All posts by Dan Centinello

4 Concerns that Every Aspiring Candidate Must Overcome

We all aspire to change our communities for the better; to right the wrongs we perceive in the places we call home. On the local level, perhaps we want to push for better schools. On the national, a better tax system. Regardless of the specifics, every candidate enters into the political ring with the determination to enact a specific change for the better. In our current gossip-laden political culture, it’s often all too easy to forget the determination and bravery pushing an agenda to a skeptical public requires; the task can seem more than a little daunting to those with minimal political experience. That said, running for office is nevertheless a productive step for those who have ideas and passion enough to see them implemented. Below, I’ve listed four concerns that every aspiring candidate will need to overcome in order to succeed in their political endeavors.

 

Inexperience in Politics

A successful career in politics doesn’t need to begin with a degree in government from an Ivy League school or an internship with a high-flying Senator. While connections and packed resumes certainly help establish authority, candidacies are built on ideas. Moreover, the stereotype of the common “lawyer-politician” is becoming increasingly hollow; according to research from Harvard Law School, the number of lawyers in politics has dropped from 60% in 1960 to under 40% in 2016. While those without backgrounds in law or government are fewer than those who do in the Senate and House, it is possible for those from other fields to achieve high political office. Now more than ever, message and personality takes precedence over resume on the campaign trail.

 

That said, those interested in running for public office should consider volunteering and networking with campaign veterans to get a better understanding of what running a successful campaign entails before launching themselves into a race.

 

Cultivating a Message

Candidates need a strong message that appeals to voters. Relatively brief, this platform should highlight a candidate’s strengths and preferability without seeming boastful or critical of an opponent. Most importantly, it must be consistent; a recent Stanford University study found that voters tend to punish candidates who “flip-flop” on issues, and that they often refuse to acknowledge a candidate’s new position even after politicians disavow their previous ideas. Candidates need to seem stalwart and trustworthy if they want to succeed!

 

Launching a Fundraising Campaign

No candidate enjoys spending hours upon hours fundraising, but the efforts are necessary. Campaigns need money to run; according to Campaign Finance Institute’s analysis of Federal Election Commission, an average senatorial race cost over $10 million in 2016. The expense, of course, will vary depending on the office, but the need for fundraising skills will always remain.

 

Steering Clear of Negative Politics

Sometimes television has it wrong. The day-to-day workings of a political office are far less Machiavellian than some films might suggest; however, some aspiring politics still fear being drawn into the so-called “dark” side of politics. However, that distaste for corruption and machination is exactly what voters want in an honest candidate. No candidate needs to sink into dirty politics in order to get ahead!

 

Launching a campaign demands effort, determination, and passion from political newcomers and veterans alike. Those who have ideas to better their communities and the drive to see them implemented should make their voices heard by throwing their proverbial hat into the ring. Obstacles abound on the campaign trail – but successful politicians have the tenacity to overcome any barriers in their path to leadership.

 

Age Restrictions & Requirements in Politics (A Global Look)

How old does a leader need to be to have our trust? The answer varies across nations; some say the voting age of 18 is old enough even for a president. Others urge caution and set the age bar  as high as forty. Oftentimes, elected offices in regional and local offices also have determinations for how old a candidate must be before presenting themselves as a candidate. Differences aside, all nations lay out specific requirements for their leaders. I outline just a few of the nation-specific guidelines that aspiring leaders must adhere to in the post below.

 

Canada:

All candidates who seek public office must be at least 18 to run in an election. The exception to this is for senators, who must be at least 30 and own a minimum of $4,000 worth of land in their appointed province. Candidates must additionally possess property or assets valued at $4,000 more than their totaled debts and liabilities.

 

Current President: Justin Trudeau, age 45. Trudeau is the second-youngest president in Canada’s history behind Joe Clark, who was sworn into office on the eve of his 40th birthday.

 

France

In France, presidential candidates must be at least 18 years old. Interestingly, this is below the 24 years required of a senatorial candidate.

