Here’s the basic recipe for running a campaign: money, staff, volunteers and long hours. The goal is to reach voters and get them to the polls.
One of the first major concerns campaign teams must handle is finance and choosing how to distribute funds. In the most recent filings in late October, Saleh has spent $11,387.43 on his campaign. Some candidates’ expenditures, however, have been significantly higher or lower; campaign statements show that Kristiina Arrasmith has spent $31,485.16. By contrast, Stacey Brown has spent $10,000 and Robert Varich paid $5,500.
Aidan Swanson, the field director for candidate Basil Saleh, said that smaller, grassroots campaigns such as his require constant budget maintenance.
“Money, unfortunately, is kind of intertwined with politics,” Swanson said. “You need the money to get your message out a lot more.”
Consequently, larger campaigns have a financial advantage with sponsorships from big charters or nonprofits where money is ample.
Saleh describes the campaign process as “prohibitively expensive,” so much that “I don’t think if I lost this, I’d be able to run again for a while.”
Saleh has a core team of six, including Elisheva Basseri, his campaign director. Field director Swanson is involved in research and volunteer coordination. Saleh’s public image is managed by his communications and social media directors.
The campaign so far has received $16,000 in monetary contributions. With the money they receive from their community donors, they decide whether to spend it on necessities such as fliers, lunches for volunteers or campaign fees.The ballot statement cost $4,000, which Basil took out a loan to pay.
Funding dictates the priorities campaign staff set, but they still rely on outside assistance from volunteers, especially smaller campaigns. Aside from the core team of a campaign, there are student and adult volunteers who devote their time to canvassing. Saleh’s campaign has an estimated 20 to 25 weekend volunteers with shifts ranging around three or four hours.
Before the actual canvassing begins, staffers research information on the voting history of each household to assess which house in the neighborhood to talk to. Houses shown as frequent voters in primary or midterm elections are more likely to be canvassed to; volunteers want to make the most effective use of time by going to houses that have a higher potential to vote in the upcoming election.
Perhaps the most crucial component in determining the success of a campaign is community engagement. With the majority of news focused on national issues, local politics are often overlooked. Because voting in local elections has a significant impact on the daily lives of residents, campaigns rely on word of mouth to spread their message. Candidates hope to engage voters through the platforms of social media and public forums.
Peel away the money, strategy and lawn signs, it’s all about the fundamental connections between the candidate and the voter.
“And it’s sometimes a little cliche, talk to your friends and neighbors.” said Swanson. But it really comes down to the interactions that people have that really push a campaign forward … especially on the smaller campaigns.”