RPT Campaign Manager School Is A Success
The RPT's Campaign Manager School was held in Downtown Austin on June 13-15, 2011, and proved to be a tremendous success. There were lofty expectations for the event, as initial interest was very high. By the final deadline for registration, RPT staff had received three times as many applications for the school as there were spots available. In response to the overwhelming interest, RPT is already planning a second Campaign Manager School for later in the year. We also identified a demand for, and are working to develop an intensive Grassroots School and Candidate Training School in Austin. Details for these programs will be announced to all RPT campaign manager school applicants and via statewide email, website and Facebook.
Political consultant Ryan Erwin kicked off the campaign school by establishing the importance of a plan as the foundation for any successful campaign organization. In less than an hour, this multi-state veteran set the stage for the three day school by leading the students through a broad introduction to building a winning campaign strategy by focusing on clearly defined steps to preparing a realistic finance plan, an accurate voter targeting goal, and the resources of an advocacy plan.
Our next presenter was Scott Yeldell, chief of staff for Congressman Quico Canseco (R-San Antonio). Scott led a discussion on managing resources in a political campaign - finances, time and volunteers. With his experience in 2010 as a successful campaign manager in the Texas 23rd Congressional District in 2010 (one of the most competitive races in the country), Scott's insights into the topic were exceptionally reasoned and appreciated.
Well-known Austin attorney Donna Davidson stopped by the school next to give a comprehensive overview of campaign ethics and finance law for the students. In a rapid-fire presentation, Donna ran through a list of do's and dont's that have both helped and hurt many Texas campaigns over the past decades, and took questions from the students on best practices to help keep their candidates in full compliance with state law.
In a world where smartphones and Twitter can make any public appearance into a potential evening news story, Jenifer Sarver, chief of staff to Ambassador Karen Hughes, spoke at length on the importance of professionalism in political campaigns and organizations. Jenifer gave students much to think about, with several real-life examples of what to watch for and guard against in the pursuit of excellence in campaigns.
RPT Communications Director Chris Elam gave a brief run-through on how to conduct district analysis in both a primary and general election scenario. With experience in races ranging from school board to Presidential campaigns, Chris challenged the students to be able to identify and distinguish raw numbers and historical election analysis from other important intangibles unique to every district, race and candidate, and how to blend those factors together in order to arrive at an accurate analysis.
The lunch speaker on the first day was State Representative Larry Gonzales (R-Round Rock), who generously spent well over an hour with the students speaking on the topic of life as a candidate. Even before his election in 2010, Gonzales was well-known in the Texas Legislature - having worked nine regular legislative sessions as a senior staffer for members of the House, Lt. Governor and Attorney General. Accompanying Rep. Gonzales was his chief of staff and former campaign manager, Chris Sanchez, who Larry frequently referenced and referred to during his talk with the students. Hearing directly from a candidate with such depth of campaign and legislative experience was extremely insightful and we are grateful to the representative for being so generous with his time.
Following lunch, the students were treated to an excellent presentation from Keats Norfleet with the Election Group, LLC who shared some tremendous insights into an important topic for any campaign manager - how to manage the candidate. Keats was a 2001 graduate of the RPT's Campaign Manager School, and spoke about how he was able to use the lessons and insight he gained 10 years ago to become a highly successful campaign manager and consultant throughout Texas. His presentation was very helpful and well-received.
One of the most prolific Republican campaign and volunteer instructors of the state was up next. Derek Ryan, of Ryan Data & Research, has trained thousands of Republican activists, volunteers and professionals in his many years as both an independent consultant and formerly as an RPT staff member. Derek offered students a highly valuable list of effective ways to utilize opposition research in a campaign of any size, and a comprehensive "Ten Commandments" / best-practices formula for success.
The first day ended with discussions on campaign finance and the importance of fundraising to any candidate or political organization. Up first was well-known Republican fundraiser Susan Lilly - a veteran GOP fundraiser with an impeccable reputation and consistently named at the top of her field in Texas. Susan discussed the steps and development of a strong finance plan, and the importance of candidate involvement in its success.
RPT Finance Director Keri Mason followed up Susan's presentation with a discussion on the nuts and bolts of event planning and direct mail solicitation as it applies to a campaign organization. Keri brought several samples to share with the students and led a very practical Q&A session on how these items are a crucial component to campaigns of every size.
Media and advertising was the theme of the morning session, and the day kicked off with a great discussion from Mark Miner - one of the best PR and marketing advisors in Texas, currently serving on staff with Governor Rick Perry. Mark talked at length about earned media and its importance to a political campaign, relating several stories and examples on how a campaign manager can be proactive in developing a strategy for its use.
