You are Running for Office. Now what? by Elayne De Maria

By at March 29, 2012 | 3:29 pm | Print

You are Running for Office. Now what?  by Elayne De Maria

“Together we can make a difference in our community”

You filed the papers. You have a dozen people who said they would help you. You have very little money and no one knows who you are. Being labeled the underdog is a compliment. You are the word that is below “underdog”.   And there is the voice again, “Are you crazy? Have you lost your mind?  Would God hate me if I faked a disease and dropped out of the race?  ”

You know how many votes you need to win and what neighborhoods are best to concentrate on. Take a deep breath.  “You can do this! Let’s get going!”

Knowing that you are a newbie to canvassing and phone banking, let’s combine it with something you are passionate about — service.  Let’s make your campaign about service. A good first step is to incorporate canvassing with a really good cause like the local food bank.   The election is many months away so you have time to get the name recognition you need where it matters the most – at the voters’ doorstep.

First, gather up the volunteers for the phone bank.  Create a script and assume you are probably going to leave a message. Your “keep it short and simple” script should incorporate the following;

  • “My name is Mary.  I am a big supporter of John Smith’s campaign for councilman. What I like about John is that his campaign is going to be about service. On Saturday (date), we are going to be in your neighborhood collecting food for the local food bank.  If you are not going to be home, can you leave the food on your doorstep? We will be there between the hours of  ______.
  • We also have service activities planned to clean up the local park, roads etc. in the coming months.
  • If you are interested in helping with the food drive or clean-up activities, you can contact us at  _______. (Repeat the date and time of the food canvass and phone.)
  • Together, we can make a difference in our community”

After the phone bank is completed:

  • Place an order for t-shirts from a local vendor with your “Why you are running for office” statement written on the back of the shirt and “vote for John” statement on the front.
  • Get business cards with your photo, contact information and “Why you are running for office”statement printed on it.
  • In addition, you will need copies of future service activities on a sheet entitled “Together we can make a difference in our community”.
  • Don’t forget to get note cards printed so you can leave a handwritten thank you notes for anyone who contributes to the food bank.
  • Stop by the Board of Elections for a stack of voter Registration Applications.
  • Meet with the volunteers and do some role playing so everyone is comfortable the day of the Food Drive Canvass.

Next, concentrate on your list. Your first priority is to make sure you make personal contact with every registered Democrat and every registered Independent that leans Democratic. The Democrats are your base and the Independents that lean Democratic are yours for the taking.  Independents living in a Democratic household are probably leaning Democratic.  In a non-partisan race the food drive canvass separates supporters, undecided and the “don’t waste your time” voters.

The day of the Food Drive Canvass:

  • Everyone (including you) wears the campaign t-shirt.
  • Do more listening than talking. Ask about local issues, how they feel about the widening of the road, their children’s class size, the new water treatment plant, etc.
  • Be respectful of the voter’s time. Don’t linger more than five minutes at a door. Always say “Thank You” and end the conversation with asking for their support.
  • Make sure everyone can recite the “Why you are running” statement.
  • Give your business card and schedule of future service activities to each voter or leave it in the door.
  • Don’t forget to hand out voter registration applications to anyone who is not registered.
  • Make sure the volunteers are smiling and are excited about the Food Drive Canvass and everyone is projecting that this campaign is different. It’s about service and everyone is participating.
  • Take good notes. Document everything. Mail a thank you card to every voter who donated to the food bank.
  • After the food has been delivered, stop for ice cream/coffee with the volunteers. Discuss and evaluate.
  • Thank every volunteer for their time and effort.

On Election Day, when that voter sees your name on the ballot, he/she is going to think, that is the guy who was collecting food for the food bank, cleaned up the park and listened to me ……  “Together, we made a difference in our community”.

Elayne De Maria, Founder of DownTicketDems; a knowledge based community to inspire and educate Democrats to run for office in down-ticket races. Elayne is passionate about getting more Democrats elected to office and has also created the following facebook pages:

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  • Del

    Hi Elayne,

    Good for you taking up pen and paper ( I mean fingers and keyboard) and tackling the tough issue of how one starts a viable campaign. This is an
    Interesting concept that I have never encountered before

    Is this something you’ve tried in local campaigns? Of course public service is a wonderful thing, but my concern is that the candidate might you not run the risk that people will see this as a cynical ploy just to get her name out there. Especially if she hasn’t been an activist or a charitable donor in the past.

    It seems more like something you might do once you’re down the road a ways. People know there’s a race on; your name is on the ballot, and you announce a day of service or join your campaign’s efforts with an existing charity drive.

    My first step for the candidate is to come up with a campaign message, budget timeline and strategy for fundraising. That way you can afford those tee shirts (if you actually get them – they are expensive). More importantly, you can afford to get your message to actual voters by way of walking door to door, mailing/phoning etc. And don’t hit every Dem voter, only frequent voting households. One piece per household.

    Phone banks are best when your mail has started to go out, at least once the ballots are printed or the race is in the papers. Otherwise, people forget. Who are you again?

    Of course if you are an active volunteer, your good works will have gone before you to create some name recognition in the community before the campaign starts, so you’ll have a jump on some of your opponents.

    So all best and good luck. When will we see your name on the ballot?


  • admin

    Dotty, Thank you so much for your comments. You are the expert and do such a wonderful job for the candidates that you represent.

    I think the general public views politicians as “good for nothing, do nothing thieves”. This was my attempt to change that image. Approximately, 250,000 Democrats run for office every year. If every campaign was committed service, maybe we could change the perception, do some good and win more elections.

    Could it backfire? Absolutely! But “Hey, you never know”.