Posts tagged Recruiting Candidates
Back in December of 2010, I reflected on the previous RootsCamp. Among the biggest negatives was the large crowd & less than stellar session leaders. The positives? The wonderful people and efforts of the New Organizing Institute, the activists and enthusiasm.
A little over a year later, we returned to the scene of the first RootsCamp (2006), the NEA Building. Attendance was limited to a more reasonable number and the quality of experience was back up to the expected (very high) levels.
There was one session that was horrifically bad and I would certainly like to see more content geared at challenger candidates/campaigns, but overall it was a great experience with some wonderful sessions/presenters/discussions.
One of the more amusing sessions Saturday was led by Adam Green & Stephanie Taylor of the PCCC, “Fire the Consultants: Venting & Solutions.” Similar to sessions they have conducted in the past, the intent is both therapeutic and to stop so many campaigns and organizations from repeating the mistakes happening far too often every cycle. Among the more amazing revelations, one participant discussed how a consultant was 4 months behind schedule on a 6 week deliverable. They asked what they could do about that, several in the room responded, “Fire them.” A better question would be, why weren’t they fired after passing 12 weeks on a 6 week deliverable?
Too often candidates and lefty non-profits find themselves in this sort of situation. Sometimes the result is a poorly communicated proposal, an inadequate or absent contract, or just the unwillingness to demand what was paid for by the organization. Refer back to the Rules of Organizing, #9 If it isn’t written down, it doesn’t exist. The consultant telling you they have written a plan, collected the data, and so forth isn’t good enough. They have to both write down the plan and share it with the customer. A good contract will specify that all data procured or created by the consultant in the process is also handed over (or shared digitally) to the customer.
Some RootsCamp attendees were put off by the title, and the animosity directed at consultants. As a consultant, I say get over it. The profession is rife with leeches, hacks and stuffed shirts. The few good and honorable among us need to understand that, accept it, and not get hostile about being mistaken for one of vast majority of vultures that dominate the profession. Unfortunately the burden is on us to prove we aren’t part of that majority that serves only to inhibit or exploit challenger candidates.
This is the third in a series discussing the newly drawn US House district boundaries in Florida. Despite Florida voters passing Amendments Five (State) and Six (Federal) in 2010 (Fair Districts), the new map is rife with partisan gerrymandering. Who cares about the wishes of the people when the RPOF has super majorities? Data for Obama/McCain, Sink/Scott, party registration and racial composition is pulled from the Orlando Sentinel.
DailyKos Elections put together a great grid of information here.
US House District 16: This Sarasota based district is 96% of Republican Representative Vern Buchanan‘s old 13th CD. The balance comes from the old District 11 (Castor). There are a number of affluent coastal communities in this 83.5% white district. Obama fared fairly well with 48% of the vote, Sink less so with 44%. McCain took 50.8% while Rick Scott took 51.7%. Moderates have struggled challenging Buchanan in the past, with Christine Jennings coming very close in 2006, less so in 2008 despite very strong fund raising. Registration tilts to the Republicans 43.6% to 32.8%.
Buchanan is seeking re-election here with his incredibly deep pockets. In addition to breaking campaign finance laws, Buchanan is an actual used car salesman (he owns a string of dealerships and had a variety of law suits filed against him on related issues). Democratic State Representative Keith Fitzgerald has announced he will challenge Buchanan. Fitzgerald is a well liked by progressive activists around the state and should make this a race to watch.
US House District 17: This massive chunk of land in the center of south Florida is mostly inland but with a touch of exposure on the Gulf coast. It is a melding of pieces of the old 16th (Rooney-R), 12th (Ross-R) and 14th (Mack-R). Registration is much closer than one might expect, Republicans holding 40.7% and Democrats a healthy 37.7%. Obama performed better than Sink with 43% while both McCain and Scott were just over 55%.
As part of a multi-candidate shuffle, Republican Incumbent Tom Rooney agreed to move in to this district (he lives in the 18th) opening the door for Allen West to take the 18th and Adam Hasner to seek West’s 22nd. At this point opposition appears to be limited to a variety of ‘some guys’.
US House District 18: This south Atlantic coast district is a pretty decent sized chunk of land that is slightly more friendly for Tea Bagger Incumbent Allen West, but not exactly friendly confines. The composition is 65% of Rooney’s old 16th (including his current home), 23% of West’s old 22nd, and a 9% slice of Democratic Rep. Alcee Hastings’ 23rd. Republicans lead registration 38.0% to 37.3%. Obama won the district 51%-48% and Rick Scott took it 49%-47%. How this seat plays out in 2012 could have a big impact on Florida’s Electoral Votes and the Presidential Race as a whole.
Incendiary incumbent Rep. Allen West (lives in Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Shultz 20th district) worked out the three player trade that sent a case of Bud Light Premium and an intern to be named later to Rooney in exchange for Rooney moving to the new 17th, West snagging the new 18th and giving Adam Hasner a place to land in the 22nd District in the aftermath of his stillborn US Senate campaign. West was dogged by two aggressive Democratic challengers in the 22nd, one of whom followed him to the 18th, upstart young Democrat Patrick Murphy. Murphy went from ‘some guy’ to serious player in a very short time, with aggressive progressive messaging and nose to the grindstone fund raising. He boasted $1.3 Million raised at years end.
2006 Candidate (against Mark Foley) David Lutrin had already been running for this race prior to the musical chairs, framing himself as a progressive. Lutrin has done nothing thus far to rate consideration beyond ‘some guy’ status with a year end filing of $185 raised. There is no K there. No comma. $185.
Given Allen West’s volatility, a strong and (major) error free campaign by a progressive Democrat could certainly pick this seat up in 2012.