Following Miner was Will Franklin, well-known throughout Republican circles for his creative and effective use of social media in several grassroots and statewide campaign efforts. Will gave the students an informative talk about not only the platforms and mechanisms available for campaigning through social media, but stressed the importance of consolidating and unifying a plan for a consistent, content-rich message.
Daron Shaw, an experienced pollster and survey research analyst, was up next to lend his expertise on the subject of polling and research, and a best practices discussion on how campaigns can effectively use polling to shape and guide the campaign to victory. His presentation generated a great Q&A session with the students and was very insightful.
Chairman Steve Munisteri was the featured lunch speaker and took the opportunity to encourage the students to aspire to active leadership and set an example of service within the Republican Party and Texas politics. He shared some great stories from his own early days in politics during the late '70's as Texas became an important component of the campaign for Ronald Reagan, through the hard work of young men and women who launched a conservative, Republican revolution in Texas that continues today.
After lunch, well-known Texas Republican campaign consultants Chris Turner of Murphy Turner Associates and Kevin Shuvalov of Olsen & Shuvalov, led a panel discussion on direct mail campaigns. Turner brought a multimedia presentation featuring a sample of campaign photographs that his firm has used to reflect and amplify the message of campaigns they had managed. Likewise, Shuvalov presented students with a large number of printed samples for illustration and discussion. The panel focused on how message driven mail campaigns help win elections, the best practices for voter targeting, and tips and tricks on design elements and scheduling to help the students learn an insider's perspective on building a solid direct mail foundation for their future candidates. Both men were able to share numerous, detailed instances and samples to drive home their instruction and it was an extremely insightful opportunity for the students.
Following direct mail, the topic shifted to TV advertising and planning through a presentation from Vinny Minchillo - an award-winning creative with Scott Howell & Company. Vinny led students through a full discussion on the nuts and bolts of developing a creative and practical TV plan for campaigns which can afford it, and gave a thorough explanation of the terms and procedures associated with implementing and buying such a campaign.
In the late afternoon session, students were treated to two more panel presentations. The first featured a discussion on Hispanic Outreach and its importance to Republicans in Texas featuring Miguel Romano, President of Associated Republicans of Texas (ART). Students held a great Q&A with Miguel and gained an active, grassroots insight into success the GOP has experienced in partnership with members of the Hispanic community, ongoing challenges, and the plan for future growth in 2012.
The second panel focused on building an effective ground game, and the importance of such in every campaign. Leading the discussion were Houston area political consultant Jessica Colón and State Representative Jason Isaac - two individuals with a deep, personal understanding of the power of grassroots organization and volunteerism. Both shared key tips and insights on the day-to-day activities and planning that go into building the ground game and translating it into meaningful gains and victory on Election Day.
The final presentation was by RPT Organization Director Beth Cubriel, who gave a presentation on building a leadership team and keeping them busy, organized and focused on winning votes and earning victory. As former State Field Director for Senator John Cornyn, Beth gave the students valuable tips and practices for maintaining a well-developed organization for a race of any size.
At the end of the second day, the students were divided into five separate teams and given a detailed homework assignment to come up with a full campaign plan for a fictional State Representative race in Texas. The students were instructed to demonstrate a full understanding of the topics and best practices that were presented over the two days of the school, and to implement those topics into a realistic campaign plan for Wednesday morning. The teams worked late into the night on the assignment - one group until 4:00am! Final presentations were made on Wednesday morning for critique and judging by RPT staff and Chairman Munisteri, and all of the plans were deemed excellent. At the conclusion of the presentations, RPT staff offered some final thoughts and suggestions for the students on how they can best manage their personal careers and arrive at the decisions and opportunities to make the best possible impact for Republican campaigns in Texas.
The Republican Party of Texas wishes to thank all of the students for their participation and professionalism during the three-day event. The students in attendance were: Austen Bailey, Landon Bell, Michael Bennett, Russell Booth, Marshall Bowen, John Buxie, Nick Carona, Chandler Cochran, Mark Dalton, Araminta Everton, Leslie Hancock, Austin Holder, Jordan Langdon, Ryan Mauldin, Will McAdams, Kelton Miller, Naomi Narvaiz, Rachel Nicholson, Ryan Paylor, Annette Ratliff, Amy Rister, Amanda Robertson, Catherine Rodman, Thomas Washington, David Whitley, and Ben Zeller.
The RPT also thanks each of our presenters for their willingness to be an instructor! The candid discussions and combined experience were tremendous insights for all of the students and will be of great help to not only their future careers in campaign management, but for the future of the Republican Party. We also thank the many elected officials and references who sponsored and recommended the students to the RPT. Special thanks is also extended to the sponsors of our Campaign Management School - Murphy, Turner and Associates; Erwin, Casteel and Associates; Olsen & Shuvalov; Lilly and Company.
Details on the next RPT Campaign Manager School will be announced by late summer.