Facing Incumbents in Down Ticket Races by Dottie LeMieux

By at September 9, 2015 | 4:31 pm | Print

Facing Incumbents in Down Ticket Races by Dottie LeMieux

Dottie LeMieux 2015


A candidate comes to me and asks about helping in his campaign for School Board in a mid sized district. There are four incumbents, all of them running. He is one of two challengers. He is clearly qualified and knows the issues. “Tell me,” I ask, “Do you have any idea what kind of budget you are looking at in this race?”

“People tell me about $2000, to buy signs,” he answers. Yikes. After I give him the Signs Don’t Vote spiel, I explain a little bit about running against incumbents, how you have to convince the voter to fire them and hire you. “It’s a several month long job interview,” I explain. Then, “I think you’ll need a little bit more than that.”

Because I’m a meticulous campaigner, I gather up the financial disclosures in recent elections. He’s right, that no one has spent more than $2000 since 2007. But guess what? Only incumbents have won since then. Two of the incumbents he is facing have been there for more than 20 years, the other two for 8 and 10 years.

The last big contested race was in 2005, when a candidate who I happened to work for spent $34,000 to oust an incumbent. Another person on that ticket running in an open seat spent $10,000.

Right now, I am working on a proposal for his campaign, along with a budget. Will he go for it? Will he hire a consultant to help him craft the message he must get into voters’ hands? Will he be willing to raise and spend the money it will take to unseat an incumbent?

Or will he take his first friend’s advice, buy some signs and hope for the best? Well, you know what I think. Let’s see how this one plays out.

Dotty E. LeMieux runs GreenDog Campaigns, a full service consulting firm in northern California.  Dotty’s advice has taken women and first time candidates to victory in tough elections.   She also gives training seminars to candidates and their staffs and is available for consultations with groups and campaign teams. Dotty has taught a course in Practical Politics at the College of Marin and trained activists for groups such as The Sierra Club, Democratic Party, National Women’s Political Caucus, Emerge California and others.  She has been called a “grassroots maven” by Christine Pelosi, author of Campaign Boot Camp and Campaign Boot Camp 2.0 and is quoted extensively in those popular “how to” campaign books.

See her new blog for recipes for success on the campaign trail!  The Campaign Cookbook

Green Dog Campaigns           8 Willow Street         San Rafael, CA 94901

415-485-1040                del@greendogcampaigns.com


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