Martin County Sheriff Robert Crowder ended the speculation and announced he will challenge West in the Republican Primary.
Tea Party Chairman and Independent Everett Wilkinson has also announced he is considering running against West on the basis that the district should be represented by a local. The intriguing element is that Wilkinson is an Independent which could have significant ramifications in the general election.
US House District 19: Southern Gulf coast including Fort Myers and Naples, composed almost entirely (98%) from Republican Representative Connie Mack IV’s old 14th District. This is among the most Republican districts in the state, with a 47% to 28% in registration and with Rick Scott posting a healthy 61%. Obama fared a bit better than Sink, losing 56.8% to 42.3% to McCain while Sink was ~35% against Scott’s 61%. Racially the seat is nearly 15% Hispanic and 6% Black, it is possible that over the decade those numbers will both grow, putting this seat closer to competition.
Incumbent Republican Connie Mack IV is seeking the Republican nomination to face Bill Nelson for US Senate leaving this seat open and somewhat of a free for all…as long as you are a Republican. Thus far none of the ‘some guys’ have really distinguished themselves, though at least three are in the ballpark of $100,000 raised.
US House District 20: This inland West Palm Beach/Fort Lauderdale seat is serious nothing to see here territory. Democrats lead registration 65% to 14% in this 48.9% Black, 18.5% Hispanic seat. Obama won by a paltry 61% margin – 80% to 19%, Alex Sink only won 78%-20%. This is a majority minority seat, which is how the Republicans justify drawing a district with more nooks and crannies than anything Thomas’s makes. It isn’t as bad as the 5th CD, but it is pretty awful.
Democratic incumbent Representative Alcee Hastings will seek re-election, he will win. At least that is what my magic 8-ball says.
US House District 21: This seat snugs inside the embrace of District 20, another safe Democratic seat with a 48%-26% registration advantage. Both Obama and Sink cleared 60%. This district includes 76% of Democratic Representative Ted Deutch old 19th district and 15% of what was West’s 22nd district.
Deutch is seeking re-election and should coast, regardless of how many ‘some dudes’ jump in.
US House District 22: Completing the ménage à trois with the 20th and 21st, this district hugs the Atlantic coastline of Palm Beach. Democrats hold a 41.5% to 32.6% registration advantage and the Obama 56.7% to 42.5% victory were too tough for Incumbent Republican Allen West, who yet again ran like a coward to more friendly confines. If he keeps this up, he will still be living in the 23rd District represented by Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Shultz and running in southern Georgia.
For roughly the past year, former Palm Beach Mayor Lois Frankel and Patrick Murphy (see District 18) have been working hard, raising money and poking West with sharp sticks, scooping roughly $1.3 Million each in 2011. Murphy has now moved on to the 18th, and Frankel has been joined by Broward Commissioner Kristin Jacobs with rumors of other potential candidates enticed by the open seat.
Republican Adam Hasner, former State House Majority Leader, abandoned his going-nowhere US Senate campaign to announced for this seat immediately after West announced intent to seek the 18th. He may face a primary challenge from Broward County Commissioner Chip LaMarca who has launched an exploratory committee.
The numbers here are extremely favorable, barring a major catastrophe, whichever Democrat wins the primary should coast to a win in November despite Hasner’s formidable stature.
US House District 23: Miami Beach up through Hollywood with a tail inland at the northern end of the district. Registration is 48.5% for Democrats, 25% Republicans, so this is another ‘nothing to see here’ seat. Obama and Sink again both broke 60%.
Incumbent Democratic Congresswoman and DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Shultz holds this seat, and she ain’t going nowhere despite a field of ‘some guys’ lined up to challenge her.
US House District 24: Miami’s majority-minority seat, this seat includes Miami Gardens, North Miami and Opa-Locka. 51.7% Black and 33% Hispanic, this seat holds the distinction of the smallest White population in the state at 12.6%. Obama and Sink both scored in the neighborhood of 85%, incumbent Democratic Representative Frederica Wilson is likely to coast to re-election until she decides to move on, just as Kendrick Meek and Carrie Meek before her.
US House District 25: A large geographic footprint, this district includes a bit of the Everglades, Big Cypress National Preserve and a huge Hispanic population at 71%. Republicans hold the registration lead 40% to 32% and a moderate performance lead with McCain beating Obama 54%-46% and Scott over Sink by a slightly wider 57%-41%.
Incumbent Republican Representative Mario Diaz-Balart abandoned his old 25th CD seat in 2010 to seek the more friendly seat of his retiring brother Lincoln Diaz-Balart. In a strange twist, he gets the old number back along with 34% of his old seat and 51% of his current district. ’Some guy’ Democrat Shannon Richard Harvilla of Pompano Beach is challenging Diaz-Balart.
US House District 26: The tip of the state and the Keys, this is one of the most competitive districts in the state. Voter registration runs tight, Republicans at 36.8%, Democrats at 35.7%. McCain edged Obama 49.9% to 49.5%. Scott and Sink was even closer at 49.0% to 48.76%. This seat is majority Hispanic at 69%.
First term incumbent Republican David Rivera wasted no time getting caught up in a variety of scandals. Which isn’t news considering his use of a vehicle to crash his way to victory in the State Legislature years ago…
Democratic State Representative Luis Garcia announced last summer he would challenge Rivera. The combination of Rivera’s anemic fund raising as an incumbent and Garcia’s decent fund raising has eliminate the money gap, but that is certainly subject to change given how low the numbers currently are on both sides.
A variety of ‘some guys’ are either in or rumored to be considering a run.
US House District 27: Miami, South Miami and Coral Gables, this is another very competitive seat. Registration tilts 38.2% to 35.8% in favor of the Republicans and this is also a majority Hispanic seat at 75%. McCain edged Obama 50.9% to 48.5% and Scott beat Sink 50.6% to 47.5%.