Current President: Emmanuel Macron, age 39. Macron is the youngest president in France’s history.

 

Germany

Candidates for the German presidency must be at least 40 years old at the time of their candidacy. All other local, regional, and national elected positions require their candidates to be 18 and over.

 

Current President: Frank-Walter Steinmeier, age 61

Current Prime Minister: Angela Merkel, age 63

 

United States

Presidential and vice-presidential candidates must be at least 35 to run for office. The requirement stands at 30 for senators and 25 for representatives. On the regional level, states set their own rules regarding age specifications for positions such as the governorship. Usually, though, these candidates are required to be 18 or 21 in order to run.

 

Current President: Donald Trump, age 71

 

United Kingdom

Excepting Scotland (whose age limit is set at 16), candidates must be at least 18 years of age to run for all parliamentary, assembly, and council positions. This rule applies not only to national-level UK positions, but also to those at European, devolved, or local level. The age for candidacy was 21 until 2006, when it was officially lowered by the Electoral Administration Act.

 

Current Prime Minister: Theresa May, age 61

 

The Rise of Airbnb in Europe

Airbnb co-founders Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia have come a long way from renting out airbeds on the floor of their San Francisco apartment and hawking cereal boxes to their guests to make ends meet. With millions of apartments listed worldwide, the company’s current value stands at $31 billion, positioning it as the second-most profitable startup next to the ride-hail giant Uber. In March, financial papers reported that Airbnb’s Q3 numbers leapt a full 50% since the same time the previous year. The online service’s major successes may be due in part to its branding – Airbnb sets itself apart from other hospitality services by marketing itself as a waymaker for experience, rather than as a mere booking service. With Airbnb, the service explains, visitors can step beyond the typically packaged tourist experience and live as a local. This pitch has brought them far in their stateside expansions and is demonstrating similar success in nations abroad.

 

However, financial gains haven’t been limited to the company alone. In 2015, European hosts collectively made about $3 billion in revenue from their short-term rentals. Studies conducted by the platform’s research group further found that Airbnb guests tend to stay twice as long and spend twice as much locally than those who use traditional hotel services, with a full 42% of guest spending taking place in host neighborhoods. Analysts with the site postulate that this high guest engagement is due to Airbnb’s mission to facilitate authentic experiences; guests want to explore, rather than follow a predetermined “tourist” itinerary. Thus, Airbnb has a considerable positive impact on both domestic and international economies; in my current home city of Barcelona, the platform estimates that it generated over $175 million in 2013 alone, and further supported approximately 4,000 jobs.

 

That said, Airbnb is not content with the passive benefits it provides to city centers across the globe – it wants to do more. After releasing projections that the company will have boosted European economies by 340 billion euros by 2020, Airbnb announced its intent to invest 5 million euros in “ongoing investments for innovative, locally sourced projects” that vitalize authentic, local experiences. This is hardly a new move for the platform; to date, Airbnb has supported local projects in Barcelona, Berlin, Bologna, Dublin, Hamburg, Lisbon, Milan, and London. Airbnb has also committed itself to providing authentic travel experiences for its users by offering over 2,500 activities and tours across the world. Recently, the site even partnered with Vice Media to curate specialized tours in South Africa, Paris, New York, and Tokyo. While these planned travel experiences are offered as contest prizes to promote the partnership, they will soon be available for purchase to the general public.

 

Tourism has been forever changed by Airbnb’s entrance onto the international playing field, and we are all the better for it. Gone are the days of tourism homogenization; of grinding a city’s culture into digestible chunks for visitors. Today, travelers prize the authentic experiences that Airbnb facilitates. Airbnb has revolutionized tourism on a global scale – and we are all the better for it.

