Libertarian State Leadership Alliance
Report from Montana
Organization does help a lot. Montana has 56 counties and we're organized in only 5 of them. Having volunteers at the county fairs and parades helps candidates who can't make all the events. Montana has 12 Libertarian candidates on the ballot with 4 state wide. Our vote total I predict will be close to 100,000 votes. The biggest total will be from our Clerk of the Supreme Court candidate who is in a two race with the incumbent. We could spend a lot of money on that race and still not win.
The thing we need to work better at is planning: Making that opening splash when announcing a candidate. Doing ads during the primary to let people know that we are out there. In my race for Secretary of state I'm running about 700 on cable in 3 markets, which will reach about 200,000 people. We should have done things state wide but all campaigns are running a lot of ads and all local markets are bought up. Montana passed term limits years ago and now all state wide offices are up for re-election (except the Clerk); many of the legislative seats are open. Montana is a state to watch.
Mike Fellows, MTLP
Report from Tennessee
The following column, by LPTN 5th Congressional District candidate David Crew, was scheduled to appear in the "City Paper", a brand new daily here in Nashville ...
Although Dave took some shots at local media (no names, fortunately, but they will all recognize themselves ...) , he makes some very good points here for future reference ...
3 Crucial Lessons I've Learned While Running for Congress
by David Carew
For this column to succeed, you must know one important thing about me. I am Joe Schmoe. I'm not smarter than you, I'm not more eloquent, and I don't make more money. The only thing that distinguishes me from you -- and this is only temporary -- is that I happen to be running for Congress against Bob Clement. So the point of my writing this is to answer the questions: What does the average non-politician learn when he runs for Congress? What kind of inspiring--and obnoxious--things does he encounter? And what does all this ultimately say about America's electoral process?
Lesson #1: Court the Press . . . But Don't Be Surprised If You're Treated Unfairly
After getting on the ballot, I called every political journalist in town and said:
I'll be the Libertarian candidate in the race against Bob Clement. May I meet with you to offer you some background information on my campaign?
I didn't think asking that was out of line. But it sure met with varying results. (I'm not interested in treating these journalists as some of them treated me, so I'll convey my experience in veiled terms.) From the five newspapers I called I received this treatment:
Newspaper #1: Instantly agreed to meet with me, and ran a very fine feature on my candidacy the next week.
Newspaper #2: Instantly agreed to meet with me, and ran a feature on me full of misquotes, quotes out of context, and egregious ridicule of me and my ideas.
Newspaper #3: Agreed to meet with me in a process that was like pulling teeth, then proceeded, six weeks later, to run by far the most professional, intelligent, and insightful article on my candidacy.
Newspaper #4: Couldn't be bothered returning a single one of my seven phone calls. Then--months late and just 6 days before the election--breathlessly called me.
Newspaper #5: Agreed to meet with me, repeatedly promised they'd run a story on me, asked for a comprehensive packet of information from me ... then did nothing.
I learned--the hard way--that some members of the press are top-notch professionals who view their roles as communicators of political information very seriously . . . and others are irresponsible, agenda-driven imposters who'll use you to try to make themselves look cool. Unfortunately, you often won't know one from the other until it's too late.
Lesson #2: Get Creative . . . You Have No Choice
I saw quickly that our campaign would have to do an end-run around political convention. So I regularly: Sent e-mail press releases to every political journalist and TV and radio producer in Nashville. This kept my candidacy consistently in front of the media--making it impossible for them to overlook me.
Sent what I call e-mail multipliers--brief messages about my candidacy and web site--asking people to please consider forwarding the messages so they and others could make a fully-informed electoral decision. (I suspect these messages, initially e-mailed to 75 friends and clients, probably now have been read by thousands of Nashvillians-at virtually no cost to me.)
Held a campaign-related rock concert at 12th & Porter in October, which--despite almost no press coverage--was well-attended and a success. Again, the cost of securing this high-visibility venue was zero, because I e-mailed Jodie Faison (who is cool anyway) and said, "If you allow us to use your venue at no cost, we'll promote the concert like crazy, so you'll end up having a very profitable night. Which is exactly what happened.
