Green Party Candidate Recruiting Manual
First Edition 2004
Prepared by the Green Party of the United States
Coordinated Campaign Committee
Presented at the Milwaukee National Convention
Intro: Reflections of a Green Alderman by John Halle Former Green Party Alderman New Haven, CT
While many of us will shy away from the conversation, a lot of us would probably acknowledge that there needs to be discussion on the effectiveness of the strategies associated with anti-corporate politics. In a recent essay, Naomi Klein came close to broaching the subject in alluding to the limitations of single issue, protest based activism, the best known form of which she calls "meeting stalking." The ultimate result of protest politics, she suggests, is a one step forward, two step backward pas de deux where a victory on one front - shutting down a WTO meeting, closing a sweatshop, preventing the opening of a toxic waste incinerator, or preventing the extinction of a species is inevitably accompanied by losses on a whole range of issues where the corporate agenda moves forwarded unimpeded by public pressure and with the active collusion of elected officials.
The protest model marks a sharp break with a long tradition of political engagement. Radical politics has generally taken as its explicit objective not influencing actors within government, but replacing them with those who would take control of state power for the purpose of implementing a comprehensive populist, egalitarian agenda. That means, to be blunt, building a party, and competing and winning in elections.
So my intention in running as a Green for the New Haven Board of Aldermen was to contribute a brick in the wall for the development of this kind of politics. The way you insert your brick is by winning and then serving in office.
John Halle was elected to Alderman, Ward 9 in New Haven, Connecticut in 2001Why Greens should run for office
The Green Party is a political party and therefore should engage in political activity to build the party and promote our ideals. Running candidates for office is not only our right but our responsibility to the many thousands of voters who are registered Green.
Of course, we should not just run any candidate for any seat if we are to be taken seriously. There is room for debate on the subject about when and how Greens should run. The Libertarians, for instance, run regularly in as many seats as possible, so they always have a name on the ballot for their party members to vote for. Greens, on the other hand, tend to run candidates much less often, and concentrate efforts in a few key seats rather than fill the ballot up with names of people who are not actually campaigning to win.
How we run, where we run and who we run will define how the Green Party develops and grows over the next few years. Finding good candidates that represent our values well is a critical component to our continuing success in the electoral arena. Here are some factors to consider when recruiting candidates for office:
What are your goals for running candidates:
• Winning local office
• Running an ideological or educational campaign to build party presence
• Ballot access
• Challenging an incumbent
• Raise important issues, get into the political debate
What is the political climate in your area:
• If applicable, how many registered Greens are there in your area?
• Have Green candidates won in your area or state?
• How do progressives and/or Green candidates fare in your area?
• Does your state have ballot access for the Green Party?
• What are pressing local issue/political that Green candidates can make an impact?
• What is the voter perception about Green Party candidates in your area?
It is critical to understand the demographics of the area you seek to run candidates in before you start the campaign. You will need to know what kinds of issues and personalities voters favor - and ones they don’t. It is also good to know what the chances are for winning or running a competitive race. It will be easier to recruit a candidate if there is a demonstrated possibility of being elected.
I. Targeting races to run candidates in
If you are running to win, the best place to start is local. Go to your local Department of Elections website (or office) and find out what local seats are up for election. In a lot of states, many of these offices are non-partisan. Many are below the radar, so to speak, and do not get the visibility of higher offices. Nonetheless, these are the seats that offer Greens the best chance to win elections and put Green values into action via legislative changes. They are also stepping-stones to higher office down the line.
In some areas, City Councils are small races. In other places, like Los Angeles, City Council races are larger and more intense than State Assembly races. Commissions and Boards are an excellent place to get in on the ground level of local governance. Be sure to talk with your local and state Green Parties, too, about short- and long-term strategy for electoral activity. Examples of local offices (which vary greatly in both name and substantive work) include:
• School Board
• Community College Board
• Rent Control board
• Planning Commission
• Conservation District
• Water Board
• Fire Conservation District
• Transit Board
• Board of Appeals
Examples of seats held by Greens: 205 Greens across the country hold elected office as of March 2004.
