We talk a lot on this blog about building a bench, so for the weekend of convention it seems fitting that we try to focus the discussion candidate recruitment. The future success of the Florida Democratic Party depends on drastic changes in the way that they draft, mentor, and train candidates, so it seems logical that a path forward has to begin with this discussion. Part One of the series can be found here.
Part Two – Build that Bench
The process needs to create a bench on two fronts: both more candidates and more campaign staff with the tools to win campaigns. While most of these suggestions are long-term and no intended for candidates running in 2016, several steps could be adapted to make sure candidates have the resources to win in the short term.
Steps to accomplish this:
- More readily-accessible information
- Creation of “Prospective Candidate Information” Button on ALL Democratic Websites
- Establish a Clearinghouse of Resources
- Increase the number of campaign staff available
- Regional Leadership Incubators
More Readily-Accessible Information
Many DECs wait until late in the election to try to find candidates. Likewise, many get stuck trying to find anyone who will run for specific seats instead of picking from a field of qualified candidates. There has to be an effort to change this to thinking about cycles ahead of time.
In order for this to happen, the process has to be more transparent and information needs to be more readily available. Information needs to be prepared and public from the official Florida Democratic Party. Manual on timelines, criteria for party support, and where to get information should be included. Many candidates may be ill-equipped for next cycle, but should be able to find ways to prepare for 2 or 3 cycles in the future. Information on how to do this is essential and relates to many further suggestions in this document.
Creation of “Prospective Candidate Information” Button on ALL Democratic Websites
So that anyone, at any time, can get information on how to run for office as a Democrat. Automatic response with some information, as well as a personal call within 24 hours with specific details. This should be required for every Democratic Executive Committee, Club, and Caucus. While these simple give out basic information, it would establish a line of connection between party officials and interested parties.
Establish a Clearinghouse of Resources
Modeled after Angie’s List, create a database of resources available to Democratic candidates for all offices. These should include advertisements for campaign managers around the state and salary requirements, consultants for both campaign launching and additional specific subjects, and all other campaign essentials such as polling and direct mail firms.
There should also be sections for friendly PACs, coalition resources and endorsement forms (labor, Planned Parenthood, environmental groups), and additional resources and opportunities (such as DFA and Wellstone trainings, ect). All this information is not made public, but available to candidates once they establish enough resources to buy in on certain levels (further details below).
Currently, the FDP gives preference to consultants and resources that it has a ‘friendly’ relationship with. This decreases competition, drives up costs, and overall, makes the process very closed and one-sided. There needs to be an open field to encourage competition so that prices are reasonable and other campaign managers and consultants can enter. Putting all resources in one place begins to open up this process and hopefully has many benefits for both candidates and consultants.
Having all interested stakeholders in one place has many benefits. Interested campaign talent can either pay to advertise on the Clearinghouse or assist in candidate training programs and earn free the advertising. While interested consultants will be screened by the party, this is not to be based upon personal preference, but instead on other concrete requirements that are publicly available. Having staff readily available is essential for successful campaigns and increasing access to those resources will make this possible.
Increasing the Number of Campaign Staff Available
There has to be a recruitment program for more campaign staff to work on a variety campaigns on the local and state level.
- Increased Party-sponsored regional trainings for staff
- Advertising through the Dem-resource Clearinghouse (needs an official catchy name)
- Incentive Programs
- Additional incentives for running rural campaigns, coordinated campaigns, and in less competitive regions
The Republican Party of Florida holds bi-annual campaign trainings each year for all candidates and staff for free. As such, they have an incredible bench of people who are capable of running campaigns. The FDP as to create a program to compete on this level. Low-cost trainings at least twice a year on campaign basics are essential.
In addition, the Clearinghouse will provide additional networking opportunities to connect potential clients with candidates. This should create larger pools of talent to create at local levels.
The creation of incentive programs may also increase people willing to do campaign work. While there are a few options, multiple incentive programs will be required. Example: pay tuition for a limited number of students to get a Master’s Degree in UF’s Political Campaigning Program or FSU’s Applied American Politics and Policy in exchange for discounted services for two cycles for state house candidates. In addition to required internship, that could be three cycles of campaign work, plus the creation of a new resource. Additional programs like this should be explored.
Offer additional economic incentives for campaigns in areas with low party infrastructure and increase party bonuses for running coordinated local campaigns. Given that very few people want to run in these areas, create additional support, especially on county and municipal levels.
Regional Leadership Incubators
Echoing the FDP’s Lead Report, the establishment of Regional Councils is important, but meaningless without other additional resources. Instead of a mere council, we propose regional incubators for candidates as well that focuses on leadership training for potential Democratic candidates. These should include quarterly meetings where the potential candidate pool can come together about learn about both policy issues and campaign information. Mentoring should also be a cornerstone of this process, where potential candidates are paired with current and former elected officials.
Ideally, an individual is either nominated to take part or goes through an application process with the local council or DEC. While requirements may vary by region (more candidates should be trained from rural areas, ect.) this is not an self-selecting process, but instead a dialogue between the Council, interested parties, and local DECs. This program is directly aimed at building a bench for the future. Make it very clear to all stakeholders that members who go through this process are given preferential party support. It should be made clear that candidates who go through two or more years of the leadership process will have priority in state party support.
Two-Day Trainings each quarter for each region is extensive, but is needed to build a bench. These trainings should be a mix of policy issues and campaign skills. Partner organizations, such as labor, should be encourage to support and assist, as well as policy presentations to educate candidates on the issues so that they are not cramming on the campaign trail. This is a way to also enhance relationships with partnering organizations, but locally and state-wide. Locally, individual DECs can increase activities and trainings with their local members to enhance the party’s efforts.
- Monetary support all efforts around the state to build a deep bench of both candidates and campaign staff.
- Have designated staff for county candidate recruitment support in the state office to coordinate trainings, prepare materials, and coordinate resources with partnering organizations.
- Offer increase party support and training if candidates meet certain benchmarks.
- Pay for Training programs for both candidates and staff.
- Have an easily accessible recruitment tool on the website to give direct information for individuals wanting to run for office.
- Manage Clearinghouse of Candidate resources and information
Having a designed state liaison to serve as support for local efforts is essential to show support.. This is outside of all other state-level candidate recruitment efforts. This shows clear investment in the process. Coordination of the Democratic Leadership Incubator and additional campaign trainings should fall on the state party, as it is an effort to build a bench of officials that can eventually run for state and state-wide office. If a candidate has a certain level of support, they may pay a flat fee (TBD by office they are running for) and receive the following:
- VAN Access
- All relevant FDP data
- Democratic Talent Pool and Resource ClearingHouse
- Access to send volunteers to FDP campaign trainings for discount
- Access to candidate incubator (although ideally they should have already been involved)
- Create a designated liaison to the Regional Candidate Recruitment Council who is specifically in charge of candidate recruitment on the local level. They should keep a wiki of all elected offices, with history and vote goals, as well as list of resources. If a regional council isn’t established, still create one person who can head up local efforts.
- Nominate people and interested parties for the Leadership Incubator (or establish their own or partner with surrounding counties). In the absence of such a state-wide effort, work with other partnering counties to establish one.
- Increased campaign trainings for volunteers
- Have a specific manual about running for office, complete with local resources and campaign support. Should include 2, 4, 6 year timelines and clear expectations for party support.
- Specific stated goals that are presented to the rest of the DEC for approval and timeline benchmarks.
- Establish a leadership mentoring program between candidates and local officials.
- Create up-to-date lists of resources for candidates on the local level – local organizations that endorse, local PAC money available, and contacts for more information.