Earlier this month, the Republican Party of Texas hosted a successful Local Candidate Training Seminar in Austin. We understand that, while retaining the Governor’s Mansion and every other statewide elected office on the ballot in 2014 is important, it is equally as important to focus on our “down ballot” races and supply those candidates with the resources necessary to win. That’s why we invited candidates from Justice of the Peace to County Judge to State Representative to Austin for a two day seminar covering every aspect of a well run, grassroots campaign. After the seminar concluded, attendees offered high praise for the speakers and the seminar as a whole.
The seminar began with Mia Garza McCord, Chief of Staff and Political Advisor to State Senator Kelly Hancock, presenting on the fundamentals of writing a campaign plan. Mia discussed the importance of creating a budget, developing a campaign calendar, and setting goals throughout the campaign as a measurement of our success. Following Mia’s presentation, Mike Baselice, a well respected Texas pollster with Baselice & Associates, gave a brief overview of how a campaign should develop a messaging strategy. Mike also shared with participants some general opinion trends he has seen throughout the state.
The next presentation was by Jarod Love, political consultant with Flint Rock Consulting and former Executive Director of Victory Texas, discussing the process of creating a budget early in a campaign. Jarod covered the many areas a campaign needs to budget funds for, how to develop a budget based on anticipated fundraising, and how to adjust to actual fundraising totals. After a short break, Eric Bearse of Bearse & Company talked about direct mail. Not only did Eric cover the various types of direct mail a campaign may wish to do, he also gave a detailed description of the various aspects of each type of mail piece.
In the last presentation before lunch, Todd Olson, President of Olsen & Company, discussed the importance of setting goals and benchmarks early in a campaign. Todd stressed the importance of a campaign holding itself accountable to those benchmarks. Jordan Berry, political consultant and adviser to the Ted Cruz campaign, gave a very educational presentation on earned media. During his presentation, Jordan covered different approaches a campaign can take to gain earned media and how to maximize the impact earned media can have on a campaign.
Spencer Yeldell, Communications Director for the RPT, followed Jordan with an explanation on how to run a successful phone bank. During his presentation, Spencer covered volunteer recruitment, the prep work involved before volunteers arrive and the campaign headquarters, and some best practices for volunteer retention. Following Spencer was Cassie Daniel, Organizational Director for the RPT. Cassis spoke on the party structure at the national, state, and local level as well as various ways to utilize the resources the party can provide.
Sarah Floerke, Deputy Campaign Manager for Attorney General Greg Abbott, gave a presentation on the details of hosting a successful campaign event. In addition to providing useful insight on event planning, Sarah also fielded a variety of questions from the audience regarding details that are often overlooked in campaign strategy. Scott Yeldell, political consultant with Marathon Communication, spoke after Sarah on the importance of block walking. During Scott’s presentation, he covered the basics of putting together a successful volunteer walk and some strategies for targeting voters in your walk list.
The final speaker of the first day was Christin Evans, Finance Coordinator for the RPT. Christin offered insightful techniques for raising money for local races from both large dollar and small dollar donors.
Kicking off the second day was Chris Elam, former Deputy Executive Director for the RPT and current campaign manager for Jerry Patterson. Chris conducted a very beneficial training on the best practices when speaking with the media. Donna Garcia Davidson, a well respected ethics attorney and current counsel for the RPT, followed Chris. Donna offered a comprehensive overview of what it takes to run a campaign within the legal boundaries as well as a number of tips on filing reports with the Ethics Commission.
Understand the importance of social media on campaigns in the 21st century, our next speaker was Vincent Harris, President and CEO of Harris Media. Vincent gave a thorough explanation of the many ways to utilize online and social media in a campaign. Vincent was followed by Ted Delisi, also of Flint Rock Consulting, who offered techniques to manage outside interest groups and garner support from like minded organizations.
Following lunch, Derek Ryan of Ryan Data & Research, discussed the importance of research early in a campaign. Derek covered the information candidates may need to research about themselves as well as what they may need to know about their opponents. State Rep. Tony Dale spoke after Derek and offered a first-hand account of what it’s like being on the campaign trail. Representative Dale offered great advice to attendees regarding prioritizing family commitments during a campaign.
The next presenter was John McCord, Political Director for the RPT, who gave a demonstration on GOP Data Center and how campaigns can utilize this technology to target their message. John was followed by David Zapata, Hispanic Engagement Director for the party who spoke on the changing demographics of the state.
The school was concluded by RPT Chairman Steve Munisteri who offered some personal experiences from his many years of campaigning. The Chairman also offered some words of encouragement as candidates departed the seminar and stressed the importance of simply being involved with your community.