Almost every great campaign has a great political campaign manager standing behind it. Apart from the candidate, the campaign manager is the most important person on the team, responsible not only for the day to day operations of the campaign, but also for a significant portion of the big-picture planning and strategy.
Small local campaigns often have a hard time finding a qualified and available campaign manager. Often, their solution is to have the candidate serve as his own campaign manager, guiding a team of volunteers, family, and friends. This is a huge mistake. Every campaign needs a manager that is not the candidate, even if the manager is only a volunteer or part-time staff member. Candidates need to shake hands, make speeches, and ask for donations… they can’t do those jobs if they are also trying to run the day to day operations of the campaign.
Where, then, can a small, local campaign find a talented manager? Here are some places to start the search:
-Managers of Past Elections – talk to former candidates for the office you are seeking, as well as candidates and politicians in your area to find out who is running the smaller campaigns in your community and whether or not they are available.
-Your Local Political Party – call your local party headquarters and ask who they would recommend. Often, political operatives with only a few campaigns under their belt maintain a relationship with local party offices seeking new opportunities.
-Recent College Graduates – check with your local college’s political science department (both undergrad and graduate programs) to see if they know anyone who might be interested in getting their feet wet in a campaign management position. You’d be surprised how many poli sci majors in college also have significant volunteer campaign experience by the time they graduate.
-Friends of the Candidate – while it is often more desirable to have a political campaign manager who has campaign experience, it is not always possible to find someone who has experience and is available. Under these circumstances, the campaign should seek out a friend of the candidate who is organized, confident, and willing to learn to serve as campaign manager, possibly with ongoing counsel from paid consultants.
Finding a great political campaign manager is a tough task for campaigns without great exposure or lots of cash, but it can be done. Ask around, talk to previous candidates and current politicians, and don’t forget your local college campus. Above all, remember that letting the candidate serve as his or her own campaign manager is often a recipe for trouble.