Finding winnable seats:
Another option for running competitive Green races is to find seats that have little or no opposition. For larger, partisan races, try to identify potential races where the incumbent runs without opposition. In many CA districts (where district boundaries are so politically drawn to favor either the Democrat or Republican candidate that there is seldom a shake up in terms of the other party winning these pre determined seats). For instance, there are areas where no Democrat will run or no Republican has a chance of a competitive race and so the local party will often not place a candidate.
For local office, there are occasionally times when the local governing bodies have more seats than candidates. Winning these seats simply means knowing where they are, and when the filing date is and getting a name on the ballot. Nevada County, CA ran 15 candidates and won 9 seats in 2002 by simply finding out the seats open and recruiting candidates to fill them. Several seats had Greens challenging other Greens and no other candidates.
II. Criteria for identifying qualified candidates
Candidates should always be qualified and able to hold office if elected. This is an important question to ask all candidates, especially in educational type races where it may be assumed the Green will not win. It is critical to run qualified candidates for the positions they seek. School Board candidates should have some education background or children in public schools, for instance.
Selection criteria based on Campaigning abilities
1. A Green candidate should know the basics of campaigning (this of course can be learned if they have a lot of other good qualities). They should also:
a. Be able to put together a campaign team, which includes a campaign manager, volunteer coordinator, web master, etc.
b. Have good fundraising skills, be willing to ask people for money and be ready to start raising money away.
c. Have their own resources and/or connections to organizations outside of the usual Green Circle (e.g. Medea Benjamin used Global Exchange connections, Peter Camejo has his own business, Joe Szwaja had the East Timor Network, Sally Soriano was active in Public Citizen and an anti-WTO organizer in Seattle, and JoAnn Beemon was an anti-Nuclear activist).
2. A Green candidate should be able to devote at least 20 hours or more a week during the initial phase of the campaign. Here are some things they should be doing:
a. Give regularly scheduled talks at environmental, social and political functions throughout their district (e.g. union locals, Sierra Club meetings, campus groups, anti-war rallies)
b. Communicate often with the press about the issues (find allies, issue press releases, etc.) c. Get to know the other candidates personally, in order to set up debates in the future.
3. A Green candidate should expect to devote 40 or more hours to the campaign during its final phase (the last 4 – 6 months).
4. A Green candidate should receive the endorsement of all county locals in her district.
Selection criteria based on political abilities
1. Ideally, a Green candidate should be recruited by local Greens to run for office rather than self selected.
2. A Green candidate will have been a committed activist in his or her local area, for example, he or she will have:
a. Attended city council meetings, commission meetings, and other community for a on a regular basis.
b. Served as an appointee on a commission or two, and/or have been on the board of a neighborhood organization or other local civic organization, and/or have been involved in local electoral campaigns.
c. Will know "players" of the local political scene, and will be known to people like the mayor, city council members, commissioners, etc.
3. A Green candidate will be known and respected by the local media. Ideal candidates will:
a. Write regular letters to the editor, compose op-ed pieces, etc.
b. Become known as a thoughtful and articulate commentator on local issues.
c. Have a demonstrated expertise and clarity on policy-making decisions.
4. A Green candidate will be able to eloquently articulate and elaborate Green positions on local, state and national issues.
a. They will be committed to electoral reforms such as Instant Runoff Voting, public financing for campaigns or other local campaign and electoral reforms.
b. They will be unafraid of being tagged a "spoiler".
5. A Green candidate will be a dynamic speaker in front of an audience, and be able to:
a. Give a clear (and exciting) presentation on the issues.
b. Frame election issues in positive terms (i.e. what she is going to do instead of how bad her opponents are).
c. Have a professional looking appearance. She need not wear a suit, but should be neat and presentable when representing her campaign.