Incumbent Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen has proven to be a formidable opponent, over performing statewide Republican candidates by 10%.
Possibly the best hope for a progressive victory here is a rematch with 2008 nominee Annette Taddeo. Taddeo’s 2008 campaign under performed significantly, weighed down early by State/National Party rejection, Taddeo didn’t really find her feet until the final weeks of the campaign. She quickly became a favorite of progressive activists around the state. Taddeo could also be a viable candidate in the adjacent 26th District.
Summary of Districts 16-27: In the territory south of the I-4 Corridor, there are a great deal of opportunities for Democratic (Progressive) pick ups in 2012 and/or over the next few cycles. Obama’s South Florida GOTV operation was incredible in 2008, but in far too many cases they were 1-shot voters, ignoring the under card – leaving challengers like Taddeo, Joe Garcia and Raul Martinez well short of Obama’s vote totals in their districts. If OFA 2.0 can work out those kinks, the new map could yield some significant gains in 2012 starting with 18 and 22. 16, 26 and 27 are the next best targets here, with the new maps making all of these seats virtual toss ups IF quality candidates/campaigns emerge.
Currently this block is 7R-4D-1New, with an aggressive effort it is reasonable to see 4 gains for progressive Democrats, moving the block to 4R-8D over the next 2-3 cycles. Long term, as with the I-4 Corridor, minority population growth should diminish the slim Republican margins gerrymandered in to the map.
Statewide we could see as many as 10 more Democratic Members of Congress over the next 2-3 cycles. From 19R-6D to 11R-16D, quite a swing. Will the Florida Democratic Party do the necessary infrastructure building, recruitment and training to get this done? Will they commit to a 67-County strategy putting statewide candidates in a better chance to win? Or will they stick to the 2010 (and previous cycles) strategy of putting all of their eggs in a single statewide candidate’s basket and hope they don’t get smashed?
Continuing through the new districts, here is the bulk of I-4/Central Florida. You can find Districts 1-6 here.
US House District 7: Comprised of the suburbs north and east of Orlando, including Winter Park (current home to three Members of Congress). As mentioned in Part 1, Rep. John Mica and Rep. Sandy Adams have both already announced to seek this seat, setting up a establishment powerhouse versus Tea Party darling primary.
The data shows this to be one of the most competitive seats in the state, with McCain having edged Obama 49.9% to 49.1%. Registration is a 39.4% to 35% Republican advantage. A fairly affluent and overwhelmingly (70%) white district, there is also a sizable and growing Hispanic population (17%). Scott bested Sink 50.5% to 45.6%, more a sign of Sink’s abysmal campaign and Scott’s strength than a shift in voter behavior.
This is an incredible opportunity for a challenger candidate to join the fray and take a seat the RPOF is counting on and put it in play. Nick Ruiz III, endorsed by Blue America is seeking the seat as a Democrat. Mr. Ruiz ran for the 24th district as an NPA/3rd Party candidate in 2010. He raised no money in 2010 and is on a track to raise only slightly more despite the Blue America endorsement in 2012. Ruiz is a fountain of great progressive policy, but doesn’t appear to have any understanding of campaigns, elections or politics as a whole – i$ he ever going to get it? As of yet, I am unaware of any serious Democratic candidates for this race, do you have any ideas?
US House District 8: This seat greatly resembles the old District 15 along the central Atlantic (Space) coast, and will be fairly friendly to incumbent Republican Rep. Bill Posey. Registration is 44% R, 35% D with both McCain and Scott scoring roughly 55%.
No serious Democratic challengers have emerged as of yet, but 2010 ‘some guy’ candidate Shannon Roberts is running again. She posted $30,000 raised in 2010 and finished the campaign with a small debt.
Democratic Attorney, MIT grad and President of Space Coast Tiger Bay Club David Gunter is also running.
US House District 9: South of Orlando, this seat includes pieces of 8, 15, and 24, is considered one of the two “new seats” Florida gained. Currently no Republicans are seeking this Open seat. Obama’s just over 60% and Sink’s 53% are strong indicators this will be a Democratic seat, the fact that Alan Grayson is seeking it in 2012 pretty much guarantees it.
‘Some guy’ Republican accountant Mark Oxner is challenging Grayson.
US House District 10: Primarily composed of Rep. Daniel Webster‘s 8th district with a piece of the 5th, this is Disney and the west Orlando Suburbs. Republicans hold a 40.3% to 36.8% registration advantage, McCain scored a 52% to 47% win here in 2008. 10.5% of the district is Black, 14% Hispanic – both of these numbers should rise over the course of the decade.
Webster is seeking re-election here and he will likely face a stiff challenge. Orlando Police Chief and former Social Worker Val Demings has already posted strong fundraising numbers and collected some valuable endorsements/attention.
US House District 11: North of Tampa, from the Gulf Coast up to the Ocala National Forest this is another fairly large and largely rural district. Incumbent Rich Nugent gets 59% of his old 5th CD as well as about a quarter of the old 6th CD. Republicans lead registration 42% to 37%, both McCain and Scott were in the 55% ballpark. As with the 10th CD, Obama scored about 4% better than Sink.
Nugent will seek re-election and Don Browning, a former Winter Springs City Councilor has filed to challenge him in the Republican Primary. This is territory Democrats haven’t put up a serious fight for in a long time, like the new 6th and 3rd CD’s. Given a long term commitment and quality campaigns, these numbers could be brought back in to competition.
US House District 12: Tampa’s northern suburbs, composed of the old 9th (57%) and 5th (39%). Incumbent Republican Rep. Gus Bilirakis is seeking re-election in this right leaning seat. Registration is 40.1% to 34.7% in favor of the Republicans, both McCain and Scott were at 52% and again Obama outperformed Sink by 3%.
