Last week 42 campaign managers, future candidates, and conservative activists of all sorts flocked to the Leadership Institute in Arlington, VA to learn from campaign experts at LI’s Campaign Management School (CMS).
Over the course of four days and 25 training lectures, motivated conservatives acquired the tools needed to organize, finance, and run successful campaigns.
Lisa Fitzhugh works for Maryland State Senator and Former Minority Leader Nancy Jacobs, who is running to represent citizens in Maryland’s Congressional district 2 to defeat Dutch Ruppersberger.
“I so appreciate the respect this training has for us and our ability to increase the conservative message in our communities,” Lisa said. “Campaigns are notorious for being fast-paced, and the value this training brings to our campaigns is immeasurable. It gives us the tools to get our message across.”
On the first day of the CMS, attendees learned how to use opposition research to their advantage, write and develop campaign plans, finance a campaign, develop an effective message, and decipher polling data.
Mike Allen is a veteran of the U.S. Army, serving as a command sergeant major and currently serves as a campaign manager in Georgia’s district 12. Mike was asked by his candidate to become the manager of his campaign, a career shift that required him to quit his previous job.
“As this is my very first time involved in campaigning, I came to this school to find the baseline for what I should be doing and implementing,” he said. “I just wish I’d come before.”
On Day 2, the CMS lectures focused on targeting and calculating vote goals, building coalitions, grassroots machines, door-to-door campaigning, and contacting voters via phone banks. LI President Morton Blackwell also delivered a comprehensive lecture on handling negative information to protect your candidate’s image.
“To deflect negative attacks against you or your candidate, your aim is to end the usefulness of the story against you as soon as possible,” Morton said. He then proceeded to list six strategies to extinguish the negative accusations.
While the CMS focuses on campaigning, the principles can be applied to other types of activism. Three attendees, Les Riley, Gualberto Garcia Jones, and Drew Hymer, work with affiliates of Personhood USA.
“The lectures provide good information on grassroots mobilization and getting people involved,” said Les, who founded Personhood Mississippi and drafted the legal language for an initiative that would seek to define the unborn as “persons” in the state constitution. His “Personhood Amendment” has already amassed more than 130,000 signatures and gained the support of former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee.
Similarly, Lisa Donovan, vice chair of the Upstate Conservative Coalition in New York, is launching a grassroots effort to fight unfunded mandates in her state and mobilize people to overturn regulations that she believes are placed unfairly upon her state without proper access to funding.
“The Campaign Management School gives a good overview of what’s important for activism,” Lisa said. “I’ve been so impressed by the faculty. They’re so knowledgeable and experienced.”
Day 3 of the CMS covered topics such as writing a finance plan, recruiting a finance committee, asking for donations, fundraising with events, direct mail fundraising, establishing a voter registration plan, running an absentee voting program, and planning a ground game for getting out the vote (GOTV).
“I think anyone who is serious about running for office should go through LI’s Campaign Management and Future Candidate schools, as well as the TV trainings,” said Jacob Turk, who is running for U.S. Congress as a Republican from Missouri’s 5th district. “What you learn during the CMS will help you be a much better candidate and run a much better campaign.”
On the final day of the CMS attendees learned about the latest campaign technologies, implementing a voter mail program, creating effective ads for paid media, hiring and firing consultants, the procedures for buying media space, tips and techniques for handling earned media, as well as completing and fine-tuning a winning strategy.
The shift toward media focus was of particular interest to Chuck Paris, another veteran of the U.S. Army who is working to bring on-camera media training to combat veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
“Many veterans return from war and have trouble being personable,” Chuck said. “I want to train them to handle media, and these LI courses give me the credentials. I wouldn’t spend my money and time if it wasn’t superb.” Chuck has taken numerous courses with LI over the years, including public relations, new media, fundraising, legislative project management, and TV trainings.
LI offers campaign training the first full week of every month. Check out the schedule here.