6. The best Green candidates are those who fit the above criteria and are also female or representative of some other historically underrepresented group.
III. Finding the ideal candidate: Where to look
After you prioritize races where you would like to run Green candidates in, and what qualities, knowledge and background an ideal candidate should have to run for these seats (see checklist above), the recruitment committee should determine what kind of candidate is ideal for each race.
You may already have some candidates in mind; if so, proceed with recruitment plan to sell them on the idea of running. If you don’t already have someone in mind, here are some ideas to find candidates:
• Get a list of registered Greens (many states do not have this option, and places like Los Angeles with 26,000+ members it is an overwhelming amount of info).
• Ask elected officials and/or Green leadership whom they recommend.
• Identify key people within activist and social networks to approach.
• Look for former candidates who may be interested in trying again (if they showed potential last time.)
• Attend town/state legislature meetings to see who the movers and shakers are.
• Read local newspaper political articles to see who gets media coverage.
• Attend progressive events and meetings.
• Ask community leaders whom they would like to see as candidates.
• Go to peace marches and rallies to find out who the organizers and leaders are.
• Target groups of color and women’s groups, labor, civil liberties, environmental racism, criminal justice reform, Parent Teacher Associations (esp. for school board candidates), parent groups and other places where people of color and female leaders are prominent.
Above all, it is important for Greens to look beyond the “usual suspects” and party insiders for candidates. It is critical to realize that not everyone will make a good candidate, and the local must be ready to encourage a less than ideal candidate to support another candidate instead. Local endorsement procedures can come in handy for helping to suppress unwanted Green candidacies in dire circumstances.
Recruit candidates of color and women.
Recent election results have proven that Green voters show a preference for women and candidates of color if given a choice. Running candidates of color and women also enables us to reach out to new constituencies and build new relationships in the community we are organizing in.
Conversely, it reflects poorly on our party to run predominately male and white candidates. This is not to say we should never run white male candidates, but that we should make every effort to ensure that our slate is gender balanced and diverse. The best way to diversify the slate is to actively recruit candidates.
Women candidates often report that the reason they ran is because they were asked. Sometimes, often, in fact, these candidates had to be asked, cajoled, pestered and asked again before finally agreeing to be the candidate rather than part of the support team.
Finding diverse candidates means going out of our “comfort zones”. It means working with the community you seek representation from and getting to know the leadership. Contact elected officials and others who have connections within the communities you are recruiting among to see who they know in the community that would be open to the prospect of running as a Green candidate. It is important that we start building relationships and trust among organizers of color so that they do not feel like they are being tokenized.
IV. Before you approach potential candidates:
Before you go out to address and meet your potential candidates, it is important to have done your homework. You should be prepared to tell the prospective candidate why you are approaching them, what you can offer them, and what is expected of them for this campaign.
Make sure the candidate and the party have a shared vision about the goals of the campaign, and the message. Make sure you know enough about the potential candidate’s values and background before you stake your reputation on supporting him or her.
It is good to get an idea of the goals for the campaign out on the table, and let the candidate know what to expect. Be honest about the chance for victory, and have solid data (previous election results, demographic data, etc.) to back up your case that this is a winnable race.
For each particular type of race (e.g. School Board, city council, etc.) draft platform or identify key issues relevant to this seat. This will help the candidate and the campaign articulate a clear message that reflects Green Party values. The perfectly qualified candidate may be hard to find, so be prepared to offer assistance to help the candidate develop in areas where they are not strong. Outline what kind of assistance the local and individuals within the local are prepared to offer. Here is a sample of what you can offer:
• Lists for fundraising
• Office space and equipment
• Campaign expertise
• Media contacts
• Web, database, graphics art talent, etc.
• Technical help with filing requirements, reporting and deadlines
Of course the most valuable thing we can offer are our party resources, which should include the ability to marshal support for a candidate once the race is on. Do not promise or indicate that we can offer lots of money or expensive things like TV commercials (unless you have a secret stash of cash).