‘Some guy’ Jonathan Michael Snow has filed intent to challenge Bilirakis. Certain to be a fund raising powerhouse, Snow is a certified photo specialist at Walgreens and former substitute teacher with a BA in History.
US House District 13: This coastal district sits west of Tampa Bay and includes more than 80% of Rep. Bill Young’s old 10th district. Every cycle rumors swirl the Rep. Young will retire – eventually they will be right unless he is defeated first. First elected in 1970, Young is now 81 and the longest serving Republican in the House. This is a district that Obama won in 2008 with better than 51% of the vote and Sink edged Scott 48.5% to 46.6% in 2010.
Young turned back a challenge from Democratic State Senator Charlie Justice in 2010.
Vultures are circling for this seat, with several filings and a bunch of rumors. Check back for more information as this one evolves. This seat should be a top target for Democrats with the new lines and Obama on the ballot again.
US House District 14: Democratic Rep. Kathy Castor’s Tampa Bay seat, with better than 50% Democratic registration, 65% Obama performance and 61% Sink performance – this is a solid D hold barring a major catastrophe/scandal shifting the landscape.
A few ‘some guys’ have filed for the Republican race to get slaughtered.
US House District 15: This district is a block of land surrounding I-4 between the populations of Tampa and Orlando, about half of the district was Republican Rep. Dennis Ross’s 12th district, with ~30% coming from the 9th district. Democrats hold a slight registration advantage, very slight at 39% to 38.6%. McCain and Scott both won the seat with 53% and 52.5% respectively.
This district includes Alex Sink’s hometown of Thonotasassa, it would be interesting to see if she could compete for this seat with a significantly better campaign than she ran for Governor. No doubt she could raise the money, but finding a message that resonates and demonstrating the capacity to connect with the voters remains to be seen. It would also require her to listen to people who actually understand elections, so they can explain to her that running away from the President will not help her (he outperformed her in this seat as well).
I don’t expect Sink to give serious consideration to running and her recent statements committing to building a non-partisan think tank to find policy solutions for Florida indicate she wishes to stay relevant while not actually understanding what the problems are.
Summary of the I-4 Corridor Districts: Looking at this package of seats, 7 through 15, Democrats currently hold 1 (14) and 1 seat is ‘new’ (9), but likely to be picked up by the Democrats. Over the next 2-3 cycles, we could see gains in 7, 10, and 13. I’m also intrigued by 15, where the numbers look appealing and the right candidate could knock out a weak incumbent.
If you are a progressive Democratic candidate already filed or considering running for US House, please contact us ASAP.
UPDATE: The posting below will remain intact despite the completely corrupt process and invalid elections held by the Florida Young Democrats. After ignoring important components of the organization’s Constitution to the detriment of the membership, the President chose to enforce fine print of sections of the Constitution that were modified and unavailable until just days before the improperly noticed election. At the open of convention, a current, complete and correct version of the Constitution was still not available. Three candidates were invalidated, three people who stepped up and presented a clear case for their candidacy, what they would do if elected and where they wanted to see the organization go.
It is unfortunate how this was handled, dishonorable and petty people have put their egos ahead of the best interests of the organization and that is sad for all young Democrats in the state and for the party as a whole.
There’s the text book stuff – I believe every child (and adult) should have access to the best possible education, it should be free and inspiration rich. I believe every person should be provided the best possible medical care, including preventative care – at absolutely no cost. I believe every woman (and man) has dominion over their own body, and all medical decisions are between a person and their doctor. Not an insurance provider, not religious tenants, a person and their doctor. If that wasn’t clear enough, I fully support a woman’s right to choose and that IS pro-life. I support full equality, including the right to marry for all citizens. I support the rights of labor, including collective bargaining and card check. I support fair trade, not free to trample 3rd world nation’s trade. I support publicly financed elections, full disclosure and the end of corporate person-hood and corporate (including foreign owned) election tampering. I believe electoral districts should be drawn with consideration to contiguous communities, not based on partisan scheming for political advantage. I oppose term limits, with fair elections, elections are term limits. I support the Bill of Rights, not ignoring a few words where convenient. Yes, that means regulating the possession and distribution of firearms. No warrentless wiretaps. No unlawful detention of citizens and non-military combatants on military bases and tried by military tribunal.
I want every child to have the same opportunities I had growing up with wonderful parents and financial success and stability. I look back at my childhood and see so many opportunities that most other children didn’t have. I really could have become anything I wanted to become. How many children have potential that is unrealized because they lack the opportunities. They lack access to proper nutrition, medical care, education or inspiration? How many children that may have done something momentous like curing cancer failed to reach that potential because instead of a hand up, society gave them a push down. I’m inspired by young people, college students that show up for a campaign interested in fulfilling a college requirement and becoming so invested that they do 10 times the time requirement, sticking out long past the submission of their final grade. An entire campus of students moving in to a capitol building to stand up for their faculty and the quality of their education. An organizer who is hired by a campaign and provided not nearly enough training and none of the resources he needs, sent to a region the campaign cares little about, instead of sitting on his hands, he reaches for every resources available to him, learns on his own and becomes a great organizer despite all of that, delivering more votes than anyone projected in his region. I’m inspired by a young dem who not yet a citizen of this country, became so engaged in her community she ended up running the campaign for a large city mayor – she delivered victory and THEN became a citizen of this country a few days later. That is why I’m a Democrat.
