How to Win Election Contests in Small Districts

by Joe Garecht

There are well over 500,000 elected offices in the United States.  Add in all of the elected officials in all of the democracies in the world, and you’ve got millions and millions of elected offices worldwide.

The vast majority of these elected positions are for small, local offices.  While we all hear about the huge national candidates and elections, the vast majority of candidates duke it out on a far smaller stage, vying for seats on school boards, township commissions, county legislatures, and local planning commissions.

While most of the basic strategy of winning election contests applies to both large and small campaigns (things like getting press coverage, writing a fundraising plan, and developing a great political slogan are universal), there are many differences, and small campaigns need to adjust their tactics to make the biggest impact.  Without further ado, we present three important tips on how to win election contests in small districts:

1.  Focus on Relationships and Personal Contact

The more local your election contest is, the more personal contact voters anticipate from each candidate.  Not many people expect to receive phone calls or personal door-to-door visits from their senator or governor, but most voters want to have personal contact with their local city councilman or small town mayor.

If you want to know how to win election contests in small local districts, know that you’ve got to build relationships with the voters and meet them by going to door to door, attending small neighborhood events, and being present and involved in almost every activity in your district.

2.  Be Careful How You Spend Money

Many local candidates make the mistake of spending their campaign fundraising revenue foolishly… they hoard cash to buy one run of TV ads that no one will see, rather than sending out three flights of direct mail, or they pay Election Day workers without ever seeing if they can get enough free volunteers to fill all of the spots they need.

Don’t make mistakes like these – small campaigns operate on small budgets, so make every dollar count.  For every expenditure you make, think: will this get me closer to victory on Election Day?  If so, is there any wiser way to spend the money that will get us even closer?

3.  Target, Target, Target!

Just because you can go door-to-door to every house in the district, or can afford to send one mail piece to every registered voter in a small town, doesn’t mean it’s a wise investment.  Leaning how to win election campaigns of any size, large or small, means learning how to target your tactics.

Figure out which voters you really need to concentrate on: Who is likely to vote?  Who will almost assuredly vote for me?  Who will definitely vote for my opponent?  Who are the swing voters?  This is the heart of targeting.  Use this data to figure out where to spend your money…  for example, is it better to send one mailing to every registered voter or to send two mailings to every registered voter who has voted in two of the past four elections?   (To learn more about targeting, including an in-depth, step-by-step guide to performing targeting for your own campaign, check out Local Victory’s How to Win Any Election, which contains a huge section on targeting).

Decisions like these are part art, part science, but definitely worth the hassle, because they allow to you wisely use limited resources for maximum benefit.

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