Campaign Start-Up Check List
Every campaign needs a beginning, middle and an end. The end is Election Day. The standard of measurement is simple – did you win or lose? The middle is characterized by the strategies, projects and tactics you use in pursuit of victory. But where and how do you begin? How do you reach that final decision to run? How do you fill in that first blank page of your campaign plan?
We have assembled this checklist to help you in the crucial start up phase of your campaign. It will also help you write your campaign plan.
Each section and each step is important. Think about these guidelines in the same way you must learn to think about your campaign: a series of tasks to be accomplished at the same time wherever and whenever possible. They are not an ironclad ordered document where point "A" must be complete before "B" can commence.
Talk with your family. The decision to run for any public office should not be taken lightly as it will impact your entire family. You and your family will be sacrificing an awful lot for you to run for office. On a piece of paper make two columns and write down the pluses and minuses of running for an elected office.
Know the exact procedures to declare you candidacy. These include: the exact paperwork required for filing; financial disclosure forms; certificate of candidate qualification; appointment of Campaign Treasurer; the payment of filing fees, petition fees, and petition signature requirements.
List all dates and deadlines for campaign filings and reports on a wall calendar. Include the absentee ballot information as well as primary, run-off and general elections dates.
Find out the procedure that dictates the order of the names on the ballot.
Does this procedure change from the primary election to the general election?
Obtain a copy of all the reports required to run for office as well as a schedule of when they are due and to whom they should be filed. This differs if it is a local, state, federal, or statewide race. For example: declaring a campaign committee; reports of campaign contributions and expenditures; campaign financial disclosure and the like. Take a moment to learn if any or all of these forms are available on line or in a software package.
Research the laws that govern your campaign. Learn the fundraising limits and procedures. What disclaimer requirements exist, if any, for printed materials, direct mail, radio and television advertisements? What are the absentee voting procedures? Where can political signs go?
Hire or obtain competent legal advice for your campaign. Real estate law differs from election law – make sure your counsel knows the difference.
Compile a district analysis and voter profile.
Collect maps of your district with precinct lines and legal boundaries. Also, detailed precinct maps, census maps, and street and road maps of all towns, cities, and counties.
Obtain voter lists. Find out the different format in which these lists are available. Have a plan for using the lists before you purchase or get them.
Ask specific questions to help you figure out what you need. Will you need primary voters? What about general election voters? Can you use voter lists compiled by previous phone banks?
Assemble Republican lists. Get the list of GOP national, state and local convention delegates. Who are the district wide Republican elected officials? Who are the county and local Republican Party officials? Where are the campaign staffers, key volunteers and steering committee members from previous GOP campaigns?
Analyze your district's voter history. What are the voter registration figures, if they are available? Get the list of registered voters by party, if available; past election results by precinct; past election voter registration numbers.
Assemble detailed background information on all other candidates. Interview your candidate; research his public record, research newspaper clippings, voting record, and community involvement.
Begin the process of developing an overall campaign strategy and written campaign plan.
Develop a complete media analysis of your district – both media outlets in your district and those outside of your district that reach your voters.
Start a process to target key precincts in your district for maximum organizational effort and the most effect use of resources.
Determine everything that may share the ballot with your race including other candidates, other races of importance, initiatives, referenda, bond issues and national and statewide races that may affect voter turnout in your district.
Assemble a small group of trusted volunteers to help you begin the campaign.
Determine where and when you will open your campaign office based upon the campaign plan, budget and finances.
Work together as a team to develop a network of key contacts throughout the district that you can use to raise money, organize volunteer activities and meet opinion leaders. Develop a key contact phone and address list and a set of corresponding 3 x 5 cards for the candidate to carry for fund-raising calls.
Designate a Campaign Steering Committee.
Determine the type of campaign management structure you need for your campaign and begin to assemble it.
Gather key sources of district information like: phone books; zip code books; listing of schools, colleges, and vocational centers; nursing homes, hospitals and libraries; major businesses and factories; and, neighborhood associations.
Develop a community calendar. Include meetings of organizations and clubs; Chambers of Commerce and small business groups; key community events, festivals, and sports events; functions at houses of worship and civic groups.
Obtain a minimum amount of campaign stationary, envelopes, contribution and volunteer cards. Desktop publishing software is essential in this regard.
Before you open your campaign office, investigate the needs for property insurance, phone service, heat, water, and power. Try to have as much of this donated as possible along with the office furniture and supplies in accordance with all campaign finance laws.
After the office opens, be sure to have a safe office routine that allows the office to be open and manned from 7AM to 10PM.
Compile a candidate photo file and gather photos from the candidate's childhood, military service, family photos and award presentations.
Develop a thorough media list including variations of key media contacts as well as a general list by country, city, and town.
Have volunteers clip stories on issues, political happenings and people central to your campaign.
Polish the speaking skills of the candidate and key campaign leaders and surrogates. Develop a preliminary stump speech for the candidate.
Create an issues file. Contact friendly officials and sympathetic organizations and ask for issue papers on key areas of interest to your voters.
Decide on an initial campaign theme and several central messages.
Put together a media kit. Set up meetings for the candidate to meet key members of the district media as time allows.
Define the role of the Campaign Treasurer and select one.
Pick a convenient and reliable bank and establish your campaign account.
Open a campaign post office box.
Determine, write down, and post the campaign procedures for receiving, processing, depositing and checking campaign contributions.
Establish, again in writing, a procedure for making campaign expenditures.
Work together to identify key donors and potential donors. Assemble a list of friends, relatives, social and business associates, former classmates and other prospects. Set up a method to solicit funds through one-on-one contact, personalized mailings and phone calls.
Build a potential donor file by collecting lists from previous campaigns and friendly elected officials. In most places, it is illegal to solicit funds from a list you get from the Federal Election Committee or state campaign regulatory agency.
Draw up a preliminary campaign budget based on your campaign plan for the first 90 days. Keep careful track of cash flow and produce weekly statements.
Create a campaign fund raising kit for your finance committee and for PACs. Build the case for why you will win the race. Remember that most "non-ideological" PACs will not give to challengers in a state or local race but if you don't ask, you won't get. Tailor and target your pitch carefully to the right audience.
These brief guidelines should give you enough of an overview to get your campaign off to a good start. To receive more in-depth candidate training materials, please call the Political Department at (202) 464-5170 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.