The campaign school kicked off with a welcome from RPT Chairman Steve Munisteri, who gave opening remarks emphasizing that the purpose of the Campaign Leadership Program was to give our students the tools and knowledge to have a maximum impact in elections.
Steve pointed out that there is a lot of room for volunteers to activate in a campaign, with much space between the Campaign Manager and the weekend helpers who are knocking on doors. Volunteer help at some of the in-between management levels are critical to the success of campaigns both large and small. The Chairman drew on stories from his days working on Presidential campaigns in critical states across the nation in the 2000 and 2008 elections. He encouraged our attendees to become empowered as a movement to change the country, and to view the school as a stepping point to becoming part of the process of defeating Barack Obama in 2012!
Our first presenter was Toni Anne Dashiell, Kendall County GOP Chair and Immediate Past President of the Texas Federation of Republican Women, who spoke on the Role of the Regional Coordinator. Toni Anne gave students a full rundown of the best practices on both finding and keeping campaign volunteers, with helpful lists of places to start looking and recruiting for the support team needed to win elections. She also went through several helpful and practical examples of how the Coordinator can be most effective in managing and retaining those volunteers once they start participating in the campaign.
Up next on the schedule was Voter Vault training with Derek Ryan, President of Ryan Data in Austin. Derek was a longtime RPT staffer and one of the state's foremost Republican experts on voter lists, targeting, and database management as is relevant to a campaign organization. Voter Vault is the RPT's online Texas voter database warehouse, and is free for use to campaigns and volunteers who are approved by their local Republican leadership and submit their request. In his presentation, Derek gave thorough instructions and best practices for navigating and utilizing the system to its full potential.
Every campaign needs help with Fundraising, so RPT Finance Director Keri Mason led a discussion on the different types of fundraising available to campaign organizations and how volunteer leaders can best help. Keri gave sets of clearly defined roles and activities to the students to use in planning to become active participants in finding donors and marketing fundraising events on behalf of their campaign. Since asking for money is one of the hardest jobs in politics, Keri gave a "how to" list to students on making the ask, what to do if a donor says "Yes", and what to do if they say "No."
With the best practices laid out on asking for donations, the logical next step was to discuss how to Build and Put On a Great Campaign Event. We were honored to be joined by Sarah Floerke, Campaign Director for Texans for Greg Abbott, who led a high-energy presentation on the do's and dont's of event planning and coordination in political campaigns. Sarah had one of the most popular segments of the campaign school with many interesting and behind the scenes anecdotes about her years in some of the biggest Texas Republican campaigns.
The Communications portion of the program was jointly covered by Bryan Preston, Producer and Editor-At-Large for PajamasMedia & PJTV and RPT Communications Director Chris Elam, who discussed the role of a campaign communications captain. Chris focused on how volunteers can make a true impact on enhancing the central messages of a campaign and act as a rapid-response component for the campaign. Bryan led school attendees through a presentation on the power of social media, and a series of best practices for harnessing the power of the internet for enhancing campaign communications.
The first day ended with breakout sessions and discussion for a group exercise on Building a Leadership Committee. Students were broken into groups and asked to come up with a rough outline and plan for putting together a volunteer committee in a series of fictional scenarios. The students were very creative and organized with their plans and we heard some fantastic ideas.
Day 2 was kicked off by State Representative Paul Workman, who talked about the importance of being involved with the network of Republican activists in your local community and county party organization. Representative Workman was involved in a competitive primary election in 2010 and credited much of his eventual success in November to the way in which Republicans came together after the primary to build a unified coalition against the incumbent Democrat in his district. We are very grateful to Paul for coming by to address our school!
Up next on Saturday, we were joined by Justice Melissa Goodwin from the Third Court of Appeals who gave a detailed presentation on Gathering Ballot Petitions – a process which is not well understood in the grassroots, but which plays an important role in the campaigns of many Republican elected officials and judges in Texas. Justice Goodwin was gracious enough to move around her schedule to accommodate appearing at the school and brought a fantastic presentation to instruct the attendees on the process. Thank you Justice Melissa Goodwin!
Even in a world where cell phones seem to be replacing land lines at an ever-increasing clip, Successful Phone Banks remain a critical component of campaign GOTV efforts. John McCord, District Director for Congressman Quico Canseco, brought a very informative presentation to the students on the best practices for building a successful phone bank, who to call, what to say, and when to do it. In 2010, the Canseco campaign executed one of the most successful phone bank campaigns in Texas history, and now our Campaign Leadership Students have the insider knowledge on how to do the same in their communities.
Our final presentation was a panel discussion on Vote Goals, Block Walks and other GOTV tools – led by RPT Organization Director Beth Cubriel and Naomi Narvaiz, a GOTV volunteer for State Representative Jason Isaac's 2010 campaign. Students were instructed on the importance of setting vote goals in a successful GOTV effort, and given scripts, descriptions, and checklists for a successful block walking program. Throughout the discussion, Beth and Naomi gave personal anecdotes about where they have seen success and failure in campaign GOTV, and kept the panel lively and entertaining.
If you are a candidate or campaign coordinator who would like to get in contact with one of these dedicated and trained graduates of the RPT Campaign Leadership School – please contact Beth Cubriel at 512-477-9821.
On behalf of the Republican Party of Texas, we would like to thank all 100 of our attendees to the Campaign Leadership School for their participation in the two-day event and for their willingness to work hard for Republican principles in the 2012 elections!