the government unnecessarily burden him or her with taxes especially when government can be run without them.
Repetitive talking in threes for each issue drives the point home so think about what you want to say and drive it home. Show them that you respect their individualism and each person's right as an individual and win with those local issues. This is much different than the socialist attitudes of the two major parties and it is much more powerful, so drive your message home.
Door Knocking, Yard Signs And Parades
Getting Votes Through Door Knocking
Door knocking is frequently the most effective way to gain votes inexpensively. There is nothing more personal than making individual contact. In most cases, the voter really appreciates the contact. Make sure your door knocking is done well, though, or it can have little positive impact and in some cases, it can even lose you votes.
Put a door knocking strategy together. Here are some points to remember:
1. Appearance. For most voters, your stop at the door will be their first impression and yes, first impressions are lasting impressions. Dress like the job you are running for. When you vote for someone running for the office that you have chosen to run for, what do you expect them to dress like. Some argue to dress in a manner that is comfortable for the district but never dress too far down, you'll lose respect instantly.
2. Door knock neighborhoods with older voters in the day and younger after work. When you go out knocking on doors, you want to find voters home. The best time to go is between 3PM and darkness. But, this doesn't mean that you should drop daytime door knocking altogether. You may want to visit neighborhoods with a high number of retirees during the daytime hours.
3. Leave your personalized literature. If you find someone home, just give them a piece of literature. If you have extra money, you could even give them something they would use regularly like a notepad with your logo, name and office printed on them. If you do not find anyone home, write a note on the literature and/or notepad that says, "Sorry I missed you, I would appreciate your support" and sign and date it.
4. Plan your door knocking. One person can reach about 20 households per hour. You can usually only average at best 3 hours per day, six days per week or 360 per week. Even small districts and counties could prove to be impossible to completely cover! So, you need to plan your door knocking to be most effective by covering those precincts with the highest number of swing voters. Secondly, family, friends and volunteers need to help cover as many of the remaining households as possible.
Building momentum with yard signs
You have to have noticed that the same political party signs spring up in the same yards year after year, haven't you? Well they have and these people are part of a list. Your local libertarian party should sit down with the candidates near the end of each election and make a list of people who they can count on in the future to put up signs. All future candidates should have access to this list. This list should be used to make it seem like the yard signs seemed to spring up overnight.
You can create the same effect with a large canvassing effort as well. Just canvass main roads and high traffic areas and try to put up signs in bunches for effect. You need to use signs to build momentum in your campaign.
Do not get dismayed over refusal of your sign, it is purely a numbers game. 50% of the people don't even vote and they could care less what party you are from so drop any libertarian inferiority complex. In fact, those 50% probably quit voting because there hasn't been a third, fourth or fifth choice in politics. Plus, how many times have you seen both candidates for the same office in the same yard--those people say yes to everyone! Just get out there and start asking. Sample scripts for asking to put a sign:
- Candidate script. Hi (Mr./Ms _______ if you know it), I'm Ghazey Aleck and I am running for prosecutor. I am going door to door asking for support. I would appreciate your support. (Give literature) (Talk for a brief bit) Would it be OK for me to put a yard sign in your yard? Any place OK? (If they seem really supportive or have a place that is out of their way, go ahead and ask if you can put a large 4x8 sign at a precise location on their property, if not then just put up the small one)
2. Volunteer script. Hello (Mr./Ms_________if they know it), my name is _______________(first name) and I am from the Ghazey Aleck campaign. The reason that (I am calling) or (I am here) is that this is Ghazey's first campaign for prosecutor and we are trying to find yard sign locations. (Give literature if you are there and not calling on the phone) Would it be OK for us to put one up in your yard? (If they seem really really supportive or have a place that is out of their way, go ahead and ask if you can put a large 4x8 sign at a precise location on their property, if not then just put up a small one)
Keep in mind that you will lose a lot of signs. People throw them away, kids steal them and yes, your opponent(s) and their supporters will swipe them as well. You will need to consider reserve money for replacing them later. Also, you can avoid some theft by using 4x8 signs.
Winning The Parade
Like anything else, doing parades well can help separate you from your opponent and it can help create a legitimacy for your candidacy. Your absence from a parade can be an insult to your supporters too. So, if you are going to try to win, you better be prepared to be the best at each parade in or near your district. Follow these guidelines:
- Have more volunteers than the other campaign. Having the most volunteers creates a sense of strength and momentum. Plus, you need volunteers to hand out candies and campaign materials or to carry your signs or banner. It's not enough to have people walking with you, people have to know they are supporting you. A good idea is to buy enough extra large t-shirts with your logo, name and office (all the same color) on it before the first parade and reuse them for each parade or event later. Collect them back after each parade.
