Ask the Campaign Doc: Six Questions You Always Wanted to Ask

Q: Is it okay for judicial candidates to run as a slate? Several colleagues and I have been talking about doing that in our local elections next year.

Q: Is it okay for judicial candidates to run as a slate? Several colleagues and I have been talking about doing that in our local elections next year. A: Hmmm. I would have thought that prospective judges would be able to sort through this issue on their own. Here’s the drill — contact whatever body governs judicial ethics in your state and ask them, since rules vary by state. For what it’s worth, states can allow judicial candidates to run as a slate, but they can also prohibit joint fundraising if judicial candidates are prohibited from soliciting funds for other candidates, and they can prohibit publicly assisting other candidates – e.g., introductions at rallies, joint ads, shared resources, etc.   Q: What should we do to make sure we shut down the campaign properly? A: Thank everyone – donors, staff, friends, family, other candidates on the ticket. Pay everyone – staff, consultants, vendors. Get exit memos from everyone. Compile all news coverage and administrative materials. Update the web site for postelection purposes, or shut it down with a simple “thank you for your support” message. Inventory and organize all finance information for future campaign reports. Sell computers, phones, and other electronic equipment that will be outdated by the next election. Turn off utilities and close unnecessary accounts. Get refunds from deposits, including utilities and rent. Hire a cleaning crew to make the vacated office spotless. Then return the keys, get out of Dodge and chill out – the next fight, for better or worse, will be here before you know it.   Q: Should our yard signs list my party affiliation? A: Happens all the time when voter registration strongly favors one party over the other – but not so often when a candidate’s party is the minority. As for candidates who think they can run away from their party affiliation, beware of opponents doing midnight runs and affixing “Democrat” or “Republican” stickers to your nonpartisan signs. Yeah, that kind of dirty trick isn’t fair, but it happens enough to serve as fair warning – nobody can (or should) hide their party ID.   Q: I think we’re going to lose. What’s your advice on what to do after the election? A: True competitors do not ask those kinds of questions before the results are known. My advice: Compete in the moment and don’t think twice about the day after the election. If that doesn’t work for you, get another job in a different profession.   Q: How do we monitor what our opponent is doing in the field? A: You’ll never know their nightly counts (or at least shouldn’t for ethical reasons), but if you’re doing your own field, you’ll find out easily enough. Instruct field staff to bring back reports and samples of opposition door-hangers, leaflets, direct mail, etc. If you want to get sophisticated, use mapping software to enter these reports. In the final analysis, though, you really should set your own targets, run your own race, and monitorfor success – including periodically factoring the opposition’s performance.   Q: We know our opponent will attack us on a specific issue next year. Should we put together a response on that issue? Perhaps have our supporters preemptively attack on our behalf? A: Deal with this issue as part of a larger plan, rather than as an isolated piece of your campaign. If you know for sure who your opponent is, do a complete research book on him or her, do the same on yourself, identify comparable strengths and weaknesses, and then develop a two-phase strategy – first, earned media to build your narrative, and second, paid media to inoculate on vulnerabilities and score points on strengths.  

Craig Varoga has run local, state, and presidential campaigns for 20 years and specializes in independent expenditures as a partner at Independent Strategies. Send questions using Facebook or email

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