Upcoming SCOTUS Cases

No voter wants their representative to be stuck in yesterday’s news cycle. While many might not realize it, important cases are argued and ruled upon every single day; the Supreme Court alone reviews around 7,000 – 8,000 cases per term. Each of these cases has the potential to spark public interest or open the door to vital legislative reviews, making it vital for any politician worth his office to keep his ear to the ground and take notice of high-profile Supreme Court cases. I find this to be especially important today, given our currently intense political atmosphere.

 

Below, I have listed a couple of important Supreme Court cases currently under review. However, if you wish to delve deeper into these and other current cases, visit the Supreme Court of the United States’ blog for more information.

 

Collins v. Virginia

 

Case Granted: September 28, 2017

Current Status: Pending

 

Context: This case questions whether police officers violated Ray Austin Collins’ fourth amendment rights when they lifted a tarp covering a motorcycle in his driveway during the course of investigation to determine whether the motorcycle was the same one used to elude police detainment on several previous occasions. The officers arrived at Collins’ residence after seeing him violate several traffic laws while riding the motorcycle. After confirming that the motorcycle was the one they had seen, the officers waited for him to return home. Under questioning, the defendant admitted to having bought the vehicle despite knowing that it was stolen.

 

Question at hand: Given that the police crossed onto Collins’ private property and lifted the tarp to confirm the motorcycle without a warrant, should the motorcycle be suppressed as evidence or upheld under the automobile exception to the fourth amendment?

 

Class v. United States

 

Case Granted: February 21, 2017

Current Status: Pending

 

Context: In May of 2013, Rodney Class represented himself to the District of Columbia Circuit and pleaded guilty to possessing three firearms on United States Capitol Grounds. He later appealed this ruling under the argument that his conviction was unconstitutional, though the appellate court affirmed the original guilty ruling.

 

Question at hand: Does a guilty plea bar a defendant from arguing against the constitutionality of his conviction?  
These are only two of many intriguing cases; those who wish to keep current on Supreme Court cases and rulings should bookmark the SCOTUS Blog as a resource. The SCOTUS Blog not only provides a record of cases on and beyond the docket, but also offers informative posts and insights into ruling implications.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Press Conferences

 

Holding a press conference is a little like setting off a flare. Attracted by the noise and the promise of a good story, reporters will flock to your venue in the hopes of finding the next morning’s headlines. These media events serve as useful opportunities to share information and take ownership of potentially inflammatory stories before political rivals or unfriendly foes do. However, like flares, press conferences have the potential to burn a candidate if enacted incorrectly. In this post, I’ve outlined a few of the basic do’s and don’ts of holding press conferences for new candidates.

 

DO

Have a good reason for holding one.

Never hold a press conference to share banal information, and only hold media events when necessary. Reporters’ time is valuable; if media representatives don’t think attending your press conference will lead to a good story, they won’t attend. Save your candidate the potential embarrassment of an empty room by only holding press conferences on subjects you know will draw a crowd. Schedule an event if you need to share big news or if the office phones are ringing non-stop for comment – but find other means of communication for day-to-day news!

 

DON’T

Show up without a plan.

Press conferences place a candidate and/or his representative under intense media scrutiny. An off-the-cuff comment or half-considered remark can dominate the news cycle for days – so prepare appropriately! Have remarks and talking points prepared, and keep any communication brief. Keep in mind that press conferences should never drag on for over 45 minutes.

 

DO

Have a press release and press kit prepared.

If you don’t provide reporters with a narrative about the news you share, they’ll likely dig for one themselves – and you might not like the story they settle on. Make sure that you present members of the media with documents that outline your positions and reasonings in a good light. Candidates should at the very least provide a press release overviewing the news they plan to share – however, putting together a press kit is preferable. Expensive as they are, press kits are useful; they contain background context for the issue at hand, the candidate’s position, argument highlights, related news stories, and biographies of conference speakers.

 

DON’T

Answer unrelated or inflammatory questions

As I mentioned earlier, an unfortunately worded answer can negatively dominate the news cycle for days at a time – and often, reporters try to throw speakers off in order to get a juicy comment. If a media representative asks an unrelated or inflammatory question that has the potential to yank the conference off-track, make sure that the conference moderator shuts down the conversation before it becomes damaging to the task at hand.

