It’s Time to Talk Candidate Recruitment – Part Two

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. 


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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.

State-Level Changes


  • 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)

County-Level Changes


  • 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.


  1. Jim Callahan · ·

    What do you think of creating a dual ladder for Precinct Committee people? (currently there is NO ladder) of either candidate training or campaign management training.

    The idea is to train Precinct Committee people in the Obama style “Neighborhood Team Leader (NTL)” and those that are successful at building Neighborhood teams (including walk and phone teams) be offered a scholarship for either candidate or a campaign manager training provided by a major national organization such as Wellstone, DFA, Emily’s List or the Progressive Change Committee (Bold Progressives)?


    1. While I am a big fan of incentives, I think that all the precinct leaders may not be interested in either running for office or running a campaign and that’s okay because you need both. I would probably give another option for those that just want to be precinct leaders (and we desperately need good precinct leaders!)


    2. Ron Baldwin · ·

      I notice you call the DEC members “Precinct Committee People,” wnich I believe demeans the possibilities of the position. As I recall from my long-ago acquintance with the DEC there are usually a male and a female Precinct Committee Person for each voting precinct. I grew up in a big-city environment where a similar person would be called a Precinct Captain, or more commonly Ward Boss. Now those are titles with some clout behind them and an expectation that they will head up and lead the activists in their precinct. Here in Pinellas County, my recollection is that Precinct Committee People would (sometimes) attend a once-monthly DEC meeting.and that was the extent of their involvement in the political process. Useless is the word that comes to mind when I think back to those long-ago days.


      1. Those designations are written into state statute. It’s possible for the party to rename them for internal purposes, however.


  2. Millie Herrera · ·

    I like this:
    Download the Dem Progressive Caucus of FL S.T.E.P into Florida’s Future report:


    1. Thanks! Brook and I both worked on that document.


  3. Ron Baldwin · ·

    Starting with the 2002 general election my son (a true geek) and I purchased after each election a CD-Rom from the County Supervisor of Elections. Using a data-base program (Microsoft Access) we developed a forerunner of the VAN system, which came along some years later. After the 2004 General Election we compiled a report on turnout by precinct, by party, and by gender. I presented this data to the DEC Committee that supposedly organized county campaign efforts. I told them that in my opinion the time for precinct GOTV work was just after the 2004 election when we could help volunteers to encourage non-voting Democrats to vote in the next election by using a door by door and person by person list of Democrats who did not vote in the 2004 General election.Their reaction was similar to releasing an SBDF in church. Not long after that at a Democratic Club meeting the County DEC Chair gushed about the wonderful County-wide 74% Democratic turnout in the 2004 General election. I came up with another SBDF by observing that the County-wide Republican turnout in that election was 82%. The noise from the crickets was overwhelming.

    And yes, I am a grumpy old man (age 81)


  4. Millie Herrera · ·

    That has always been the official designation of DEC members. The distincion is that of Precinct Committee members vs. State Committee members. The State Committee members are the ones you refer to which are currently on man and one woman elected by each county DEC, who along with the Chairs and subsequent appointed members, make up the Florida Democratic Executive Committee.


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