I believe the Florida Young Democrats are an organization of tremendous unrealized potential, a powder keg of talent waiting to explode blue all over the state. I believe that a lack of leadership and direction, a lack of follow through and political savvy has left the organization on a hamster wheel for too long. I believe that my experience and know-how will be tremendous assets in making me an excellent national committeeman for the Florida Young Democrats. I already attend the statewide and national meetings fairly often, and will increase that rate. I look at the responsibilities assigned to the position as a list of “Required duties”, not a list of “only duties.” I believe the NCM (and NCW), should act as agents of the organization in all capacities, specifically I believe they have a greater responsibility to fund raise than has been exercised in the past. I have that capacity, I’ve done the work before. The Florida Young Democrats should be raising and spending well beyond ten times what they have been raising over the past several years. We should have paid staff, we should be conducting direct political action, we MUST be recruiting AND training candidates at all levels throughout the state. We are the margin of victory, its time we started acting like we recognize that. We must aim higher and work harder. I’m running because I believe I am the best person for office of National Committeeman of the Florida Young Democrats, I would be honored to be given the opportunity to prove that.
Over the next few weeks I’ll be on the road, attending the Florida Young Democrats 2011 Convention which will be occurring in conjunction with the Florida Democratic Party’s Jefferson Jackson Weekend at the Westin-Diplomat in Hollywood, Florida and Netroots Nation 2011 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
At the FYD Convention, I’ll be conducting a training session on planning and executing events, joined by FYD Convention Chair Shannon Love. Here’s the blurb from the FYD Website:
Meetings and Events
If you and your chapter are interested in hosting events that kick ass and raise money, please join Democracy for America Trainer Mario Piscatella and Pinellas Young Democrats President Shannon Love as they explain great ways to plan, organize and execute successful events large and small. From building spreadsheets that track progress to finding different ways to bring in money, this session will provide you the tools you need to host everything from a regular meeting to a dinner, convention or other exciting event.
In Minneapolis, I’ll be conducting free consulting sessions with candidates of today, tomorrow and someday, as I posted about already.
Later in the summer, I expect to be at the Young Democrats of America National Convention in Louisville, Kentucky, and who knows where else I may end up.
Conventional Un-Wisdom: We lost because they beat us at Vote by Mail (or Early Voting), next year we will focus on closing the VBM (EV) gap.
This Un-Wisdom was heard in a number of states following the 2010 elections, often spoken by prominent establishment figures as part of recapping the 2010 elections and setting the agenda for 2012. I can’t know that they weren’t just trying to put forward a positive tone coupled with an easily quantified and correctable problem. What I do know is that this is a dangerous path to follow if we want to actually do better (which would include winning) in 2012.
Why? Deficiencies in Vote By Mail and Early Voting GOTV efforts are real, and should be taken seriously and corrected/improved wherever possible. However, in many cases you will find it wasn’t the GOTV programs that were deficient, it was the inputs to the GOTV program. What are these inputs? Quality candidates and campaigns that motivate people to want to volunteer and vote. If people are not motivated to volunteer, not enthusiastic about the candidate/campaign, they don’t transfer their energy to others, successfully activating them to vote and volunteer. Hence, they don’t Vote by Mail, nor Early Vote…because they don’t vote at all.
That makes the correction even more obvious, and yet infinitely harder to enact. Present conviction and activate the base, by spending the early phases of your campaign identifying, energizing, and empowering those most inclined to support the campaign. Too often Democratic candidates are or project themselves to be moderate, or soften their stances on key issues, making them less appealing to the Democratic Base, less likely to activate and energize. The end result is less support of all types and a greater reliance on expensive media efforts, particularly negative advertising.
That is why we, as the base, must get more engaged at influencing the process much earlier. Like now. Whether a candidate emerges from being “pushed forward” by the establishment or “from the grassroots,” or they just stumble (or charge) on to the stage seemingly from nowhere, we must aggressively vet them, for their values, their capacity to campaign and for their conviction. We must think about what inspires candidates to run and how we can improve the quality of their candidacy and campaign, should they prove worthy of our support. We must speak out and challenge flawed candidacies early, and demand primary challenges of both challengers and incumbents when they fail to measure up. Primaries are good, they make good candidates better.
We must help all candidates running as Democrats run better campaigns, be better candidates, it is our brand they are diminishing when they flounder. We should trust that in the end, the voters will judge their worth, and we will likely play a role in influencing that process later in the campaign. From the onset, we must direct all candidates interested in running as Democrats to taking the right first steps. Once they have built their foundation and given us something more quantifiable to judge, we can choose among them the strongest and best voice of our values. Polling in the early stages should be ignored, or even mocked. It has little bearing on the outcome unless you give in the credence to sway hearts and minds. It is a flimsy campaign that focuses on insignificant factors to trumpet their strength. Look for the candidate/campaign the portrays confidence without expressing disdain for their opponents in diminutive terms.
When we empower all those willing to step forward and put their names on the ballot as Democrats to run higher quality campaigns, we as a party emerge victorious. We will have activated more voters, more volunteers and more donors. We will strengthen the candidate and campaign that wins the nomination for the rigorous challenges of the general election. They will already be on a steep upward trajectory when the flag drops to start the general election campaign, volunteers and staff moving at full speed all the way to the finish line. The emotional bonds from supporter to candidate will be thick and durable, a strong deflective shield for the upcoming attacks of their opponent and even potential missteps of your own campaign/candidate. Or you could coronate your candidate as the nominee two (or four) years out, ignore the issues that motivate the base, and lose to a billion dollar thief.
Vote by Mail and Early Voting should absolutely be a part of your GOTV Plan, but the first component to your GOTV plan should be to remember that it is “Get out THE vote,” which should indicate to you that you need have already identified and motivated people to want to vote. Otherwise it should be “GORV”, Get out Random Voters. Before you can GOTV, you must know who your voters are and that there are more than enough of them to hit your win number. To get your win number, a GOTV plan and to be sure you are doing it right, contact MPA Political now.
