Tips on Candidate Recruitment

Candidate RecruitmentAs Ronald Reagan once said, “Personnel is policy”. The public policies we have (and tend to complain about) are the direct result of “who” gets to make them. That means that if you want to change public policy, the best way to do it is by changing the people who are making it. And that means winning elections. But in order to do that, you need good candidates.

That’s where candidate recruitment comes in.

There’s an old saying in politics that you can’t beat somebody with nobody; and it’s true on a couple of levels. If you don’t have a candidate to support (or you aren’t one yourself), then you’re not going to “win” on Election Day. And if you don’t win, you can’t have much of an impact on public policy. But even if you do have a candidate, you’re also less likely to win without a “good” candidate.

It’s not enough to focus on finding someone/anyone to run who’s willing to pay a filing fee and put their name on a ballot. You need to focus on finding quality candidates that can actually win.

So how do you recruit good candidates? And what offices should you focus on recruiting them for?

What Offices to Recruit For?

This is the first question that too often gets overlooked in candidate recruitment efforts. Focus on those races with districts that a good candidate would have a reasonable chance of winning. Don’t waste time finding someone to run for an office that a Republican can’t win – to say nothing of all of the resources that will be lost and the people (and candidates) who will get discouraged by losing.

So which districts? Take some time to look at the last few sets of election returns (available at your county election office) for the races that you are interested in and do a little math. Did any Republican get over 50% of the vote in that area? If not, move on. If so, what was the highest GOP percentage? What was the lowest? If the “high” is over 50% and the “low” is respectable, it’s probably winnable. Start recruiting!

How to Recruit?

Put together a small committee of people who not only know a lot of other people, but know “about” them and can offer honest/critical assessments. Talk to community leaders (pastors, business people, conservative organization leaders) and get their opinions. Put a list together and form a consensus. Then go talk to your prospects about running.

You should be looking for:

  1. People who have solid conservative principles,
  2. People who are passionate and can communicate a conservative message that will attract supporters and help them raise money, and
  3. People who have good people skills and are savvy enough to navigate the world of politics.

Further, look for candidates that can excite the grassroots base of the party, as well as gain the respect of others. The more a candidate can pull the party together buy unifying around the base (rather than against it), the more unified and energized the party will be in the fall and the better the chances of winning.

Keep in mind that it will help convince a good potential recruit to run if they know that you (and the people you’re working with) will be there to help them put a campaign together and spread the word to find other support. Don’t recruit them and then leave them hanging in the wind.

A Conservative Opportunity

Organized candidate recruitment is one of the areas where conservatives have a tremendous opportunity to leverage their networks and connections to identify good prospects as well as to coalesce support for them in the process. This can have an even greater impact in Republican party primary elections, (which is tantamount to be elected in some areas).

The better the candidates that we recruit and run at the local level, the better off the conservative movement will be over the long-run as the cream begins to rise up the political ranks and they run for higher office.

Of course, there are no “perfect” candidates. But there are “better” candidates. And the better the candidate and the more favorable the district, the better your chances of backing a winner.

Good candidate recruitment matters. Don’t miss the opportunity!

Get Leverage with Grasstops Lobbying

It’s one thing to have organized pressure coming from “real” people and having them relay their real concerns and real stories to elected officials. That the essence of “grassroots” lobbying. But it’s even better to pair that with community leaders who matter to the elected officials or other politicos that you’re trying to influence.

That’s where the grasstops lobbying comes in.

It’s lobbying by people who matter to other people who matter, and it can be a force multiplier and add a new dimension to your efforts. It’s not that grassroots pressure doesn’t matter. It does because numbers matter. But if you can match a local organization’s grassroots with a similar network of grasstops leaders, you will see a tremendous leap in the ability to influence legislators.

Grasstops lobbying is effective for many reasons.

It Promotes Accountability

While many legislators may deceive themselves into thinking that they can ignore or fool the average constituent, they don’t usually feel the same about “Mr. Big” – and they don’t want to get on his (or her) bad side. These are people who are thought of as pillars of the local community, organizational leaders or opinion leaders, and they influence other people – which is why politicians usually like to keep happy. They are people who can make life easier for them if they stay on their good side.

It Breaks Through Barriers

Sometimes elected officials can become insulated from grassroots pressure. While many legislators don’t like being bombarded by letters from constituents, they may choose not to read them. But they can’t afford not to take a phone call from the president of the largest employer in the district or the pastor of the largest church.

Similarly, the number of phone calls coming into a legislator’s office eventually becomes irrelevant. All that registers in their mind is that they got a lot of phone calls. However, several calls from key community leaders or even a personal visit will stick out in their minds.

Examples of Potential “Grasstops” Community Leaders:

  • Pastors
  • Large employers
  • Other elected officials
  • Political party leaders
  • Former staffers to other elected officials
  • Major contributors to the elected officials you’re targeting
  • Civic or other advocacy organization leaders
  • Newspaper publishers
  • Opinion leaders
  • People who have credibility with the media
  • Neighbors, relatives or friends (of the elected official)

Think through the list of names that come to mind. Who has the most influence with the officials that you’re trying to influence? Who represent a constituency that your targeted officials can’t afford to ignore? Whose phone calls have to get returned?

The rule of thumb is to identify those who can get directly to your targets, and not just to their staff. Identify those people and approach them about joining your efforts. Some of them might even be classified as “strange bedfellows” politically speaking, but that’s even better as it makes your effort look more diverse.

