A cam­paign man­ager’s ad­vice to mu­nic­i­pal can­di­dates: Part 2

Knock­ing on door after door can be a valu­able tool when run­ning for of­fice

The Peterborough Examiner - - Opinion - DAVID GOYETTE David Goyette is a writer, po­lit­i­cal ad­vi­sor and com­mu­ni­ca­tions con­sul­tant.

Last week, I wrote in this space about the good work be­ing done by the City of Peter­bor­ough in pro­vid­ing help­ful in­for­ma­tion to peo­ple run­ning as can­di­dates in this fall’s mu­nic­i­pal elec­tion. In ad­di­tion, and based on my ex­pe­ri­ence as a cam­paign man­ager, I shared a num­ber of cam­paign strate­gies, tac­tics and tech­niques that are not likely to be taught by gov­ern­ment em­ploy­ees. This col­umn adds to that file.

First, can­di­dates should keep in mind that a cam­paign is an act of hubris. In ef­fect, you are telling vot­ers that you can com­pe­tently and fairly rep­re­sent their in­ter­ests, what­ever those in­ter­ests might be. If you are con­tested, you are telling vot­ers that you are better at do­ing that than other con­tes­tants. In re­al­ity, you are par­tially rep­re­sent­ing your own per­sonal in­ter­ests, which most of­ten have to do with ei­ther chang­ing the world or chang­ing your­self. You will need to come to grips with the act of hav­ing two faces: one that fronts a pub­lic good – which is al­ways on pub­lic dis­play – and one that fronts a per­sonal good – which is never on pub­lic dis­play. The abil­ity and will­ing­ness to cam­ou­flage one’s own per­sonal in­ter­ests varies sub­stan­tially from can­di­date to can­di­date. Be aware of the du­al­ity and find your com­fort with it.

Sec­ond, as a can­di­date, you are a pub­lic per­former. You will want to put for­ward the best ver­sion of your­self as a means of con­vey­ing at­tributes such as in­tel­li­gence, at­trac­tive­ness and a value ori­en­ta­tion to which vot­ers can re­late.

The chal­lenge lies in find­ing the bal­ance be­tween just be­ing your­self as op­posed to parad­ing as some­one else that you imag­ine might be more ap­peal­ing to vot­ers. The key is to be true to your own per­sona. Vot­ers are more adept than you might imag­ine at see­ing through an af­fected per­son­al­ity and dis­tanc­ing them­selves from it.

Third, ex­pe­ri­enced can­di­dates come to un­der­stand a cu­ri­ous con­tra­dic­tion. On one hand, peo­ple re­port that they hold politi­cians in low es­teem and view them as easy and as­sail­able tar­gets of crit­i­cism. On the other hand, peo­ple also show def­er­ence to politi­cians and re­port that they want to look up to and re­spect their lead­ers. As a can­di­date, you will ex­pe­ri­ence both crit­i­cism and ad­mi­ra­tion in vary­ing de­grees. Take them both in stride and take nei­ther to heart. Oth­er­wise, emo­tional ex­cesses can take the joy out of the jour­ney.

Fourth, there is no sub­sti­tute for the act of meet­ing vot­ers face to face. Door-todoor can­vass­ing should rep­re­sent the most ex­ten­sive use of your time; it will also rep­re­sent its best in­vest­ment. There are many skills re­quired in suc­cess­fully manag­ing the doorstep en­counter, in­clud­ing the courage to openly ask for the re­ceipt of your lit­er­a­ture, a vot­ing in­ten­tion, a lawn sign or a do­na­tion. The ben­e­fit of the doorstep en­counter that is most of­ten over­looked is its value as cam­paign re­search. That is, ask­ing ques­tions and record­ing re­sponses of voter con­cerns. That in­for­ma­tion should be­come part of a reg­u­larly up­dated loop that serves to ei­ther reaf­firm or ad­just your cam­paign strat­egy. The very best can­vassers – even those who do not hold elected of­fice – will also prom­ise to act on the con­cerns they hear at the door, re­gard­less of dif­fi­culty or ju­ris­dic­tion, and then do so right away.

Fi­nally, while dis­ci­plined ad­her­ence to a pre­de­ter­mined cam­paign strat­egy is es­sen­tial, so too is the abil­ity to quickly ad­just on the fly, par­tic­u­larly in re­sponse to break­ing events that of­fer an elec­toral ad­van­tage. Stay in con­stant com­mu­ni­ca­tion with your team; feed each other with all that is timely, and de­velop the ca­pac­ity to act with im­me­di­acy.

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