Campaign school trains candidates
Greens are encouraged to win races.
by Paula Reynolds-Eblacas, Green Party of Washington State†
GreenPages, Vol 7, No.3
Always tell the truth, know everything about yourself, your opponent, the issues, and the voters and “Run to Win.”
This advice and other words of experience were received by 106 Greens attending the Pacific Northwest Campaign School Sept. 6-7 in Portland, Ore.
Offered as a joint project of the Pacific Green Party of Oregon, the Green Party of Washington State and the Green Party of the United States (GP-US), the first-ever regional Green campaign school brought together current and prospective candidates and campaign staffers for training from experienced staffers and winning candidates.
Being able to define yourself and to “control your message” are key to a successful campaign, Matt Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez, president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and a candidate for mayor, told prospective candidates they need to be able to answer some basic questions before stepping into the political arena: “Why are you running? What are your qualifications? Why are you better than the other candidate? What will you achieve?”
“Who is going to support you?” is another question Gonzalez said candidates need to be able to answer as he advised prospective candidates to become involved in community groups.
David Cobb, general counsel for the GP-US and a candidate for the party’s presidential nomination, wrote “Run to Win” across the blackboard to start his portion of the “winning campaign” presentation.
He told participants that winning may not necessarily mean taking office and listed three typical campaign goals of Green candidates as winning office, building party infrastructure and raising issues.†
“For statewide races, this may be your win,” Cobb said about building party infrastructure. He also pointed out the necessity of raising issues even. “Third parties have been behind every major social justice reform in U.S. history,” he said.
Workshop offerings included sessions on developing a Green message, media strategy, field campaigns, fundraising, writing a campaign plan, volunteer coordination and how to “get out the vote.”†
“The workshops were very helpful and efficient and comprehensive,” said Andrew Cottonwood, chair of the Kittitas County (Wash.) Green Party and a candidate for Ellensburg city council.
“I have already begun putting the lessons to use,” Cottonwood said, “especially the practice of speaking about my campaign, fundraising techniques and developing a Green message.”
Richard Wright, an Idaho Green Party member from Boise, said he was unsure what to expect before he arrived.
“All that I had to go on were the brief descriptions in the registration form, but once I arrived I gained invaluable knowledge,” Wright said. “Our upcoming battle in Idaho is ballot access … I feel much better prepared.”†
Participants named the networking opportunity the school provided as another asset. “This was a great chance to get together with Greens from all over the area, learn important things, and be able to pass them on,” said Linde Knighton of Seattle.
Wright added, “We are isolated in Idaho, and it was an awesome experience to hear what the other chapters are doing and what they consider as the issues of the day.”†
Marnie Glickman, a GP-US co-chair, offered several pieces of advice. “Be yourself,” Glickman said. “Hold onto your values, who you are and your life experiences. Maintain and cultivate your family during the campaign and make sure they are ready to go on the journey with you … Reach out to Green office holders with offices similar to the one you are seeking and ask questions and get advice.”
Ross Mirkarimi, who ran California operations of the Nader 2000 campaign, suggested the first piece to a winning campaign plan is to make sure before the election is over that there is a process in place for “venting” after the campaign. “If you lose,” he said, “learn from your mistakes.”
Mirkarimi told workshop participants that honesty among campaign staff and the candidate was critical.
“Managers, do not tell the candidate what they want to hear,” he said. “A candidate and manager have to be able to be honest with each other, to have the hard talks. Candidates, do not look the other way if the campaign management is bad.”
Mirkarimi also suggested candidates avoid running on issues that “the rest of the public is not worried about. You will promote those issues but lose votes.”†
Gonzalez suggested Greens need to become more knowledgeable and comfortable in talking about business and key voter issues such as economic development.
Being able to gain coverage from the news media and honest but skillful use of language was one overlapping theme among workshops, as was the general emphasis on honesty, on aligning Green values with the best conservative values and on having fun.
Gary Ruskin, executive director of Commercial Alert, led the media strategy workshops, in which he told participants the only steadfast rule was, “Always tell the truth.”
“Once you lie,” Ruskin said, “you’re toast forever.”
He noted that reporters do talk with each other about the honesty and integrity of their sources.
One significant difference between reporters and most ordinary people, Ruskin explained, is that “every day they deal with the most dishonest, callous, pompous jerks around. As a Green, be honest and fair; acknowledge when your opponent is right. You will be the breath of fresh air.”
In building positive relationships with reporters, Ruskin suggested Greens can gain more and better media coverage and eventually find themselves in the position of having reporters call them to ask advice on whether or not to pursue a story.†
Cropp said organizers will use the evaluation and feedback from participants to make a proposed second school even more effective, possibly adding public speaking training and other advanced topics.
Organizers, presenters, and participants echoed each other in describing the school as a necessary step forward.
“It was a unique event and tremendous success,” Cropp said. “It will likely set the mold for future campaign trainings organized by the Green Party.”
“We are getting larger, stronger and better organized with every election cycle,” Cobb said. “This campaign school is yet another indication of the growing sophistication and maturity of the Green Party.”
Portland Green Heather Drake offered a pragmatic assessment. “People were really energized by being together with Greens from so many different places,” she said. “In the end, of course, the best measure of our success will come in 2004 when we find out how many candidates in the Northwest run for office and win.”