As 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:
- People who have solid conservative principles,
- People who are passionate and can communicate a conservative message that will attract supporters and help them raise money, and
- 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!