Campaigning 101 – Finding A Campaign Manager

(10 am. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

The Dog has done his level best to try to give aspiring politicians every single chance to be scared off by the enormity of the task they are taking on by throwing their hat into the ring. So far it does not seem to have sunk in nor actually sent anyone screaming for the hills. The Dog is very proud of all of you silly people for being this resolute. That is the good news. Now for the bad news, it is time to get down the real nitty-gritty of this process. This installment of the Campaigning 101 is going to talk about finding a campaign manager.  

 If you are running for City Council of a small town or hamlet, then you might, just might get away without having an official and professional campaign manager. You will still need a campaign committee, who will keep all the little things off your shoulders as the candidate, but don’t kid yourself, it is going to take away from your time with the people (aka voters) and that can hurt your chances.

The thing about campaign managers is the good professional ones are pretty damned expensive. This is not just because they are good; it is because the profession they have dedicated their lives and livelihoods to is a cyclical one with a big chunk of down time in the middle of the cycle. This means that they will need to make their money in the campaign season and they charge accordingly. To complicate your search there is a difference between a race in a targeted district (meaning that one or both of the major Party’s are looking at the district for a pick up or defense of the seat in the case of an incumbent), and one that is in a district that is not targeted. Then there is the question of full time versus part time.

As a candidate you, of course, want a full time campaign manager. After all this is the person you want to off load all those pesky details to so you can focus on wining the trust of the people to the point where they will vote for you. But there is a question of overkill. Even in a State Rep race it is hard to have enough real work for professional to spend all their time on. Once you graduate to a full State campaign or a US House or Senate seat this changes but, for most of the folks that are reading this series that is the next level, assuming that we are all successful (or not to badly spanked) in this cycle.

A part-time professional campaign manager is going to require a salary of somewhere between $2,000 to $5,000 a month. Those of you will some inherent math ability will be thinking, “Wait! I need this person for 12 months, so that is between $24,000 and $60,000 for a campaign manager?!?”  Yes, that is what it is going to cost if you employ this person for 12 months. Now knowing this, you have to rethink some of your assumptions, don’t you?

Ideally, you would be sure that you can raise so much money that this is not an issue. There is will be plenty for everything else that you need, so buy the best that money can buy! For the rest of us this means that we have to look into other options. One is that maybe you don’t really need a professional campaign manager. It is scary as hell, but you might be in the position of trusting your political aspirations to someone that is half your age. Take a deep breath and get used to that idea, it happens all the time and if you are going to get all spun up about it, then you might need to go back to the Gut Check stage to make sure this what you want to do.

Now that you are calmer, let’s think this through. There are all kinds of young folks that are just as active and aggressive as you are about change and serving the people, the question is finding them, right? Where do such people spend their time? Well mostly in college, in political science programs. They also are the ones that are the tireless staffers in at the Progress Now or MoveOn offices. Hell, they may be some of your younger cousins (if you come form an enormous Irish family like the Dog) or nieces and nephews.

Finding the right person is going to take some thought on your part. Remember, this is the person that is going to keep both you and your campaign on track. You are going to spend a lot of time with them, and they are often going to tell you to do things you would rather not. Look for someone that is simpatico with you that is not going to be that impressed with the idea that you will be a legislator of some kind. You will have plenty of people that will stroke your ego for you, what you need, desperately need, is someone that can tell truth to power and not have it degenerate into a screaming match.

A good candidate will also need the following attributes:

Enthusiastic – You can not afford a pessimist in this position, they will drag you and you campaign down.

Organized – This is a complete must. They will need to be one of those people that can keep everything in their head, but document and organize it all anyway. If your campaign manager is disorganized so is your campaign.

Good Communication – You are the one that has to be charming and trustworthy, but your campaign manager has to be able to talk and write to the staff, someone that is not good at this is going to have a real problem getting things done.

Pragmatic – Your campaign plan is going to change because of events. This is a surety, so you will need a campaign manager that will deal with the current state of play and not be seduced by “the way things should be”.

If you can find someone that is looking to learn this craft then you have the makings of a good paring. You can have your full time campaign manager (you will still have to pay them) but at a lesser cost. You will still want the professional, but now you can bring them in much later. Or you could hire them as a coach (not a consultant, that is not what you want, you want a tutor for your newbie manager, not someone that just use them like a robot). This approach is a less expensive, though you are trading risk (a reduction in the chance of winning) for a reduction in cost.

Does that seem like a bad deal? Well, welcome to the fun filled world of running for office, this is not the last trade off you are going to have to make, so take it for the learning opportunity it is. The good news is that your opponent, even if he or she is totally self financing is going to have to make these same kind of trade offs. Running for office is a game of optimization, based on shifting parameters. That is why there are so many paths to victory and defeat. Don’t expect this to be a one way kind of thing, there is always another choice that you could make and it leads to a whole array of further choices.

If you are not getting a seasoned (some call it blooded) professional, you are going to want to send your campaign manager to training, maybe more than one. Wellstone Action! has classes in both beginning and advanced campaign management. You can find out what they entail and where they are being held by following this link. If you are going to do this, get started, you only have 18 months left before Election Day!

Now, your task is to go back to your budget and start plugging in the new costs and see what it will take to get you the best possible campaign management while still keeping you costs down. This is the real work of campaigning, you can do it, so don’t procrastinate!

The floor is yours.  


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  1. want to send the Dog a resume?  

  2. Just after Christmas, I took a two week/four credit class in campaign management and I just finished a class in non-candidate campaigning. Those classes are one of the reasons I picked American University. (Insert obligatory “fuck Georgetown” comment.)

    I, along with four other grad students, spent two weeks writing a 250+ campaign plan for a candidate for mayor of Atlanta. It wasn’t easy. It wasn’t fun. It was more than most campaigns do and that is why they fail.

    After that, I can say that everything the Dog says here is 100 percent accurate.

    And if the Dog (or anyone else) wants my resume, say the word.


  3. Thx for the LOLZ….

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