 

Remember, the press is an invaluable resource for any candidate – but communication with it must be conducted with careful thought and strategy.

Who Now? The Importance of Name Recognition

 

Over the course of a campaign, volunteers and staffers alike spend hundreds of working hours pounding the pavement. They knock on doors, talk over voter outreach tables, and even make cold calls to people who are more likely to hang up than listen beyond that first hopeful greeting. It’s exhausting, stressful, and difficult work – and for many volunteers, utterly worth the trouble.

 

Most campaign workers don’t take up their roles for the pay and an extra line on their resumes; they sign on because they truly believe in a candidate’s values and leadership potential. With such a focus on reaching potential voters, the last thing that an exhausted, optimistic campaign worker wants to hear after floating their candidate’s name to a voter is: Who? Never heard of them.

 

Name recognition matters, and any candidate worth their campaign pin knows that they can’t afford to dismiss it. It sounds intuitive: voters trust those they find familiar. According to a 2011 study conducted by researchers at Princeton University, voters who enter the voting booth without a significant understanding of how candidates’ positions align with their own are more likely to opt for the most familiar name. Think about that for a moment – in a community of less- or moderately-involved voters, a greater awareness of a name could actually define the outcome of an election.   

 

That said, this finding hinges on the assumption that voters won’t do their research before heading to the ballot box. Let’s consider the issue optimistically, and ask – does the value of name recognition still hold true if voters are engaged?

 

The short answer is yes – but not in the same way. The ideal voter does their homework, and moves towards the candidate whose positions align well with their own; but at the end of the day, they choose a person, not a laundry list of political issues. Generally, people tend to vote for people they feel they know – and for some, “knowing” a candidate can be as simple as exchanging a smile or handshake after a speech. Name recognition goes beyond simply recognizing the name, and becomes a recognition of the person and personality behind the name. It’s difficult to put faith in a distant persona; voters gravitate to those they feel they have connected with. Thus, name recognition opens the door to voter trust.

 

With this in mind, it’s easy to see that the work those tireless campaign staffers do is vital to creating a healthy campaign. At its core, political elections are human efforts – it isn’t enough to just push an agenda or position. Campaigns also need to focus on helping voters connect to the person behind the name; to trust that the candidate they vote for will represent them well.

Office Talk: 8 Key Roles in a Campaign Office

A campaign is often defined by a single person – but it takes the help of considerably more to run well. Depending on the size of the effort, campaign staff sizes can vary from a few dozen to a few thousand paid and volunteer workers. Successful political campaigns rely on the dedication and effort provided by their workers. However, even the most eager staff needs leadership to function effectively; rampant disorganization can tank a campaign effort just as quickly as a painful media misstep. The following are a few of the most vital managing positions necessary to build a strong, effective campaign office.

 

Campaign Manager

The best campaign manager acts as the glue that holds the various pieces of the campaign together. Anyone who takes on the job must be able to juggle responsibilities under pressure; tasked as they are with managing day-to-day operations, hiring, communicating with the candidate, and implementing fundraising efforts, a campaign manager can’t afford to be disorganized. Excellent interpersonal skills and charisma are a must.

 

Communications Director

A person in this position must feel comfortable around the press. A campaign’s communications director is responsible for building a positive relationship with the media, drafting campaign communications and literature, and establishing press opportunities for the candidate. Ideally, a director will already have a significant number of media connections that they can use to further the campaign’s reach.

 

Fundraising Director

A campaign needs money to make progress – and the Fundraising Director is responsible for making sure that it never grinds to a halt. A staffer in this role must prepare and oversee all fundraising events, and make sure that the candidate is meeting their fundraising goals.