Focus on closing the vote gap — be less concerned with how people vote and more concerned with getting them to vote at all. It would be great for your entire universe to vote the first moment they can, but you keep working for more votes and get them in by whatever method you can anyway.
On Sunday, nearly 100 of Florida’s top progressive activists from around the state gathered in Orlando to discuss and prepare for the upcoming State Legislative session. The event was the brain child of the very bright Mr. Edwin Enciso, and organized beautifully by Susan Smith, Kenneth Quinnell, Ray Seaman and a few other wonderful people. The event had some wonderful sponsors, The Orange County CTA and Progress Florida.
We started with an introduction to the un-conference concept, manymoon.com and the objectives of LegiCamp 2011, led by Edwin. From there we filled in much of the day’s sessions with participant driven content, including the session I promoted in advance, during the first time slot, Candidate Development.
My session was held in “area 3″ which was the center of a cubical office area, open to the outside world, but cozily confined. Roughly 25 activists joined me and participated in a lively discussion about where candidates come from, how to evaluate their capacity to run, and what we can do to ensure they run better campaigns than history tells us to expect.
Among our actions items coming out of the session we got commitments from activists from 4 or 5 counties to recruit one new progressive candidate for 2012. Those actions will be tracked with manymoon and hopefully result in progressive seat pickups.
Counter programming my session was what I am told was a wonderful session on Reproductive Rights, led by Susan Smith and Staci Fox. These women, and all the women of Florida, need our help fighting back the oppressive measures being put forward by Governor Rick Scott and the State Legislature.
During the second time slot, I bounced between the session in the main room on redistricting led by Scott Randolph, Susannah Randolph, Josh Giese, and Edwin, and the session on using Facebook as an Organizing Tool (for legislation) led by Ray Seaman, with assistance from Kenneth Quinnell. Both sessions were fantastic, discussions were vibrant and it appeared (from all the smoke streaming from peoples ears) that people were learning and thinking on levels unheard of at that hour on a Sunday. You can learn more about redistricting with this post from the Florida Progressive Coalition or via FairDistrictsFlorida.org, and at FloridaRedistricting.org. The most important thing learned in the “using Facebook” session? CLICK THE DAMN “LIKE BUTTON” and remember that online action is a supplement to, not a replacement for traditional organizing.
We broke for lunch, where I again split my time, between a table with several former (and hopefully future) progressive candidates from around the state, and another with one of Florida’s brightest women’s rights activists (Staci Fox of PPNF) and a bright young future leader and/or journalist (Jason Henry). Good discussions and pizza occurred.
The third time slot I joined Ray Seaman’s session on Twitter, where we learned and discussed basic usage, hashtags, the 140 character environment, use of RT’s (re-tweets), and how to combine all of those things to effect change with regard to legislation, campaigns and issues. Some great questions were asked and some ideas for providing better resources to the activist community were put forth. Ray and Kenneth have agreed to deliver some of those resources, and we will hold them to it.
In the final session, Susannah Randolph and Ray Seaman talked about DirtyHari.org and other ongoing and upcoming ideas, and presented Ray’s “Awake the State” idea. (Follow the link and CLICK THE LIKE BUTTON…NOW!)
Edwin closed out the day by moderating a summarizing of the day’s sessions, thanking all those that helped organize and execute the event and directing us to head out to a local watering hole to continue discussions.
Kenneth Quinnell posted his Monday “Word of the Day”, LegiCamp, you can watch here:
OK, you are considering a run for public office, now what do you do?
At this point, many first time candidates expect support and knowledge to come to them. It rarely happens, like anything else, you must seek it out and work for it. The first step should always be an unbiased and realistic evaluation of the potential candidate and their capacity to fulfill the requirements of a campaign for the district. This involves basic questions about time commitment and financial situations. Dishonesty at this point is common, that is, candidates lying to themselves about what they can and cannot put in to a proposed race. Common factors to look at:
* Why does the potential candidate want to run?
* Why is the potential candidate a Democrat (and progressive/liberal)?
* How many hours per week will this campaign require now, next month, three months from now and for the remainder of the campaign?
* Financially can the candidate and their family survive the costs of the campaign, including any loss of pay, time and energy?
* What will the average day look like for the candidate at various points during the campaign, is the candidate prepared to commit to that? Are there health concerns that might impede such a commitment?
* How will the geography of the district, weather and transportation impact the candidate in this campaign?
Once we have all those physical/logistical (and additional related questions) answered and written down, we move on to the campaign finance aspects:
* What is a realistic cost of a minimally competitive campaign for this race? A strong campaign?
* How much money will the candidate themselves put in to the race, and in what form? (I personally restrict candidates to less than $50k in “loans” to the campaign, as startup cash only, anything else should be contributed with no expectation of repayment from donors.)
* What is the contribution limit and any related fundraising rules (like public financing, matching funds, etc)?
* What is the strength of the candidates social networks, is 300 donors in the first month possible? 500 in the first quarter? Refer to this exercise: Conventional Un-Wisdom: Fund Raising and further detailed here: Tools for a Better Organized Campaign
* Reinforce the reality that 80% of the candidates time will be fund raising, phone to face, in a closed room. It isn’t all fairs and pig roasts.
