Running a winning campaign takes work, dedication, organization and funding according to Victory Montana: A Campaign Management Seminar. The event was hosted by the Montana Farm Bureau Federation, February 12-13 at the Radisson Colonial Hotel in Helena.
The most essential information presented during the seminar was the 14/86 rule; 14 percent of the voting public have their minds made up, and the other 86 percent don’t, so the candidate must make himself the choice for the “86ers.” The 14 percent wants detailed information on the candidate; 86ers select the candidates based on appearance, name identification and brochure bullet points.
“Make sure you are passionate about your candidacy,” noted Jay Ferris, Nebraska Farm Bureau who presented the comprehensive campaign school. “Your biggest competitor isn’t your opponent; it’s getting your message out to the voter. As a candidate you have two responsibilities: First, be in the right place at the right time; second, get your message out.”
It’s wise to select two issues to be well-versed on, but keep your message about them simple and accurate. “Weak issues will sink a good candidate. Strong issues will carry a weak candidate. Your choice of issues is that important,” he cautioned.
Having help for your campaign is critical, including having a campaign manager and scheduler as well as volunteers to canvass for the candidate.
Working with the media is paramount, so the class provided tips on media interaction, including mock interviews that were critiqued by the class.
Representative Mike Cuffe, HD-2, Eureka, had termed out of the House, but is running for the Senate District 1. “It’s been a while since I attended the Farm Bureau Campaign School, but I found it’s a good refresher. I found the mock interview and practicing our 25-word introduction especially valuable.”
Alexandra Hurley of Billings, who is working on Russell Fagg’s campaign for U.S. Senate, gleaned a lot from the school. “This school really goes in-depth. I had no idea what to expect, but there was good interaction, especially with the mock campaign activities. I was especially intrigued with the 14/86 rule. Most campaigns focus on the 14 percent, not on the people who will vote for you because of your appearance.”
Bruce Gillespie, Ethridge, who is running for Senate District 9, found the campaign organization information useful. “This class provided a blue print to follow including what to do and what not to do. That’s going to be very valuable as I start putting my campaign together.”
Sidney attorney Joel Krautter, who attended the campaign school in 2015, was back to hone his skills for his House District 35 run. “I learned how to better prepare my campaign strategy and focus on the issues important to my district to have a winning campaign.”
The campaign school attracts not only those running for legislative offices, but also for county seats. Melanie Roe, Big Timber, said this was her first foray into politics. “It was certainly eye-opening to see everything that goes into running a campaign, including the messaging and practicing media interviews.”
Cutline: Attendees at the Montana Farm Bureau Campaign School in Helena work on campaign strategy exercises.
Nebraska Farm Bureau’s Jay Ferris talks about organizing your campaign.