Monday, May 11, 2009

Campaign season is almost here! If you’ve ever thought about running for office, it’s time to start planning.

Libertarian candidates have some choices to make. There are two ways to go.

The first is to run for a small, non-partisan office. This could be anything from a water or cemetery board to a school board. These are very winnable races. Where you don’t necessarily talk about your political beliefs, but you practice them. You influence policy. Make decisions, and actually govern. School boards are a great race for this. Do not expect that people will know that you are Libertarian, do not attempt to change the world overnight. Especially on a school board – this one should be handled carefully, but can be a launching point for a politician to actually get elected to higher office. Someone who has served on a school board for 4-8 years, putting in the time, the hard work, will have some reputation and network that may help to win a legislative, or city council race.

The second is to run an educational campaign. There might be a race in your district that has no opponent, or where you just have a particular passion, but not any real hope of winning. In this type of campaign, you would run a legitimate campaign, maximizing your exposure, taking every opportunity to speak to voters and to get out the Libertarian message. All the while knowing that there is not much chance of winning. These campaigns are generally run for education and information – a way to expose people to Libertarian ideas, and talk about better government.

No matter which strategy you decide on, never enter into a race for a job that you wouldn’t take, unless it is a strategy. For instance, one time Ruth Bennett ran for Lt. Governor on the platform that, if elected, she would abolish the office of Lt. Governor. Jack Tanner, and a couple of our Florida Libertarians, got elected to a board that accomplished nothing, and cost taxpayers a lot of money, and then they shut it down. All brilliant Libertarian strategists. Thank you, gentlepeople.

What do you plan to do? Need help deciding? Go to your county auditor, or secretary of State’s website, and see what offices are up for election this fall.

What sounds attractive or interesting to you? What fits with your interests, skills?

Once you have an office in mind, start doing the research.

  • What are the issues?
  • Is this office something that has been in the news recently? Corrupt? Incompetent?
  • Spending too much money?
  • Look up Voter Guide Statements for the race in past years.
  • Pay particular attention to the statement of the winner.
  • Start to write a statement that incorporates Libertarian values. Be careful that you don’t include any information that, no matter how true or Libertarian, has no connection to the office. (In other words, in a City Council race, you do not mention federal or state issues. This is not where you talk about your 911 Truth beliefs, or your Birther convictions, or your desire to build ZeroG space stations.)
Then start to prepare –

  • Get a photo taken – preferably a professional shot. Dress for a professional job interview (it is!), and be cautious about any emblems, symbols, or backgrounds. You want a photo that makes you look relaxed, confident, and approachable. Susan Hogarth reviewed a lot of candidate photos last season – I found it helpful.
  • Have you been in touch with your local LP affiliate to ask for endorsement, campaign help, volunteers? Do it now. This is also a good place to start to get help from Libertarians with your Voter Guide Statement and talking points.
  • Put together a list of friends, family, business contacts and organizations that you can ask for donations and help. Even people who don’t have money usually have something that they can help you with. Putting up signs. Sending out an eMail on your behalf. Phone numbers of people who do have money. Ideas.
  • Get online, and find a domain name. Do not use, or something like that. It should be simple, understandable, easy.
Now is the time to get online, if you haven’t already. Set up eMail accounts through Google which also gives you

  • Google Calendar (Great for scheduling candidate events! The entire team can access the calendar.),
  • Google Docs (for leaving Voter Guide Statement, photos and position papers, literature for events, etc.)

Get a Facebook account for the campaign. Be sure that it is used for only campaign things. No pictures of you doing beer bongs at a frat party. Which means be careful who you friend. Maybe the campaign account is named Willis Campaign, or Willis for Congress. Or rather than a whole account, set up a Fan page and group for the campaign.

Start a blog. I prefer You can download and host Wordpress on your own domain (best), but if not, or to start, get You can move the blog later, or even just link from your website. On the blog, comment on news stories or developments that are current and germane to your race. Always offer a Libertarian solution.

Here’s an example of a blog entry . . .

"Pleasantville’s City Council plans to raise taxes by 30% to pay for the new park and rec center (make part of that sentence a link to the news story).

Since Libertarians prefer to spend within our means, and not burden your children for recreational facilities, I would first solicit private donations (in exchange for naming), then set up a system where users of the rec center would pay fees for classes, groups would pay rental fees to use the facilities, and businesses and individuals could either provide ongoing financial support or maintenance.

In this way, I estimate that we would only have to raise taxes 10%. Of course, my preference would be to wait until we could raise the complete cost of the facility from private sources and community fundraising before we broke ground and then support it through user fees. "

This example, while some would attack it as un-Libertarian, offers both the proposed Libertarian solution and a compromise. (Often, Libertarians in office find that they can reduce government by offering something less than the original “full meal deal”. Being the lone “No” vote may make you feel good, it really doesn’t accomplish anything. Making an amendment to a motion can begin some discussion in a meeting that just “No” doesn’t achieve. Offering people smaller government solutions helps to wean them off the habit of taxes extracted at the point of a gun. Who knows, maybe by the time a voter has read your blog and smaller government ideas for several months, they may actually be ready to face the idea of life without the all-encompassing government control!)

Start to tweet. Sign up at Use one of the link shrinkers to make the link to your blog entry tiny, and tweet it each time you blog. For example – Willis offers small government solution to 30% tax increase – #tlot #liberty Don’t forget the appropriate hashtags – those #tlot and #liberty words at the end. They’re a “filing” system for twitter. More info on hashtags.

Now that you’re blogging, and tweeting, use the tweets as your Facebook status. This is a great way to stimulate discussion among your Facebook friends, and teach more about Libertarian philosophy. Add as many Facebook friends as you can within your voting district. Search for likely suspects, and add them.

Write letters to the editor that are basically your blog articles. You may have make some minor adjustments for format or clarity. Post them to local newspaper’s forums.

Take a few minutes to go to, and then Set up accounts at all of them. Add the widgets to all of your sites.

Since all of this can be a lot of work, and you haven’t even started the “real life” work of the campaign yet, consider having a truted volunteer of family member function as your “online campaign manager”. All of this can be done by a ghost-writer, even remotely. Your cousin George could be sitting in Berthoud, CO, writing your blog and conducting your online campaign for City Council in Portland, OR.

Now, starts the physical part. Doorbelling. One great candidate that I know started in early spring, walking his neighborhood, knocking on doors, introducing himself.
"Hi, I’m Willis, and I’m running for City Council this fall. I have this piece to let you know what I’m about, and I’d appreciate you taking a few minutes to take a look at it. It has contact information for me on it, and you can call or eMail me with any questions you might have. Have a great evening, and if you think my ideas sound good, I’d appreciate your vote."

He knocked on his neighbor’s doors several evenings a week and some weekends, and won the election in the fall.

Always attend neighborhood events, town celebrations, etc. They are great opportunities for networking and campaigning. And do I need to say it? Always have your pocket sized campaign piece in your pocket, and a slim jim or something when appropriate.

More later – the fun stuff, like public forums, interviews, candidate ratings . . .