If the candidate has the desire to run and the answers to all of the above questions indicate the candidate has the capacity to run, the next question to assess is whether or not they have the temperament and traits to be a good candidate. Some weaknesses can be overcome with training, others cannot. If the candidate isn’t interest in improving/changing, it isn’t going to get any better later in the campaign. Creating an honest assessment at this point in the process allows periodic review throughout the campaign, charting progress and allowing for adjustments to correct or compensate. Too often, heavily “recruited” candidates are led in to the race under the impression they are perfect as they are, they hold on to that belief to the bitter end and everything invested in them throughout the campaign (money, time and sweat) is thrown away. Weeks later someone tells them, “By the way John, you probably lost 5,000 votes to your halitosis, didn’t anyone ever offer you a breath mint?” (Yes, this is a simplified issue, they are rarely this easy on a campaign.)
For (potential) candidates, one of the biggest struggles is finding people to serve as their campaign advisors and staff. They often fall in to traps of paying large sums for minimal returns, consultants and advisors that are more hype and reputation than experience and performance. There are a few good email lists and websites that are of some use, such as Jobs That Are Left, but the best place to start is right here at MPA Political by contacting us and reading Conventional Un-Wisdom: Hiring Staff. Really, any potential candidates should read everything on our How To’s and Training page. Lower tier and long time elected officials running for higher office often stick with the people who have worked on their previous campaigns and worked in their government offices, this often creates a closed campaign, where no new thoughts or talents are brought in and the campaign is unable to compete on the larger playing field of higher office. Campaigns should include new thoughts, differing experiences and ideas. If your campaign strategy meetings result in everyone agreeing 100% with everyone else, you need to find some thought-diversity for your team.
Somewhere in these early stages, there needs to be a compliance check with all applicable laws, rules and authorities. Is the potential candidate legally qualified to run for the office they are planning to seek? Do they understand the finance rules and regulations and have a plan to comply with all required reporting procedures? If elected, what actions are they required or recommended to take, for legal, ethical or public relations reasons? This might include turning control of a business over to a blind trust or resigning from Boards or similar positions. Are they restricting from fundraising or campaigning due to the Hatch Act (or any similar state/local law)? In Florida there is a “resign to run” law that impacts state level elected officials, it is important to know how and when that impacts your campaign. You can and will be thrown off the ballot for failure to comply with related laws and procedures. If you are seeking Federal Office, filing with the FEC is mandatory.
The last of these first steps is to build a timeline for the campaign including goals and benchmarks. To do this, one must have a complete understanding of the candidate and landscape, including vote goals and turnout expectations. If you haven’t figured this out, and haven’t already brought in a professional for all of the processes listed above, you absolutely need a professional for this, for smaller races it might be a one time fee for a week or two of work, or it might be the first payment beginning a monthly relationship with a general consultant.
This is a discussion of the first steps, which doesn’t include all of the steps of learning to sit up and crawl…the process can begin as early as middle school and as late as however old you are today. This would be a good time to look over What Inspires Candidate to Run? if you haven’t done so already.
This weekend I will lead a session on Candidate Development at LegiCamp 2011, a gathering of activists from around the state in Orlando discussing the upcoming Legislative session and election cycle. With this post, I will discuss some of the main sources of where candidates come from in terms of motivation to step forward and put their names on a ballot. This is by no means an exhaustive list, and I’ve clearly left out a few of the most corrupt/evil pathways to candidacy.
The traditional path is to run for lower tier offices and expand upward thereafter, on the strength of achievements, growing social networks and influence gained. The traditional routes provide significantly better odds at victory in higher tier elections, for both the benefits of having built infrastructure and having learned the lessons when the mistakes weren’t so painful to the campaign.
Family / Raised to Serve: This is the pathway many Americans think of first when the subject is discussed, thoughts turn to the Kennedy’s, Bush’s and regional and local “power families.” In addition to those austere families, there are many (thought not nearly enough for my tastes), that raise their children with a commitment to public service. Some of these families are primarily military or first responders, some are school teachers or work for charitable organizations. In larger families of this style, you can find the children grow to find different ways to serve. Once this value is instilled, it can make one more likely to be motivated along one of the other pathways at some point in life. Among the more political/powerful of such families, the traditional routes can be shortcut a bit due to built in power, name recognition, financial clout and influence/credibility built-in to the family name.
Aspiration / Pursuit of Power: Nearly all children are raised to value success, some become enamored with power and aspire to positions of power in public service. Sometimes this occurs as a direct path, sometimes as a “plan b” option. These folks are more likely to follow the most traditional path, starting with lower tier local offices and building power and influence piece by piece, creating and waiting for opportunities to reach for the next rung on the ladder. They often attend law school and/or seek out jobs working for elected officials.
Community Issue / Activist: There is great truth to the axiom that there is more power at the local level of government than the higher levels, and thus great power to inspire those impacted. Whether it is an intersection lacking a stop sign or a traffic signal that incurs numerous accidents or a school board member that says something ridiculous and drastically alters the life of a precious snowflake, these inspirations can lead to a very passionate campaign for local/lower tier office. If victorious, these candidates can become community champions, catapulting them up the ladder. There are a few members of the US House and Senate that got their start as a result of an unsafe intersection in their community. They got stop signs, traffic lights and a one-way ticket to the electoral fast track.
Candidates that run for the first time for a higher tier office; State Senate, Big City Mayor, Governor, US Congress, US Senate or the White House. This is often backed by personal financial investment and victories the first time out are few and far between.
Incumbent Inspired: This is the classic story of the incumbent doing something that inspires vehement angst. Be it a statement, a vote or an entire legislative agenda, whether it is a straw or an entire bale of hay, the camel is finally inspired to kick back. A few years ago, a Utah businessman named Pete Ashdown was so appalled at the idiocy of Senator Orrin Hatch’s legislative agenda and statements related to Intellectual Property and Technology, he penned a letter to Senator Hatch saying he would do anything in his power to see him defeated in 2006. After looking around and talking to various authorities in the Democratic Party, it became clear there was no one interested in running against the five term incumbent. He stepped up and ran, challenging Senator Hatch in what was then the most conservative state in the nation. These candidate more often follow very non-traditional paths, jumping from the private sector to a race for higher level office, such as Congress or the US Senate.