 

Field Director

A person in this position is responsible for organizing direct voter contact and outreach efforts. They must develop an effective strategy for identifying and convincing undecided voters to cast ballots for their candidate. A person selected for this role must be high-energy, and able to effectively organize volunteers, staff, and tremendous amounts of data on a daily basis.

 

Legal Advisor

A campaign’s legal advisor makes certain that the campaign is safely within legal bounds at all times.

 

Political Director

The ideal political director seeks to communicate positively with a diverse array of constituencies, as well as to forge relationships with the organizations which represent them. Additionally, they must work in tandem with the field director to build and implement outreach plans with the goal of expanding a candidate’s support base.

 

Scheduler

A candidate’s schedule is demanding, and can be chaotic if improperly handled. The campaign’s scheduler is tasked with ensuring the candidate is briefed and ready for events, and is further responsible for accepting, declining, and seeking out potential appearance opportunities.

 

Office Manager

There’s no avoiding it – campaigns can be hectic. The Office Manager is responsible for making sure that the office itself is well-run even as the campaign erupts into freneticism. The staffer appointed to this position makes sure that the office is well-staffed, supplied, and organized on a day-to-day basis.
These are only a few of the many positions required for a smoothly-run campaign; but without even one of these leaders, even the most well-meant efforts would undoubtedly fall into disorganized chaos. Maintaining excellent leadership, dedication, and organization is key to successful political efforts.

Office Talk: Qualities to Look for in Potential Campaign Staffers

 

Building a campaign team is no small feat. Finding the right people to fill vital roles can be one of the hardest parts of setting up a campaign office; those you hire will have to be prepared to handle the fast-paced schedule and occasionally exhaustive work required to keep the movement organized and on-track. It’s often difficult to gauge whether an interviewee is up to the job they applied for – but they need to display a few basic qualities to pass muster.

 

Tenacity

Campaign staffer can’t wilt at hard work. The jobs in a campaign office often entail long hours, hard work, and sharp deadlines. Those expecting to work a set schedule and take frequent social media breaks will have to look elsewhere for a job. The ideal candidate will understand that the job requires a wholehearted commitment, and will hold steady through the period of the campaign.

 

Flexibility

Even the most organized campaign requires a great deal of flexibility from its staffers. The job often requires travel and late nights. Applicants should know that working a second job or attempting to stick to a set schedule will most likely fall to pieces within a week. Recruiters need to through sort their applicants for people who can commit and have flexible enough schedules to work with a campaign’s intense scheduling needs.

 

Creativity

The best campaign staffers are those who can think outside the box and be creative under pressure. Sometimes, new ideas are just the thing to jumpstart a  static strategy and put new life into engagement efforts. Managers should look for staffers who can be thoughtful and innovative while working productively within the campaign’s organizational structure.

 

Intelligence

Staffers must be intelligent, have excellent instincts, and possess the requisite technical and interpersonal skills for their position. The ideal candidate is able to juggle their responsibilities with poise, intelligence, and charisma, and work productively within the team. The best staffers will face problems rationally, and offer methodical solutions in a timely manner. Moreover, their emotional intelligence must be as sharp as their book smarts; given the interpersonal nature of the job, staffer will often need to engage productively with stressed staffers, argumentative community members, and alert reporters.

 

There’s no doubt about it – picking the right people for positions in a campaign office is difficult. But campaign managers who put in the extra effort to build a strong team will find their work rewarded with a better-organized and more productive office.

Incorporating Social Media Into Political Strategy

Social media: whether they love or hate it, modern candidates can’t ignore it. Since Facebook’s founding in 2004, social media sites have exploded in popularity and leveraged a considerable influence on how the public consumes political news and opinions. The traditional print and online newspapers that had previously sufficed as platforms for candidates who wanted to share their positions and ideas are no longer enough; for a voter base accustomed to the closeness of a personal profile, the distance of a newspaper quote feels insufficient. For those working on campaigns in 2017, planning social media is a necessary aspect of preparing strategy.

But wait, some skeptics might say, Aren’t millennials the only ones who buy into social media? That group alone can’t have that much sway.

