As a “newcomer” to politics, Leadership Institute graduate Bill Wright won a board member seat in his life-long hometown of Vermilion County, Illinois by 55 votes! “The race was a 'vote for three' type arrangement and there were four of us running for the three open positions. I was running against three incumbents, all from the opposite party, who ran as a team,” Bill continued. “Some say I am the first of my party to win a seat in this district in 50-plus years."
The Second Amendment--“A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed” – has been under great scrutiny the past few weeks.
Since Sarah Morrison's May 2012 graduation from Northern Michigan University, she has been busy. She’s been a summer camp head lifeguard, a fall 2012 field representative for the Leadership Institute, and since January, she’s been the special assistant to the National Rifle Association (NRA) President David Keene.
“The NRA is playing a large role in the public policy debate over the 23 new executive orders, along with Sen. Feinstein's new gun ban,” Sarah said.
Sarah helps the NRA president with his many scheduling requests and briefs him on particular issues. Additionally, her responsibilities include processing mail, fielding emails, and filing expense reports.
Fred Cooper and his political accounts division at The RainMakers Organization raised $5 million in 2012 for political organizations and candidates. He worked for: Rep. Michele Bachmann (MN-6); Rep. Steve King (IA-4) as his DC PAC director; and for Indiana Treasurer Richard Mourdock, candidate for the U.S. Senate, as the campaign's national finance director. Fred first learned of LI through the field rep working at his college. After taking LI's Student Publications Workshop in college, Fred accepted a position as an LI field rep after graduation. Later, Fred managed a local judicial race and then worked the Ohio victory office for presidential candidate John McCain.
Sunday America swore in her 44th president for a second term. Twenty-eight years ago—in 1985—America bestowed a second term to the 40th President Ronald Reagan. His personal assistant Peggy Grande, a Leadership Institute graduate and volunteer faculty member, worked a decade for the former president who was loved dearly by many conservatives.
“From the time I was young my dad always said, ‘Someone has to have that job you want – and it might as well be you!’ How right he was,” Peggy shared with me. “I never could have predicted that a small town girl like me who dreamed of going to DC but stayed in southern California and studied communications and business, not politics or government, would wind up sitting at the feet of greatness! Likewise, only in America can a young boy named Ronald Reagan, from a poor family with an alcoholic father, raised in the Midwest grow up to be president and not only lead our nation, but become the leader of the free world.”
If you’ve met Leadership Institute graduate Lynda Fairman you have been graced with a gentle powerhouse of knowledge and dedication. The blonde-headed, bouncy-curled, and smile-beaming woman works with a tenacity second to none.
It’s no wonder she was selected as the Republican Party of Virginia’s ‘Volunteer of the Year.’
“This award is quite an honor, especially since so many volunteers throughout Virginia dedicated hundreds of hours to our candidates in the critical 2012 election,” Lynda told me. “This award is less of a reflection of what I did, and more on what all of the volunteers in York County did through our 2012 Campaign Plan and Campaign Victory Headquarters.”
Lynda is serving a two-year term as chairman of the York County Republican Committee in Virginia, where her focus has been on developing the headquarters building and operations manual as well as putting together the campaign plan.
“When I ran for county chairman in March 2012, my focus was three-fold: learn to win (through education/training); plan to win (set plans with goals); and work to win (provide areas for citizens to put boots on the ground for our candidates),” Lynda said.
“When we were able to secure a headquarters for the 2012 election, I was able to use many of the lessons learned from my Leadership Institute training,” Lynda said. “I still remember LI President Morton Blackwell’s session on making sure your volunteers were comfortable in clean surroundings and made to feel welcome. As every candidate and state official visited our headquarters, the common comment was, ‘This is the nicest headquarters in the entire state!’ My focus is on doing the needed jobs the best we can, on a budget, and with style. The number of general citizens who stopped by just to get yard signs and then stayed to volunteer and help phone bank, man the headquarters, and door knock was proof that we’re on the right track. ”
Leadership Institute graduate and former intern Chris Perkins was recently named the top Texas pollster by Capitol Inside’s bi-partisan “Political Consultants Power Rankings.”
Maybe you’ve heard of some his clients: Texas Rep. Doc Anderson, Texas Rep. Greg Bonnen, Texas Senator Donna Campbell, Texas Rep. Stefani Carter, Texas Railroad Commissioner Christi Craddick, U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, Texas Rep. Tony Dale, Texas Senator Kelly Hancock, Texas Rep. Charles Perry, Texas Senator Larry Taylor, Texas Rep. James White as well as Texans for Lawsuit Reform, Texas Republican Representatives Campaign Committee, and Conservative Republicans of Texas, just to name a few.
Helping Ted Cruz win and head into the U.S. Senate this month was one of Chris’ professional highlights.
“Ted Cruz’s win was huge—for many reasons,” Chris told me. “It was great to be involved with such a great man—Mr. Cruz—knowing his heart is in the right place and knowing he’ll do great things for conservatives in the U.S. Senate.”
“The first poll I did for Cruz was in July 2011 and had him at 2 percent (with only a quarter of likely Texas voters that had ever heard him) - and the margin of error was 3 percent. So it was a tall order and a full team effort taking him from 2 percent in the polls into the United States Senate,” Chris said. “For me personally, it validates our firm’s polling accuracy – which is the best in the country – and validates the methodological tools we provide to campaigns that show how voters move behind certain messages, how they gravitate toward candidates based on what type of information that they are receiving, and what issues we are attacked on that we leave alone.”
