This is my first blog post as a former candidate. I have gained what I think is valuable insight in the last 13 months as a candidate for office as well as from the other 6 campaigns I have worked on since 2007. As a Boston Republican I offer my musings, strategies and dispatches from behind enemy lines.
There has been a great deal of soul searching, second guessing, recrimination and general gnashing of teeth over the generally dismal performance by Massachusetts Republican candidates in last Tuesday's elections. It's the State Party Chair's fault. It's the Baker Campaign's fault. It's Tim Cahill's fault. It's the Democratic machine's fault.
Since May of 2007 I have worked on/volunteered for seven campaigns ranging from a Mayoral primary in Gloucester, to City Council races in Boston, to my own campaign for State Representative, to Senator Brown's special election to the McCain Campaign from pre-primaries through election night. I am not claiming to be an expert political strategist but I think I have a reasonably broad perspective. The Campaign Plan I wrote for my race was generally regarded as one of the most detailed and thorough that any of the experts I showed it to had seen. That being said, I got shellacked 77% to 23% so feel free to take whatever I say with a grain of salt or just stop reading here.
Personally, I believe it's our fault.
The Eighth Suffolk is in Boston and Cambridge so it is a very tough district politically. By the same token it is within blocks of the State Party headquarters, the State House, Senator Brown's office and Baker/Tisei campaign headquarters. I received fundraising help from Senator Brown, Charlie Baker (and his campaign Finance Team), Jenn Nassour, Minority Leader Brad Jones and WRKO's Todd Feinburg. I got direct financial help from the Mass House GOP PAC and logistic and strategic help from the state party. I got plenty of help for which I am grateful.
What is going to help Republicans win is city, town and ward committees that recognize they are campaigns and not committees. Committees meet and talk. Campaigns plan, act and achieve. The Democrats beat us because they knew who their voters were and they got them to the polls. They also worked together up and down the ticket, pooling information and resources.
We are never going to make a significant dent at the legislative level and ultimately for constitutional offices if our candidates are forced to reinvent the wheel every two years. There is some truth to the idea that Republican Candidates have to be willing to make multiple runs and also run for local, municipal offices. However, the one permanent institution, the one constant should be the local committee.
A candidate has three jobs in a campaign. Raise money. Meet voters. Secure votes. Imagine how much more successful our candidates can be if the groundwork for that has already been laid.
From my campaign (primarily through Voter Vault and City election records) I have the name, address and good phone number for roughly 8,000 Republican and Undeclared vote in Ward 5 in my district. 15 volunteers from the Ward Committee contacting 50 voters a month means we could speak to every one of them in less than a year, identify their voting issues, recruit them to the committee and yes, ask for a donation of $10 to $50.
Out of our current committee and recruits, we need to identify 20 people who would be willing to host Meet and Greets and at least 100 who would agree to host yard/window signs. We also need to hold monthly meetings, hold public events quarterly and at least one fundraiser annually and we need to make sure our local press knows about it and writes about it. (The best way to do that is send them press releases before and after, written as news stories with photographs.) Most local papers are thrilled to fill space without having to send a reporter. We need to keep a Republican presence constantly in the public's eye.
Starting in January of 2012 we need to repeat all of the above and also recruit phone bankers, lit-droppers, poll-watchers. Any municipal elections can be used to recruit more people and be used as dry runs. We also need to look at town/city records and see who will be turning 18 before election day and get them registered. In my Ward in Boston, there are roughly 10,000 people who are eligible to vote but not registered. If we could get 10% of them that's 1,000 potential extra votes. Voter Vault already identifies High and Low Propensity voters. Our committees have to turn our LPVs into HPVs.
Granted, Boston's Ward 5 is somewhat unique. It is a compact, urban and very wealthy district. 500 donors gave Charlie Baker's campaign nearly $270,000. I believe that actually hurt my fundraising because these people are readily identifiable and targets of every statewide campaign at the least. However the basic campaign plan if replicated by committees across the state could significantly change the results for campaigns up and down the ticket.
Imagine for a moment if a candidate for State Representative or Senate came to their local committee and expressed an interest in running and the response was "Great. Here's $1000 to help get you started and here is the contact information for the 400 small dollar donors who have contributed to our committee in the last year. Here is the list of the 20 people who have expressed an interest in hosting a Coffee Hour to introduce you to their friends and here is the list of 100 people who will host yard/window signs. Here is our list of phone bank volunteers and this list is people who will go door-to-door for you. We have a lawyer and two realtors who will let your campaign use their offices for phone banking. Oh, and on election day we have volunteer poll watchers who will provide updates to your campaign as to who has voted as of 10 am, 2 pm and 6 pm."
Will it be easy? No. But it's how we get more and better candidates. It's our job and it's how we win.