Decide on a procedure for endorsing candidates. An endorsement process is necessary for any local involved in electoral campaigns. A good policy is one with clearly laid out bylaws about who can participate in these decisions, what the process is (questionnaires, interviews), election procedures (Instant Runoff Voting, proportional representation, winner take all, consensus).
Let the candidate know about the details of the process, so they are ready for interviews, questionnaires, and other endorsement-related activities they need to go through to get the endorsement. Ideally, recruited candidates will be endorsed without too much hardship or internal process. The process is important to have, however, to make sure you know who you are supporting and how they present themselves.
V. Approaching a potential candidate:
• Make a list of likely prospects, and analyze for strengths and weaknesses. Select a final few to approach.
• If possible, get to know prospective candidates (if non-Green) personally before ever mentioning their running for office. Try to determine their level of integrity, energy, etc.
• Get members of your group who have connections with the candidate or their circle if possible to approach them about running for office. Get an invite to an event where they are and make an introduction.
• Meet face to face with the potential candidate to discuss the potential of running for office, with a small group of the most active greens first. If possible, get an elected Green to help with the approach. In non-partisan races, you can also recruit a supportive elected official who may not be a Green but has influence in progressive circles.
• The face to face meeting is an important step, and help you find out what they are interested in, what time commitments they can make, and what issues they are addressing in their lives that might impact their ability to run. Help find solutions to potential barriers they may put up against running: (if parents, they may need day care; if low income, they will need financial support; if working, they may be very busy and not able to commit a lot of time to run).
• Talk about issues; make sure there is a philosophical agreement between chapter and candidate. Be honest about time commitment when running for office.
• Bring prospective candidates to chapter meeting for endorsement interview, if needed. Be sure to bring materials about the Green Party and other issue papers that you have developed. It helps to show that we are serious about our support and that we have done some legwork in advance of their campaign.
VI. Candidate to campaign agreements:
Once the candidate declares, set up expectations between party and campaign so both parties have a basis of understanding of what to expect.
An ideal candidate should have their own network of support outside the Green Party. Certainly we can offer solid support, but the candidate must bring resources to the table. Be clear with expectations of time and money being spent, among other things.
Also be clear about reciprocation - do you expect the candidate to turn over lists at the end of the campaign? Do you expect to be consulted about key strategies as the campaign progresses? Will the candidate run as a Green or progressive? Will they participate in other local, regional and national Green campaigns?
VII. Supporting your candidate
What can the local or state party offer candidates? In other words how can you support the candidates you recruit? Examples include tangible things like office space, access to office equipment, phone bank locations, databases of potential donors, volunteers and voters. Direct assistance could include assistance with strategy, platform development, volunteer recruitment, fundraising, website and technical support and graphic design. Outreach support including slate mailings, paid advertising, electronic outreach, phone banking and precinct walking. And of course locally endorsed candidates are eligible to apply for national assistance through the Coordinated Campaign Committee. Please encourage them to apply.
It is essential to continue with strong support for candidates once they have agreed to run as a Green. Successful candidacies are the best way to ensure an ongoing source of growth for the party and increased ability to attract quality candidates in future races.
Each party local is different, as each race is different, but here are a few ways your local can support recruited candidates: Your resources are the only limit to what you can do.