2. Walk, don't ride. When you are in a parade, walk with your float or decorated car--don't ride. It gives you a chance to show that you are vigorous, not afraid of work and down to earth. Politicians who ride look like they expect to be treated like a parade queen. Smile, roll up your sleeves, wear good walking shoes, wave and occasionally go to the side of the road shaking the hand of someone who knows you or positively acknowledges you. Don't worry about making a mistake by shaking too many hand or people you don't know because you have probably just earned their vote by shaking their hand and being nice.
3. Don't forget the kids further away from the street. Most of us have had small children who were afraid to go near the street to get candy. Nothing warms a parent's heart more than to have someone go out of their way to see that their small child is included as well. Remind your volunteers to build this goodwill as well.
- Turn your opponent's candy against him. What? Well, if you have the funds, this simple trick is great. Just before the parade starts, have your volunteers walk the parade route handing all the kids candy bags with your name on them. Many children show up without candy bags and the parents appreciate something to haul the candy in. Even more, when your opponent comes walking down the street, the kids will be holding your bag to put his candy in. Nothing is worse than having your candy put in your opponent's candy bag!
I am a big believer in lit drops not only for the candidate but for the Libertarian Party as well. A lit drop is the process of delivering your literature door to door without actually door knocking. You stick it in their door, leave it on their porch or put it in a paper box (but never in the mail box--Federal Legal Problems may arise!)
The reasons that lit drops are effective is that by having volunteers deliver your literature, it is cost effective, and by hand delivering the piece of literature yourself, it is not part of the junk mail people immediately disregard and they are more likely to focus on it and read it. Plus, you are going to have to hit the voter with your message six times for it to penetrate and considering that some of your literature is read and some is not, a lot of lit needs to be dropped over and over again. Unless you have a lot of money for direct mail, lit drops are the only way you are going to make it happen. Saturation is essential.
A year before your campaign, you should consider a couple of lit drops in your district with general libertarian literature to build a base of support for the party. You will also learn your district and what it takes to cover it appropriately with signs and literature. Contrary to popular belief, there is a significant number of people out there that have no idea what a Libertarian is and therefore, Libertarians won't get their support. The Libertarian Party suffers more from an invisibility problem which causes a lack of support problem, than from the dreaded "wasted vote syndrome". Lit drops create a base of support and both the "lack of support syndrome" and the "wasted vote syndrome" will disappear.
Stealing Republican and Democratic Votes
A candidate who will not engage in negative attacks on his opponent is usually a loser. Negative attacks work, plain and simple. The reason that negative attacks work is that about 10% remain undecided going into the last month and even the final week of the election. Considering that any legitimate race is only a few percentage points apart, negative attacks can usually make the difference.
I strongly believe that you need to go negative in the last month. By going negative, I do not mean that you should be mean and ugly disregarding any shred of human decency. Your negative attack can be hard hitting but it should be related to the issues. One of the issues is your opponent's credibility, though, so anything that can shake the voters belief in the candidate is fair game--just make your attacks look legitimate. Make sure you make your negative campaigning look very professional, too.
If you just don't have the stomach for negative campaigning, it can be done by a surrogate. Someone could file a local PAC and do all the attacking but the same rules apply because people will still think that you are behind it or that one of your close friends are.
For Libertarians, the goal of negative attacks should be to steal Republican and Democratic votes. The easiest to steal is from the Republican or Democratic paper candidate. Yes, the two major parties often put up paper candidates. These paper candidates won't do a single thing to try to win. Attack such a candidate in the last 2 weeks by letting people know that the candidate is a mere token and that their vote will be a waste. (Turn the dreaded "wasted vote syndrome" on them!)
You can also attack the paper candidate as being totally undeserving of any support because he hasn't asked for any support and that he is insulting his party by failing to campaign. Or, figure out your own attack on this type of a candidate and make the "wasted vote syndrome" work for you.
Another way to steal Republican and Democratic votes is to show one of the candidates is not really a Republican or not really a Democrat ; or show that they are very disloyal to their party. I used this in my successful campaign for prosecutor as my opponent had run as a Democrat three times, as a Republican once and as a non-partisan two times in his career. We referred to him as a "failed career politician" (because he lost more than he won) and every time he loses, we said "he just spins the wheel of politics one more time!" We concluded by saying "he hasn't earned your support!" Our radio ads began with the sound of a wheel of fortune clicking away in the background and by the announcer beginning by saying, "around and around he goes...where he stops...nobody knows!"
