Tuesday, July 8, 2014

How to lose money on your campaign and then lose your race

                     So, you think you can't afford a campaign consultant. 

You think you can't even afford a consultation with one to find out what you need to know to at least have a fighting chance.

You think you need to save every penny in your meager bank account to print a flyer you and your army of eager volunteers will walk to every door in the district.

Let me let you in on a dirty little secret:

                      That is how to lose money and to lose your race too.


Because just like they tell you in business school, you have to spend money to make money, or in the campaign context you have to spend money to make the money you need to get the votes.

If this sounds like I'm turning campaigning into a crass commercial venture, I'm not. I'm just dealing
 in reality-based reality. Why do you think they also say "Money is the mother's milk of politics"?

Because you need money for a number of things essential to your campaign. even without the cost of a consultant or any paid staff. For starters,  you have to pay a printer to print your flyers. Yes, you can do it on your computer, but it will  look like crap, even if your cousin's buddy donates his time designing it.

It will look like crap and it likely will be seen as crap by the people who get it.

                     It will cost more and be more hassle than doing it right.


Ink costs money. Paper costs money. Shoe leather costs money. Your volunteers are likely to flake out (Sorry, they just do, even those most eager and in love with your issues). You will go to homes where no one votes, or no one votes in your election.

Your message will not be read because it will be too long; believe me nothing turns off voters than too much information. It's counteractive, I know, but oh so true.

                    Campaigning by the stars.


Yes, it is possible to win your way, if a number of factors line up on your side. It's kind of like doing your horoscope. Were you born under the right sign? Are the stars lining up on your side?  Like, is there no opponent? That would be a big plus and yes, one way to win. Don't count on it. Is your District 1000 homes or less? If so, I agree, get out there and door knock. You can meet every single voter, maybe twice. Most Districts are larger than this.

Are you a rock star; is your name a household word (and not a bad one)? If so, you probably don't need to do anything. But if so, you can probably afford to enhance your name recognition by hiring a consultant, a campaign manager, and the best printers in your area to craft your message and make sure the voters see it with your beautiful mug plastered on the front page.

                  Why not do it right and maximize your chances to win?

What is the right way you say? At the least, you need to target your mail and/or handouts to those voters who vote frequently in your race. You need a message that can be broken down into bullet points and that will resonate with those voters. You need a good picture or two of yourself, preferably interacting with others. You need a design with punch that won't be lost in the morass of mail voters pull out of their boxes every day during election season.

You need a print shop experienced with campaign mail (there are different rules and timeline than for regular bulk mail) and a mailhouse who can safely and quickly print and mail your material with the proper indicia in a timely manner to get delivered before election day.

You will need a list of frequent voters, not the list of all voters you can buy from your Registrar of Voters office. Unless one of your ace volunteers is a computer whiz and can sort the information into frequent voters and create the proper forms and keep the data base you need to keep track of everything. 

You will need a kitchen cabinet, to advise you on the issues of importance in your race. Will these people also pound the pavement for you, hit the phones? Maybe some will. But you need to plan a carefully calculated field campaign so you are making the best of what volunteers you have. 

                       Take a workshop.

At the least, spend a few hundred dollars on a worskshop with a seasoned consultant who will point out these things to you and your campaign team, show you the places to go for maximum impact, train you in field and help you develop your message.

Better yet, take a workshop with a campaign fundraiser, who can show you how to raise the money you need to do it right and win your race.

Hint: If you hire a campaign consultant who helps plan your strategy and develop your message, target your voters and point you to the right printer, you are likely to save money by simply not mailing or walking/phoning to the wrong households.

Mail is expensive. We recently consulted with a local candidate who had already spent at least a third more than he needed to for sending out a flyer (with way too much information in it) to every voter in his district.  Besides being too early to register with the voters, with what he would have saved by targeting his mail, he could have paid for our time to help him deliver the right message and get it to the right voters at the right time.

Don't let this happen to you. Call for a consultation with an experienced consultant before you start your run. You won't regret it in the long run. Even if you lose, you'll know you did everything right and have positioned yourself for another run in the future.

Monday, July 7, 2014


In a close race, sometimes the one on the short end of the stick asks for a recount. This can be a costly and time-consuming tactic that can delay the outcome from being certified for days, weeks, even months.  If the recount is in a primary election, imagine the chaos ensuing as the November General election day rolls around without knowing which two people will be facing off. Campaigning is either at a standstill or continues as if the primary has not happened.

This is the situation today as California Assembly Speaker John Perez has announced that he is requesting a recount in the Controller's race, usually a sleeper of a campaign, that has attracted attention because of the mere 481 votes separating Perez from State Board of Equalization member Betty Yee in a race in which 4 million votes were cast.
Betty Yee making a fiery speech about the Democratic process at the Cal. Dem. State Convention

Because of California's top two open primary system, put into place just two years ago, these two Democrats are vying for a chance to face off against Republican Ashley Swearingin, Mayor of Fresno.

Many observers feel that Yee has a better chance of besting Swearingin in the General than does Perez, for a number of reasons; she's a popular Bay Area politician whose current seat encompasses the entire north coast from San Francisco to the Oregon border, a notably liberal area, while Perez represents a very small District in Southern California.
 This recount however is a selective recount, counting only those votes in the Counties and the precincts where Perez did well.  It's the law, he has that right, but it ain't right.

He also has the money to pay for the recount. Betty Yee has called foul, and is now weighing her options should he pick up enough undercounted votes in southern California (and Lake County) to pull ahead.
Isn't it only basic fairness to count all the votes, if you really want to know the true count?