Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Campaigning

Last night I went to the Barry Hobbis fundraising event at the Bard and Banker.   I am very pleased to see that Barry and his team are taking the election seriously.   There were about 40-45 people there that had paid $50 each for free food and booze.   I hate to be critical of the event, but I am going to be because I want to see everyone run a better campaign when running for council.


In 2008 Barry ran for council as a one man band and did generially OK compared to the other people that lost, but he was way outside of the money.   This time around Barry is the first one of the mark and is running a real campaign.  Still with a long lead since he announced, his campaign on the ground has not been in evidence.    I would have recommended he and team had been out door knocking since July and really no later than Labour day.   He had a team and he had a time lead but he allowed this to be lost.   I would have also hosted the fundraising event in July, not now.

At the event there was not any moment in which Barry gathered the people there together and addressed them.  There was no one there making sure everyone there was committing to helping with the campaign.   There was no one there asking for $500 to $1000 donations.   Given the look of the crowd, there were some people there that could give that much.

As an aside, the crowd was old, as a 45 year old I felt like I was the youth movement there.   This is not Barry's fault, it is simply a reality of politics these days, the people that come out are older and older each and every year.

If anyone tells you "You need to run for council a few times for your name to be known and before you can elected", you are listening to someone giving you bad advice.   Yes, people need to know your name, but almost no one in this City remembers even a handful of the names of the people that ran and lost in 2008, let alone 2005.  Name recognition matters but you do not get that from running for council.   You should be able to do that in your election campaign. 

A candidate should expect to effectively have no life other than meeting with the public for the month in the lead up to the election.   This hard for someone with a 9-5 job, but if you have one of those odds are you will not be able to sit on council in any case.   A candidate should be shaking hands for close to 12 hours a day 7 days a week during the campaign.  

In 2008 way too many ran for council in this region with no team and spent their own money on the election.   A lot of people were elected despite these huge errors.    Here are some things anyone running for council needs to be thinking about.

1) You need to have a campaign manager - you have to have to someone that organizes where you are campaigning, organizing fundraising events, delegating tasks to volunteers, planning print materials, working with the media.  Basically the campaign manager does everything expect shake hands.   The idea is that this one person makes sure the candidate does not waste time doing other than meeting people.

2) If you are spending your own money, then you are not getting donations.   If you are not getting donations this is a good indication of how strong your support is.   Running for Victoria City Council you should be expect to be able to raise $50 from 200 people or $20 from 500.  If you can not do this you really have to ask yourself why you expect people will vote for you.   If you support is so weak that people will not give you money, you are wasting your time.

Ideally you need someone to ask for money for you.   You need someone that can contact all your friends and relatives and ask them for money for your campaign.   This person has to be someone that will not accept no as an answer and pushes early to raise a lot of money.

3) Volunteer manager - if you have a campaign manager and someone to raise money, next you need someone to organize people willing to support your campaign by volunteering.   This is a big job because once you are over 15-20 supporters, it takes someone fulltime to contact people and knowing what jobs people are doing and when they are being done.  The volunteer manager also looks for more volunteers. 

In an election you should be aiming to have one volunteer per 300 voters as a minimum.  I know that is very hard to reach and almost no one running for council can get organized well enough and early enough to do this.   If can get to this level, you can run an election day campaign to get out the vote.   In a municipal campaign in Victoria this is worth several thousand votes, possibly as much as 5000 votes.   In a provincial or federal election it is worth much less.   The reason for this difference is because a lot more people might or might not vote in a municipal election and are typically not as certain in their voting decision.   You can get a lot of people to vote that would not have voted.   An E-Day campaign takes a lot of work and a lot of volunteers and has to be something you plan for from the start of the campaign.

4) The partner of the candidate has a special role, they are there to take care of all of the personal needs of the candidate, they are the ones that drive them to where they are going, makes sure they have breakfast ready when they get up, that all the cooking, cleaning and housework is done.   They are the ones that make sure the candidate can campaign for 12 hours a day and not burn out.  They are also the person the candidate can vent at and complain to about what is going on.

The partner of a candidate should not under any circumstance be the campaign manager or some senior role in the campaign.

5) Build a team - it is amazing how few election campaigns build a real team.  A strong team builds energy and enthuses everyone to do more, to make that extra push to get the votes needed.

6) Canadians are polite liars.   People ask for a leaflet or brochure so that they can get you to leave them alone, the odds that they are going to actually read it is very, very low.   Many people will imply in a round about way that they will support you in the election, you have to take this with a grain of salt because most people do not want to be rude and tell you they are not voting for you.

You can get elected to local council by doing none of the things I have listed but it means that the election comes down to who has a better known name than anything else.   In 2008 Lynn Hunter was elected to City Council because she was well known to the public from having been an MP, not because she campaigned well and she is only one of many examples from around the region and did no better or no worse than the vast majority of people running.

If you have a strong campaign that is well organized you can win in any election to council against long time incumbents.  You will know you have had a good campaign if you as the candidate have shaken more hands than people that vote in the election.
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