Yes…and no. While millennials certainly represent a significant chunk of users, the age group doesn’t dominate the social media landscape. According to surveys conducted by Statista, about 44% of Facebook users (roughly 96 million individuals) are between the ages of 18 and 34. That number leaves about 118 million users in the United States who fall into different demographic categories. From a big-picture standpoint, the 218 million total US users that Facebook alone can reach makes building a social media presence a must for candidates who want to make their voices heard.

Incorporating social media into campaign strategy has to be undertaken with care, and a few best practices need to be observed by any strategist.

Be Active.

The entire point of a social media profile is to put the candidate forward as a timely, thinking, real person with influential ideas. An inactive or unengaging profile will not only lose user interest, but it will frame a candidate as being behind the times and unable to keep up with modern modes of communication. Regular updates and lively engagement is a must!

Moreover, the main aim of any social media campaign can’t be to engage followers a candidate already has. Rather, a strategist should look to boost their likes and share in order to catch the attention of their followers’ friends. The more likes and shares a candidate achieves, the better chance that their posts will end up on the feeds of their followers’ friends – and potentially draw in those friends as potential supporters.

Know Your (Platform) Audience.

All social media sites are not created equal. Different platforms have different expectations for communication; the expansive status a communications writer would draft for Facebook wouldn’t suit the hashtag-heavy, 140-character expectation for a Twitter post. Learn the “language,” as it were, and speak it! Listen to your audience – doing so could potentially provide a strategist with ideas for how a candidate can better appeal to supporters and potentials.

Have Contingency Plans.

Social media slips happen. Whether an aide forgets to switch to their personal account before tweeting, or a communications writer accidentally misquotes statistics, the social media team needs to be prepared with an action plan to take down and/or publish a clarification. That said the communications department should invest time in building a well-thought-out process in place that carefully vets potential communications before anyone presses the “publish” button.

Political Fundraising 101

Elections are a multi-billion dollar business. In fact, in 2016, candidates for all federal offices spent more than $6.8 billion in the hopes of getting elected. Before candidates could rack up campaign expenses of that size, however, they had to raise all the money. As a veteran of countless campaigns, I know just how challenging fundraising can be for any candidate, from presidential hopefuls to small-town mayors. If you’re trying to improve fundraising for your campaign but don’t know where to start, take a look at this list of potential strategies.

Minimize Costs

Ironically, fundraising costs money; as a result, you’ll need to dedicate a portion of the money that you bring in to pay for the costs of your fundraising efforts. With that in mind, try to reduce the amount that you spend on fundraising in order to increase the amount of money that you have to spend on the actual campaign. Perhaps instead of having your next rally or reception catered, you can have a cookout or even a potluck with your supporters in order to shrink the bill.

Set Various Tiers for Events

Try as you might, you won’t be able to finance your campaign solely by hosting $500-per-head dinners. Instead, you’ll need to diversify your fundraising efforts, which you can do by creating different categories of events that target different classes of donors. For example, you can design a suite of VIP events—like formal dinners or cocktail receptions—that target high-value donors, and at the same time, you can develop initiatives that engage a broader audience but generate smaller contributions, like social media or direct-mail campaigns. This way, you’ll be able to run fundraising efforts simultaneously by targeting multiple groups, and you’ll prevent yourself from tapping out a certain donor base by putting all of your fundraising eggs in one basket.

Leverage Relationships

People don’t like to be cold called, let alone cold called and asked for money. It’s far more effective to reach out to a potential donor with whom you have an existing relationship or connection. When you begin your fundraising efforts, make a list of all the potential high-value donors that you have a relationship with and ask your staff to do the same. Reach out to these individuals first: You can use your relationship or connection with them to ask for a contribution or to ask if they can put you in touch with their friends or colleagues who might be interested in supporting your campaign. In doing so, you can cultivate an entire network of engaged donors who feel personally connected—and, with any luck, invested—to your campaign.