Do your research and campaign against your opponent with the same skills you used to campaign for yourself. You need three good reasons for someone to vote for you and two good reasons for the voter to vote against your opponent. Nail your opponent in the last month by repeating the same negative message over and over. Find a message that resonates with the voter as not just any old insult will do. Make sure that the negative campaigning will work by using attacks that makes the voter want to defeat your opponent or to embarrass him for putting his name on the ballot when he really didn't want to serve. If you can't do it this powerfully, then at least show how your issues are superior to your opponent and avoid stupid or silly attacks.
If you decide to do a website, it should be because you want to raise money online. Otherwise, for local campaigns at the county level, it may not make any sense, especially in rural districts.
If you do want to make a website, get a good website designer to get this done and try to keep the expense down while still looking professional. Your site should look like your literature and signs.
You need to have a site that allows for interactivity. The most basic way is to allow a potential donor to either express their willingness to give or be able to give with a credit card. Accepting a credit card online has gotten simpler and cheaper with "Web Accept" by Paypal.com.
You can have a way for volunteers to get involved and you may want to have a brochure online that a person can print. Remember, you are always marketing yourself so no matter what you do, make sure that a website is necessary, that you calculated it into your budget from the beginning and that it will work for you when it is set up.
Libertarians have not done much in the way of polling mostly because of a lack of resources. Polling also seems to be more closely associated with the monster referred to as "democracy".
Polling is still important for Libertarians because it can expose your weaknesses in time for you to make the adjustment to win. Unfortunately, local Libertarian candidates do not have the same tools as the local candidates of the two major parties. When I ran for prosecutor, the House Caucus, put me into a poll they were running on the State Representative's race. I discovered I was 2 percentage points down the week after the primary--plenty of time to win the general election, which I did. They did the same thing for me 2 weeks before the general election and I was leading then and had to close the show to guarantee my win.
Back when my father ran for sheriff, we did our own polls which were surprisingly accurate. When we did our own polling, we figured we would just get an idea as to where we were at but despite the complete lack of science to it, they proved quite accurate.
Professional pollsters charge anywhere from $2,000 to $30,000 or more. If you can afford it, effective polling can be extremely valuable research to make decisions as to the direction(s) of your campaign. If you want to hire a professional pollster consider doing the following: 1) limit the questions to those that you really need, 2) set your budget before you talk to the pollster, 3) shop around, 4) know the difference between a baseline poll or a tracking poll (baseline is in-depth research used for strategy while tracking is too see if the media is moving the numbers, 5) try to poll from actual voters.
Do It Yourself Poll
This type of a poll should be used as a survey only because you cannot afford a professional. While it may prove to be quite accurate, you won't know because you are not a professional so do not rely on the results as being accurate. Use this to gain information to combined with other sources to make the best decision you can about in your campaign efforts.
Hello, I'm_________, of Vitality Research. We're talking with people in ___________County today and would like to ask you a few questions on a confidential basis. (No pause) Are you a registered voter? (This is a warm up question, do not record answer).
1. Do you feel things in county government are generally going in the right direction or do you think they have gotten off on the wrong track?
_____ Right Direction
_____Refused to answer
2. Now, I'd like to get your feelings toward some people in politics. I'm going to read you some names and I'd like you to tell me first whether you have heard of that person. Then, if so, please tell me whether you have a favorable or unfavorable impression of that person.
_____Heard of favorable
_____Heard of unfavorable
_____Heard of no opinion
_____Heard of favorable
_____Heard of unfavorable
_____Heard of no opinion
_____Heard of favorable
_____Heard of unfavorable
_____Heard of no opinion
3. If the election were held today for Governor/President would you vote for 1)_____________2)______________3)____________ or 4)_______________?
The same process could be set forth for local issues by rating certain issues as 1)Very Important, 2) Important, 3) Somewhat important or 4) Not Important, or some other easy to use scale. Issues like how important is it to you to have your property taxes reduced. Or, how important is it to you to have the size of county government reduced, etc.
You should hold your questions to 10-12 and thank the person for participating at the end. Analyzing the information will be both easy and hard but any conclusions you draw should line up with the information you already had before the survey or its accuracy is in greater question.
Get Out The Vote
The final push in the final week or so is referred to as GOTV. This is mailings to absentee ballots (call your local officials to see when they make absentee ballots available and call every few days to get lists of people who requested an absentee ballot), setting up phone banks to contact people you think will go out to vote for you or to influence undecided voters, and lining up poll workers to hold up signs and put out literature (they must stay at least 100 feet away from the polling place). You may also want to provide rides the polls (making sure your literature is in the vehicle) or put "Vote Today" banners on your 4x8 yard signs (big enough to be seen but not covering your name).
These last minute efforts are especially important in a close, hard fought race.
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