Keep a running list of the people that you identify, what they care about and who they can potentially influence. It will be a good reference for you when the next issue campaign comes up.

When you get your new contacts involved, make sure that they are informed. They’re probably busy people, so the more that you lay things out and make it simple, the more likely they will be to help. Then incorporate them into your overall lobbying plan.

Grasstops lobbying can be just the leverage you need to make your grassroots efforts pay off.

Key Attributes of Good Conservative Activists and Leaders

As you’ve surely noticed there are a lot of people involved in politics with many different strengths and weaknesses. But what kind do we need MORE of?

What kind of people should you seek out and try to work with? What kind of people should you actively try to recruit and get involved in politics as you (hopefully) help build the conservative farm team in your area? What kind of people should you support for leadership positions (or even elected office)?

The answer is what we need more of in the conservative movement as a whole. Generally speaking, there are three attributes that we need in conservative political activists – whether they are brand new to politics, or have been around forever. People who are principled, passionate and politically savvy.

Principled

Sometimes we are too lax about making sure that the people we work with, recruit or support for leadership are actually principled conservatives. We don’t do good “due diligence”. Why is that important? Because principled conservatives are the kind of people that you don’t have to wonder about when it comes to what they will do or support in a given situation.

Regardless of which particular issue may be their hot-button, principled conservatives have an all-around conservative philosophy, and they’re not the “hi-maintenance” type that you have to constantly worry about or prod to do the right thing.

Needless to say, it saves a good bit of time and energy when you don’t have to worry about people who are supposed to be on your side.

Passionate

In addition to having the right principles, we need people who are passionate about those principles, because if they are passionate they will be persistent. And persistence is a critical key to long-term political success.

Passionate people are can usually be counted on to stick with it and get the job done because they care about something they see as bigger than themselves. They are more likely to sacrifice their time and do things that other people just won’t do because they’re committed. And they won’t “burn out” easily over the long-haul, or wilt at the first sign of resistance or controversy (which is always in abundance if you’re principled).

Politically Savvy

Lastly, and just as importantly, we need people who are politically savvy. People who know how to passionately advocate for their principles in a way that’s more likely to be successful. It’s one thing to believe the right things, and another to be passionate about it, but people who don’t know how to be effective in the political system (or are unwilling to learn) won’t have much success in the long run. They won’t be much help to you or your cause, and it goes without saying that they will certainly make poor leaders.

People who are politically savvy know the “system” and can think strategically, as well as tend to have a good understanding of people and how they will act (and react) in given situations. These are people who can help advance an agenda by organizing others and playing political “offense”.

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Notice that each of these attributes builds upon the others. Someone with principles but no passion or savvy is useless. Someone with passion but no principles or savvy will get themselves (and maybe you) into trouble. Someone who’s all savvy can’t be trusted.

The conservative movement desperately needs more activists and leaders who are principled, passionate AND politically savvy.

Be one. Support others. Help recruit more!

Three Fundamentals of Political Campaigns

It’s a fundamental truth of politics that if you don’t win, you can’t govern.

You can’t implement policy if you aren’t elected to a position that allows you to do so, or if you don’t have sympathetic elected officials that are willing to help.

With that being the case, it’s critical that conservatives know the basics of effective campaigning if we expect to see our ideas implemented in government.

The good news is that the fundamentals of a successful campaign of any type is the same today as it was thousands of years ago.

Julius Caesar once said that the only thing needed to conquer the world was “men and money”. Modify that idea slightly by adding “message” and you’ve got a good thumbnail sketch of what political campaigns are all about.

They’re known as “the Three M’s”:

  • Manpower: Do you have the supporters that can build a successful campaign organization?
  • Money: Do you have the resources to run a campaign that identifies, informs and mobilizes your supporters – and gets your message out?
  • Message: What are you saying? And does it motivate people to get involved?

These three elements are universal to all campaigns. They don’t change. That means that you should arrange your campaign accordingly (time, staff, etc.) around those areas of responsibility.

Regardless of whether a campaign is national, state or local in scope, the objective is the same. To win.

Having the most devoted and numerous volunteers, the most money (or enough) and the most compelling message goes a long way towards that goal.

The Power of Numbers in Grassroots Lobbying

depositphotos_13429686-Standing-out-concept-dialog-bubblesWhen it comes to grassroots lobbying, there is power in numbers. And numbers can come from a quality grassroots organization that encourages supporters to directly contact their elected officials.

The thing that makes phone calls and letters so effective is that they are short and quick means of relaying your message.  Changing the mind of your officials may not be accomplished with one phone call or one letter, but a thousand phone calls or letters voicing similar opinions will have a major impact on how most elected officials will vote on any given issue.

The most important aspect of basic grassroots lobbying is multiplication.  Once you have taken the time to make contact with an elected official on an issue, find at least ten others to call or write their elected officials too.

Even on the hottest issues, most federal representatives rarely receive more than a few hundred calls, and they represent well over half a million constituents – and state and local officials represent a fraction of that.  If there are one hundred people in your group and each one identifies at least ten others to contact their elected officials, you would generate over one thousand contacts – enough to scare the daylights out of most any politician.

In politics, that’s power!

Remember, no matter how stupid you may think politicians are, they all know how to count. They know that “numbers” on any given issue can possibly mean “numbers” on Election Day. And that gets their attention.

In the end, it’s all about the math.  Use it to your advantage!