John Tsarpalas: Today I am going to discuss a little bit about why I am so obsessed about local politics and running for local office. And then I am going to cut to the chase and really give you the three essential elements to any campaign. It’s Commonwealthy #43, Three Essential Elements in a Political Campaign.
As I record this podcast, it is just a few weeks before the Iowa caucuses for the presidential primary of 2016. This podcast is not about federal elections. It’s about local candidates and local elections and local activism.
I wanted to talk to you about this today because I think this is so important. Sure, the federal elections are important. Congress is important. The President is important. They set the tone. It’s sets a direction.
But unfortunately, at least where I live here in Illinois in the Chicago suburbs, the mindset no matter who is in control is more: bigger budgets, higher taxes, more government. I rarely hear or see people that are talking about privatizing things in local government.
How do we hold the lines on the budgets? And I am not even saying cut budgets. I am saying hold the line.
And then there is the whole issue of education. I truly believe that our schools are getting worse. First of all, not only more propagandistic, but also a whole lot of liberal garbage being fed to our kids. And they are not expected to get to different levels. We were expected to do more when I was younger. Now I sound like I am a sixty-two year old man, which I am!
So I am all about local elections: school boards, township boards, village boards, county boards. There is so much that happens at this level and this is the heart of America. If you want to make a difference, you can run for these boards.
These are not full time positions. Running for Congress is a full time job. You keep your job, you keep your life, and you do donate part of your time to a local governmental body that you control or are part of the controlling class.
It’s essential that we do this. If we don’t do this, it isn’t going to change because this is where is liberalism and state-ists (people that believe in government) live, feed, and grow. The beast will always be here percolating and ready to rear it’s head whenever it can reach out and get more on a bigger basis and a bigger level.
Please think about what’s happening in some local branch of your government. Start paying attention to one little part of it. You can’t do it all and you can’t spread yourself too thin. But we can start watching something.
If you’ve got an interest in it, go for it! Run for that board. Get on the controlling body. Start making a difference. Start speaking up.
So we are here to help you run for office, how to get you elected, how to do things for activism. Today I wanted to talk about the big three things that are essential to every campaign and the three things every candidate has to take care of. I don’t care what size you are running for.
You are going to have to have a message. You are going to have to find some help. And you are going to have to raise some money. It’s often said as the three M’s: message, manpower, and money.
I wanted to talk about that. What that means realistically for you as a candidate. Paul Miller and I were talking about many local candidates have delusional ideas in Commonwealthy #41. We had a good time complaining about things that candidates want to do that we know are not effective.
But here is what is effective: a candidate needs to be asking people, always asking. You are asking everyone that you meet about what they are worried about for that local body. If it is schools, what are they interested in? You are talking to them.
You are going to tell them a little bit about what you stand for and what you think is important with that issue or that group. Then you are going to ask them for the vote. If they say, “Well, I don’t know yet. I don’t have enough information,” then you are going to figure out how to follow up with them and get back to them.
You are going to ask them for contact info if you don’t know who they are or you don’t know their address. Maybe they are going to say no.
You are going to hear a lot of no’s as a candidate. That’s just part of it. Rejection is part of it. Every one of those little no’s also gets you closer to yes’s. Every one of those yes’s gets you closer to getting elected. And getting elected allows you to actually input the system, to make change, or to hold the line.
So you are asking. You are always asking.
Now, you’ve got to craft your message. We had some good podcasts on that. You can go back to podcast #19 for school board issues. Or we can go back to John Tillman, podcast #12, framing the issues. Tina and I have done some issue stuff, too. That would be podcast #04, know what you think.
So let’s think about message. What is it that you stand for? What are you running for? What is the issue you are running on?
Often I have people come to me who want to run for school board because the local board is trying to pass a large bond referendum to build a new school or remodel a school. Some of the numbers are astronomical.
They wanted to raise $100 million dollars in my local district to remodel the high school. They could build four or five brand new high schools for that amount of money. Of course, that referendum did get defeated thanks to Tina and myself and others in the neighborhood. But they are back for $35 million now, still a crazy amount for remodeling purposes.
So often someone comes to us and they want to run for a board they are worried the board is borrowing too much money and creating too much debt. And often it is.
You need to think about where you stand on this issue and why. Discuss it with others. Get some feedback. But know where you stand. Understand what others are thinking. The only way to achieve that is to start asking other people their opinion on this issue and listen.
Go back. Think about it. Work on how you are going to approach this issue and what you would do. Have you gotten all the background information, the budgets and everything from the school board?
And then go practice with some friends. Get a group of friends together in your living room and tell them to shoot questions at you. Have a group discussion and see what they think and where this is all at with them.
Remember, when you are pulling together a little group of this to rehearse, you need a cross section. It can’t be all parents. It can’t be all seniors. It can’t be all females. It can’t be all males. It has to be a little bit of everybody that would be part of the voting community.
Think about that. Talk. Work on it. Rehearse it. Get better at it. And a message can evolve. It will evolve as you get out and talk to people.
So you’ve finally got a little bit of a message and you’ve decided you are going to run. You need to start talking to people about helping you. Talk to your friends. Talk to your neighbors. If you are involved in the school, talk to other parents. Talk to people in that PTA or some type of organization that might be associated with that board.
You perhaps want to talk to other board members. Or perhaps not. If you are challenging the status quo, they are probably not going to be friendly to you anyway. You don’t want to give away your hand.
But start talking to people quietly and finding out who will step up. Who will write you a check? Absolutely everybody can give you twenty dollars. Anyone who is employed I should say. So you are going to start asking for twenty dollar donations to your campaign.
