The Rise of the Citizen Candidate

April 24, 2012

Attending meetings around the county, I talked with many of the candidates who were making the rounds.  I heard great stories of how regular business people, regular Joe’s, were stepping up to run for office at the local, state AND national level.  I was intrigued by these Bravehearts, many of whom need to work a full time job or run their business AND campaign an almost equal amount of hours. 

Many have knocked on between 15,000 and 18,000 doors.  Many have given of their own money into the tens of thousands to run.  It takes about $100,000 to run a county wide campaign in one of the major counties in Texas.  To do a Texas Senate seat, you are talking upwards of $250,000.  And if you are talking US Senator, Lt. Governor or Governor, you are talking in the tens of millions.  If you have never respected candidates, these numbers should help you to respect the Citizen Candidates.

When asked what they would have done differently, all of them said they would have gathered more money.  Believe it or not, money buys ads on TV, radio and the newspapers.  Yes, people still read the local newspapers.  Money buys those signs in your yard, the handouts, the door knockers, the SWAG they give you, whether it’s pens or lip balm.  All that comes out of their budget!  If you ever wanted to help a Citizen Candidate, send them money!  You can always skip lunch for a day or two, or go to MikeyD’s instead of a restaurant, allowing you to have extra money to give.  Do what it takes to support them.

Most Citizen Candidates work out of their homes or business office, with their cell phones on 20 hours a day.  They are constantly going to meetings with Republicans, Tea Party folks, 912 folks, and whoever will allow them to introduce themselves.  So for each 5 minute moment of introduction, they will attend 2-3 hour meetings.  But these meetings give them some exposure for free.

Another theme in the interviews was the need for Grassroots volunteers.  Volunteers are the engine behind all candidates.  We have seen over and over, candidates with lots of money who pay for ads but have no ground game.  They ultimately loose.

The Grassroots does not understand their power.  It’s estimated that one volunteer is worth $4,000 to $8,000 to a campaign.   Volunteers can make or break candidates.  This is even more evident when they are flakey and the candidates are shorthanded.  If you, as a Grassroots volunteer, say you will help for 2 hours a week, do your best to work 2 hours a week.

Once you have someone step up as a Citizen Candidate, stay with them.  Don’t tell someone who might run for office that you will back them then change partners after they have invested their time, money and reputation  into the campaign.  Having flakey backers is worse than having flakey volunteers.  California is the state of fruits, nuts, and flakes, Texans should keep their word.

Finally, the major factor that Citizen Candidates face, at least in Tarrant County, is the fear factor: Grassroots people who are afraid of the “establishment”; “establishment” folks who are afraid of the “king makers” in their legislative body or their county.  Even if the Tea Party folks believe they are not afraid, they too have fears about who they will offend and what people will think of them if they support a Citizen Candidate.

People with this fear factor withhold endorsements, money and help until they believe the Citizen Candidate is a winner, and then they jump on the bandwagon, once it is filled with folks.  If you believe in your Citizen Candidate, show it with your endorsement, your time and your money.  Let the best Candidate win the race!


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