Lesson # 3: No Matter What, Never Lose Sight of Your Goal
As a Libertarian, I learned to deal with two realities. First, that some of my positions (such as advocating ending the War on Drugs and the federal income tax) are still not mainstream. Second, that the odds against my winning, as a result, are steep.
But a recent political event at TSU reminded me of a critical insight. When asked, Do you think your candidates can win?, Richard Pearl, chairman of the Libertarian Party of Tennessee, answered along these lines:
We don't really care if our candidates carry the day, as long as our ideas, eventually, do. Throughout American history, third parties often have had a very disproportionate political influence. By staying true to their principles--not compromising, no matter how they were ridiculed--many of their ideas eventually gained great currency, and were assimilated by the major parties.
We believe we can achieve this same thing, in the service of strictly-limited government and greater freedom for all Americans.
David Carew was the Libertarian Party candidate for U.S. Congress in the race against Bob Clement. For more information, visit www.davidcarew.com
Report on the Bill Reed for Congress Campaign:
When petitioning to place our candidates on the ballot began, we normally assumed that our candidates would serve as the sacrificial lambs and had not planned to do much in the way of campaigning. All of that changed when two factors emerged:
1. During our open primary in March, Bill Reed ranked high in some areas, sometimes garnering more votes than the well-funded conservative Republican challenging the incumbent Republican congressman.
2. A Democrat attempted to get on the ballot as a write in, but was not allowed a spot on the general election ballot due to him not receiving sufficient votes which would have earned that spot. Thus, no Democrat was on the ballot.
Immediately, I began to visualize how we could utilize this unique situation to our advantage. Winning the election was out of the question because our Republican opponent, Ken Calvert, was heavily funded and had already served four terms in congress, making him a household name in an already heavily Republican district.
Besides Bill and Mr. Calvert, there was another candidate on the ballot: Nat Adam of the Natural Law Party. There was no way we would come behind the Natural Law candidate! To do so would mean a loss in credibily as to our claims of being THE alternative party in Riverside County. Not only that, I decided that an active campaign would result in many people actually voting for a Libertarian candidate for the first time in their lives. I wanted them to have the experience of voting Libertarian and overcoming any trepidation they may feel for supporting a third party candidate.
I utilized four initial tactics:
1. Ignore the existence of the Natural Law candidate. Our battle was with Ken Calvert, not some other third party candidate. We refused to acknowledge his existence whenever possible. He was not mentioned on our website, in our literature or our press releases. He was never mentioned by us in interviews or public speaking engagements. To us, he was invisible. If someone asked if there was another third party candidate, we would shrug our shoulders and say "I don't know...can't say for sure". We ignored him simply because we wanted to hog as much print space and attention as possible.
2. Low-key support building. Ken Calvert rarely makes public appearances in his district unless it is for fundraising or meeting with fellow Republicans or business interests for photo opportunities. The average voter feels invisible to him. Not for us. Even if it was speaking before a group of 10 people in a dusty trailer park rec. room, we went there. I knew people feel appreciated and important when a candidate visits them personally. My theme was "going where Calvert refuses to tread". By and large, it worked: Bill had captive audiences and many appreciated it so much, they helped pass out some literature and volunteered to have a sign in their yard. Some even donated money to Bill's campaign! We did not wait to be invited, we invited ourselves most of the time.
One instance, I read that a small group of people out in a rural area was having a demonstration to protest an insanely dangerous stretch of highway known as "Blood Alley". Out we went and demonstrated along with them and signed their petition. The local weekly newspaper even took a picture featuring Bill!
3. Targeting weekly newspapers. Many times, weekly newspapers are dying for any type of news beyond "kitten rescued from tree". I also knew that the larger papers are more jaded and not so hungry for news, we didn't ignore them, but knew that perhaps 1/10 of our news would be published if luck was on our side. I pursued the weeklies vigourously with letters to the editor, op-ed pieces ghost written by myself, and press releases. I knew that we could have a steady stream of Libertarian propaganda if we tried and it mostly succeeded.