Winning a U.S. senate seat is no small feat. It takes integrating thoughtful strategy with hard work months before Election Day.
Leadership Institute graduate Sam Stone has volunteered and worked on campaigns since he was 17 years old, and he’s not stopping now. Sam works as the Arizona state director for FreedomWorks, an organization that recruits, educates, trains, and mobilizes millions of volunteer activists to fight for less government, lower taxes, and more freedom.
“FreedomWorks for America ran a statewide grassroots campaign in support of Jeff Flake for Senate. We set goals to make over 100,000 phone calls, knock on 200,000 doors, and distribute 15,000 signs,” Sam said. “It's not glamorous stuff. It just wins races. Every day, we organized teams of volunteers to go out there in the Arizona sun and grind out the win.”
And “grind out the win” they did.
Republican Jeff Flake, having served in the lower chamber of Congress since 2001, will now return to Washington, D.C., but this time as a senator from Arizona.
When former Arizona Senator Jon Kyl retired, two candidates emerged to fill the vacancy: Jeff Flake and former Surgeon General Richard Carmona, who campaigned as an Independent. Flake brought home the victory in November with 49.7 percent of the vote, while Carmona carried 45.8 percent.
“Jeff Flake can save America. No, seriously,” Sam shared with the Leadership Institute. “Other than perhaps Paul Ryan, there is no greater advocate for limited government, fiscal sanity, and reduced spending than Jeff Flake. He led the fight against earmarks. He's one of the few congressmen who understand the risks of our ballooning national deficit. Ten years ago, Greece was in a very similar economic position to where we are today. Jeff Flake is exactly the kind of man we need in the Senate to change that trajectory.”
You are never too young to make a difference in the public policy process, and for some, to run a winning campaign and serve in an official capacity is the way to do it.
Red Alert Politics recently named Derek Merrin as one of its Top 30 Influential Conservatives Under the Age of 30, and rightly so.
At just 19 years old and still a college student at the University of Toledo, Derek Merrin was elected in 2005 as councilman for the 5,500-person City of Waterville in Ohio. Derek broke the all-time record by receiving the most votes for a council seat, he said.
While a councilman, Derek supported placing a 115 percent limit on capital spending, through which the city could not spend 115 percent more than it anticipated receiving in revenue. The five-year capital budget was readjusted and saved taxpayers more than $600,000, Derek shared.
The following year—in 2006—Derek came to the Leadership Institute to take the week-long Campaign Leadership School, now called the Campaign Management School, which prepares campaign managers and candidates for their rigorous races.
“At the Leadership Institute, I gained a better understanding of how to win elections. Specifically, I learned how to optimize limited resources by identifying voters based on their voting history,” Derek said.
One year after Derek took LI’s campaign training—then at age 21—he was elected in 2007 as mayor of Waterville, beating a three-term Democratic incumbent and becoming the youngest mayor in the state of Ohio.
North Carolina was a bright spot for conservatives in the 2012 election, and it took solid work from people like Leadership Institute graduate Ashton Godwin, a native of Wilmington, North Carolina, to get the job done.
Ashton, in his twenties, served as the campaign manager for Brian Brown, the newly elected District 9 Representative in the North Carolina House of Representatives. Brian ran against Democratic incumbent Marian McLawhorn, first elected in 1999.
“We were the new guys as far as local politics goes, but in the end our efforts illustrated what a motivated, energetic, qualified, and concerned citizen/candidate Brian Brown is,” Ashton said. “We were able to effectively reach out to voters in our district and promote our message. In the days leading up to the election, the GOTV methods presented in the Leadership Institute’s Campaign Management School provided me with the ability and confidence to motivate voters to get to the polls.”
“My candidate, as well as myself, were new to running for office,” Ashton said. “We agreed that we needed to be seen and heard by as many voters as possible. We utilized multiple methods to connect with voters. One of the most effective and inexpensive methods was door to door canvassing. Personally, I knocked on hundreds of doors in the last two weeks leading up to Election Day.”
This week’s national political scene has most Americans full attention. However, as LI’s President Morton Blackwell writes in his 27th Law of the Public Policy Process, “Remember it’s a long ball game.”
Initially, politics starts locally.
And, for 27-year-old Zachary Holder, he’s running as a Republican for circuit clerk in his home county of Richland in Illinois.
Richland County is comprised of 16,233 people and has not elected a GOP circuit clerk since 1968.
“The race is turning out to be very competitive and I am using all the Leadership Institute tricks I learned,” Zachary said. “A conservative win would allow a different approach to county government. A conservative would look at the office differently. I would look to see how they can make the office more efficient, save money, and integrate technology to be more productive. Currently, the circuit clerk’s office does not have a website or accept any electronic form of payment.”
The circuit clerk serves as the administrative arm of the judiciary.
“I have worked for the Republican National Committee, the Illinois House Republican Organization, and other races,” Zachary said. “It is not too different to be the candidate running in your hometown. My days are spent making phone calls, walking door to door, attending dinners, and trying to raise money. I am taking on the last liberal strong hold in the county.”