For those people who could write a hundred, you are going to ask for a hundred. You are going to ask for those who could possibly write you bigger checks who they might be.
Here’s a tip: if you are running to hold the line on some kind of a property tax increase or some kind of big bond referendum that will increase property taxes, you can go to business people in that community to raise money and ask for support, especially a business that has a lot of property.
Around here we often go to auto dealers to get their support to hold the line on property taxes because they have big pieces of property and their taxes go up dramatically. So think about whose got a lot of property in the area and why they would want to hold the line on those property tax increases.
Maybe you live in an area where property taxes aren’t bad. I literally recently sold my house because my property taxes were $20,000 a year on a three thousand square foot house. $20,000 a year, almost $2,000 a month! That is what happens when liberalism gets crazy and you live in an urban area where government is out of control. And that is after defeating the $100 million bond referendum!
You might not have those kind of problems yet in your community. But they can creep in and it can happen. If you’ve got low property taxes, be thankful and figure out how you are going to keep it that way. What have you done to step up for running for some level of government that taxes? Often the biggest taxers are the school boards.
So you are out asking people for money and you asking people to volunteer. Let’s talk about volunteers one more time. We did talk about volunteers back in podcast #15, volunteers in a political campaign.
We also talked about interns in Commonwealthy #23, starting a political internship program. Internships are something you can use do even for a local campaign.
But here’s what you’ve got to have for volunteers. You need to set up a time and a place where they are going to meet regularly. At first, it is one night a week or one Saturday morning for a couple of hours. That’s until you get enough volunteers to set-up another time.
But is wonderful if you can have one consistent moment. You, as the candidate, need to be there, until you’ve got a volunteer who is willing to volunteer to be the manager and be in charge of that session once a week.
Ideally those sessions are to come together to make phone calls. Have people bring their cell phones. If you’ve got a voter data system that will do dialing, have them bring their laptops. If not, you are handing them a printed phone list of people to call.
You are asking them to meet once a week to do those calls together. Why? Because if you send it home with them, they tend to not do them. You can tell them to take the sheet home and come back next week with the sheet if they have time to make a few more calls.
You are going to have a script ready for them. You are going to practice with them. You are going to explain to them what needs to be said. You are going to explain what your viewpoints are and what you are running on.
You’ve got to give them training. You’ve got to take some time with them. And you’ve got to come together at the end of the session and say, “How did it go?” Get their feedback.
Ask them to come back next week. They might say, “Well, I can’t make it next week, but how about the following week?” That’s great! While you are at it, mention to them if they’ve got any friends they can recruit, please bring them next time. You have to always be asking people what you need from them.
You don’t want to overload them at once, though. You can’t say, “I need this, this, and this.” You can’t say, “I need you to run this for me.” You need to start them small and work them up to higher and bigger things as you see their level of commitment and see that they are competent and they can do the job.
But volunteers are essential. I don’t care what you are running for because you can’t do everything yourself.
The bottom line is you are trying to find voters and ID them that they are voting for you or they are not voting for you. On Election Day, you want to try to get as many volunteers as you can so that they can remind your people that are voting for you to get to the polls. How important that is! And this happens in any kind of election, whether it is partisan or not partisan, a slate or not a slate, and no matter what time or season of election this is.
This is podcast is national. Here in Illinois, unfortunately we usually only have elections three times in a cycle. We have a primary in an even number year; this year it is the presidential and on down. There’s the general election in November, which just about everybody is familiar with. But then here in Illinois, in 2017 early on in the winter will be the primary and later in the spring will be the general election. Those are usually nonpartisan races for local offices.
I know in other parts of the country you have elections two and three times a year every year. Those things are broken up by different cycles and different timing. So please look at that cycle and look at that timing.
I don’t care when that general election is, start now! If you are running in 2016 and you can still get on the ballot, do it! You might not have had enough time to get completely prepared for the general election in November. So what? You just got yourself prepared for the next election cycle.
There is no harm in running twice. Many people that I work with end up running twice and twice is the charm. The first time out, you are just getting started. You are building your website. You are crafting your message. You get yourself a core of donors and a core of volunteers, but it isn’t enough to go all the way. So the second time out, you don’t really ever stop running. The second time is the charm.
I wanted to take this time just to talk with you about all of these things. These are things that are always in the back of my mind with every candidate. These are things I think about and things I worry about.
I am worry about America. I imagine if you are listening to this, you probably are, too. The only way we are going to get this changed is if people step up. They need to stop thinking they are going to run for a big office. Anybody, 99.9% of the world, is qualified if you are an American citizen to run for local office.
We just need good common sense and decent, honest people. That’s what America was built on. We need more of that. We need to bring it back. We need to take this away from those that feel they are entitled.
We need to take back schools from our unions because the unions often are running candidates. We need to realize that the parties are playing and often the parties are looking to grow government so they can have patronage workers and people at that level that they can call on for their bigger campaigns.
There are all kinds of vested interests out there that are involved in our local campaigns, trying to control them. Why? It pays off for them. We as taxpayers and the average citizens and parents and just people of good character are not being represented. Our interests are going to be represented by someone like you who is willing to volunteer and do what is right. We need a whole lot more people doing what is right.
If I can help you in any way, I am always here (firstname.lastname@example.org). I am more than happy to answer emails and your questions. That’s what I am here for. I am trying to grow a citizen army, an army of activists who are well trained and understand how to win elections so that they can get control of their local government boards and they can start making a difference and making America freer!
Talk to next week. Thanks for listening.