4. Creating media events. The best media event I came up with was a protest at an inland Border patrol checkpoint situated on Interstate 15 about 70 miles North of the Mexican border. Increased enforcement at the checkpoint had resulted in traffic jams, frayed nerves and many people feeling like criminals. There was no opposition to the checkpoint, so we took action and garnered all of the surrounding newspapers, a television crew and a radio station. I made certain to ALWAYS steer the press toward Bill, even though I was the organizer. I had more planned which did not come to fruition, but more on that later.
As summer came to a close, we purchased 750 signs from J.R. Graham in San Diego. We plastered the entire district with these signs, especially heavily travelled roads and highways. Some were saved for a few days before the election in order to replace damaged or stolen signs and to place near polling places. We were the ONLY campaign to place signs!
An aside: The campaign purchased a precinct map from our Registrar of Voters. I poured over the voting results from the March Primary AND the 1998 general election to find pockets of Libertarian support. Signs were also placed in these pockets of support.
Also in the works was a color brochure written in less of a philosophical style and more aimed toward voters. 5,000 of these was produced and distributed. Color printing means legitimacy to many voters. We avoided cheap looking materials whenever possible.
We also received a good deal on bumper stickers. Some consultants will tell you to forego such extravagances, but in this case, I believed it to be essential in order to show we were a serious campaign. It was an act of credibility building. Of course, It also provided a premium to donors and party activists.
Also, the campaign produced a press kit which contained a posed, professional headshot of Bill, samples of his literature and a bumper sticker, campaign contact sheet, detailed biography and issues statements. At all times, we wanted to make life easy for reporters.
The campaign raised and spent $1,600. We did not believe that massive amounts of money was needed for this campaign, although more fundraising was planned.
Another important part of the campaign was opposition research. Ken Calvert's past votes on important issues such as corporate welfare, tobacco subsidies, spending, privacy and medical marijana. We used this information in press releases, literature and speeches. It is very important to be informed with facts, not innuendo or partisan rhetoric. The use of facts made Bill much more credible with news reporters who actually called me for further information and citations. I also made the decision to not have Bill address issues where the Republican would agree with us. No use wasting time or money to basically say "I agree".
Up until Mid September, things were moving along swimmingly then I was informed by Bill that he was just hired for a new job and may have to travel out of state for 6 weeks. My heart sunk and had to trash my 10 page plan of action in favor of attempting to try and keep the campaign from falling below 10% (and perhaps the Natural Law candidate). I decided to keep on with the press releases and institute a letter to the editor program. In early October, Bill indeed left for Dallas, Texas for job training (I told him employment was much more important that running in a race he would likely lose). Needless to say, any hope for garnering a huge vote total vanished and I was relegated to damage control.
Before Bill Left, he purchased a cell phone in order to allow reporters to speak with him personally. I also set up a web-based e-mail account for him to keep our line of communication open.
Some plans that had to be abandoned:
1. Further further fundraising.
2. Radio advertisements focusing on his opponents voting record in favor of corporate welfare, spending and opposition to medical marijuana
3. An intense push to demand that Ken Calvert debate Bill. We planned a newspaper ad, press releases and demonstration featuring someone in a chicken suit and a person with a yellow streak on their back.
4. Personal calls by Bill to targeted voters.
5. door-to-door walking in targeted precincts.
6. Mailer to targeted voters.
All in all, I believe this election to be an overall success due to the troubles of this past month. 15.7% of the vote, 27,543 votes total. That consists of many people who have NEVER cast a Libertarian vote before. That is good news because it helps break down the mental barriers which prevent many from casting third party ballots.
I am hoping Bill will decide to run again in 2002. I know we can build upon what was gained this year. If we win, great. But the goal would be to overtake the Democrat.
--Gene Trosper, Campaign Manager
Bill Reed for Congress