Opportunity: Candidates of opportunity may have had the desire to follow a more traditional pathway to office but due to life circumstances went a different direction. Years down the road, a golden opportunity manifests in the form of an open seat or a special election, an incumbent ravaged by scandal, or their own 15 minutes of celebrity due to luck or heroic actions. Sometimes it just spawns out of massive personal wealth and a political climate conducive to victory. These candidates have less traditional resumes and rarely run for lower tier offices, these guys and gals are going for Federal Office or Governor. Examples include Arnold Schwarzenegger entering the recall election for Governor of California, Jeff Greene for US Senate in Florida in 2010, Rick Scott and Meg Whitman for Governor (FL and CA respectively), and if you pick a random Congressional Special Election from the last 20 years, you will typically find at least one millionaire who decided to jump in and give it a go, the 2006 CA-50 adventure had 4 or 5 of them.
Major Event / Movement: Candidates inspired by a major event, local or national, that dramatically impacted the community. From civil rights issues to tragic events like 9/11, people’s lives can be dramatically impacted, causing them to give up their life direction and instead seek elected office. Opposition to a war, to discrimination, or to an incumbent President’s policies can trigger these candidates to come forward. President Obama’s meteoric rise in 2007/2008 inspired scores of people to run on the ballot under him in 2008, some inspired to join the cause, and some just hoping to ride the coat tails (that didn’t really manifest in most communities).
If you are thinking about running, or know of someone you think should run, which category best fits? If the candidate is from one of the non-traditional pathways, what can they do to offset the weaknesses most common to that pathway? One of the keys to a successful campaign is identifying your own strengths and weaknesses and find ways to accurate the strengths while mitigating and reducing the weaknesses. Of course, one common weakness among non-traditional candidates is not knowing how to campaign and not being willing to listen/learn.
Not all people inspired in the means described above actually step up and run, some are deterred by personal/family obligations, some by the daunting financial challenges, and some are never reached out to and encouraged to run. That is one piece each of us must take to heart, when you meet someone who should (consider a ) run for office, we must tell them so. Then direct them to a professional that can asses their capacity and advise them of the realities of running. MPA Political can do that.
This weekend I joined roughly 1000 progressive activists in DC for the 5th RootsCampDC, my 4th, having missed the Februrary 2010 camp. RootsCamp is a fantastic “un-conference” put together and beautifully executed by the New Organizing Institute.
A space to bring people from all aspects of campaigning, advocacy and governing together to discuss successes, failures, experiences and opportunities, RootsCamp is great atmosphere for progressives to network and grow their talents. There is a fantastic spill over from the sessions to the common areas and of course to the twInterwebs (hashtag #roots10).
As always, NOI assembled and executed a great event, staffed by fantastic members of their team and a terrific group of volunteers. The facility at GWU was also great, with plenty of signs and human navigational aides provided to get people where they wanted to be in a timely fashion.
Thank you to all the participants, volunteers, staff and supporting/sponsoring organizations.
From the “back in the day” perspective, I feel like the first two RootsCampDC’s worked slightly better, with half (or less) the attendance, due to both smaller session sizes allowing more participation and the ratio of veteran activists to “rookies” being closer to 1 to 1 than what I would speculate was more like 5 or 6 to 1. It seemed like there were far more people who only have a historical knowledge going back to 2007 or 2008 than those who can put thoughts in the perspective of understanding from 2006, 2004, 2000, etc.
My two suggestions for the next RootsCampDC would be:
A: Lock down the open session schedule to just Saturday until just prior to the final session on Saturday when you open ONLY the first session time slot on Sunday. The remainder of Sunday should not be opened until Sunday morning. Let people process what happened Saturday, discuss with peers what they want to learn more about, which sessions should be repeated/extended/expanded, which presenters they want to hear more from, I believe the content will be more beneficial and more enjoyable.
B: More rooms/spaces for sessions. Too many sessions were standing room only, too many subjects/aspects weren’t well addressed. Beyond the obvious disadvantages to this situation, there comes one that may be overlooked… One of the great aspects of these conferences is the “Vote with your feet” option – when a room goes to standing room only, it makes attendees far less likely to leave, as to do so would be a massive disruption to the session. Some of the most productive RootsCamp sessions I’ve experienced in the past have been 5-15 people, where discussion can evolve to action in 45 minutes, something much harder to achieve with 40+ people.
My one complaint with no corrective suggestion is that too many session facilitators were lecturing more than fostering discussion or just not allowing enough time to have a valid dialogue, while really not having nearly the level of competence/expertise in the subject to justify such. An actual quote from one presenter “the message really doesn’t matter, we just have to organize more…” Really? Do we really need to explain to the presenters the relationship between messaging and organizing? To be clear, this wasn’t the norm of the sessions I attended, but really shouldn’t be happening at all.
My call to action: Now is the time to find, recruit and train progressive candidates if we want to take back the majority in 2012. We have state elections in several states in 2011 and a rough map coming our way to defend the Senate and White House in 2012. To have success, we must start laying the ground work for strong challenger campaigns at all levels, meaning now is the time to identify potential candidates, even though the district lines are still pending post-census redistricting. There is plenty of preparation that can be done in advance of the redistricting process, anyone considering a run should be taking a “be prepared” attitude rather than a passive “wait and see” approach. We need to do far more to prepare and train our candidates and staff for 2012, and we must fill more races with competitive and competent candidates.
Is there a potential progressive candidate you know? Now is the time to introduce them to DFA’s Training Academy or direct them to a good, honorable progressive campaign professional (Like MPA Political).