1. Candidate training seminars and workshops
2. Special video-coaching/debate preparation sessions
3. Strategic research profiles
4. Vote record research -- including special analysis of top-20-40 votes with an explanation of what each bill would have accomplished (More likely this will be available from the state party or GOP legislative caucus)
5. Demographic profile of the district (census bureau statistics, etc.)
6. Survey research/tracking
7. Use of staff or volunteers to draft a campaign plan, monitor the campaign, and provide direct assistance, as required
8. A "Buddy program" in which an already elected official "adopts" a challenger and helps the campaign
9. Direct financial assistance and/or significant in-kind contributions
10. Access to donor lists, help in setting up meetings with major donors
11. Voter lists and products
12. Voter identification program
13. Direct mail -- including slate cards and absentee ballots
14. Get-out-the-vote programs
15. Staff (assuming you have some) to work in the campaign during the last few weeks before the election
16. Assistance with filing and treasury duties
17. Pro bono legal services, if needed
Candidate Questionnaire: CA Example
(no points, just the info about the candidate)
Name of candidate
Name of office sought
Name and location of district
Date of election
Candidate contact info (address, phone, cell phone, email, website)
Name and contact info for campaign manager or contact person
List campaign staff and contact info (treasurer, media, volunteer coordinator, fundraiser, etc.)
Has the candidate run for office before? If yes, please indicate election date, results, the type of office sought, and the candidate's party affiliation at the time of the election.
How much time can the candidate give to the campaign?
List endorsements (Green, individual, organizational, labor, elected officials and commissioners, etc.)
Provide contact information for three references. At least one reference should be associated with a Green organization.
HOW MUCH FUNDING DOES YOUR CAMPAIGN SEEK FROM THE CSF?
WILL THIS AMOUNT MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN YOUR WINNING THIS ELECTION?
Qualitative questions will help the committee determine the viability of the campaign, level of organization and other goals the campaign hopes to achieve. This method provides the CSF the ability to be more objective and express values in a quantifiable way vs. personalized and subjective. There are a total of 25 points possible.
These questions also give a new candidate some ideas about how to organize their campaigns. Even if they do not have these items in place, it is an opportunity for them to consider these elements. Preamble to questionnaire should indicate that these elements are scaled to the campaign and region, so someone running for a commission or district post in a small town would not be expected to have a huge, well organized campaign. Funds will be scaled to proportion as well.
12 points for first section possible.
1. Does your campaign have a realistic and strategic plan to identify and turn out the number of voters needed to win the election? (This question is worth 0-4 points.)
If yes, please include the following information:
(a) HOW MANY VOTES DO YOU NEED TO WIN?
(b) How do you plan to get them? Describe briefly, addressing the following questions:
# of direct mail pieces to be mailed
# of walk pieces to be delivered
# of yard and window signs to be distributed
# of street signs to be posted (must be done legally as per your local regulations)
# of press events
Types of visibility activities used (tabling, leafletting at events, etc.)
# Paid advertising planned (Radio spots, paid print ads, etc.)
Other activities to get votes:
(c) Do you have a targeted precinct operation?
If yes, please describe:
How many precincts have targeted
Criteria you used to target certain precincts
Methods you will use to reach these voters
(d) Voter information: (please visit your counties election dept to get this info)
Total number of registered voters in your district.
Total number of votes cast in the last election.
Total number of votes for the progressive or Green candidate who ran in the last race, if any.
Total number of registered Greens in your district.
2. Does your campaign have a realistic and strategic finance plan? (0-4 points.)
If yes, please provide the following information:
(a) Amount of money projected to be raised.
(b) Amount of money already spent on the campaign.
(c) Amount of money on hand.
(d) Amount of money spent by candidates seeking this office in prior elections.
(e) Will the campaign accept corporate contributions?
(f) Will the campaign accept political action committee contributions?
(g) Breakdown of income and expenses categories.
3. Campaign organization: (0-4 points)
(a) Campaign positions (indicate if paid P or volunteer V)
Treasurer (other than yourself)?
Media Person/Press secretary
other campaign positions
(b) Do you have a media plan? If so, please describe briefly your current or intended plans:
Press conferences (when and where, with whom)
Letter to the editors (how many placed, if any so far, please include)
Editorial board meetings (which specific papers are you targeting) Speaking engagements at rallies, meetings, debates, etc. (how many, where, type)
Other press plans
(c) Do you have the following:
Campaign office (other than your home)
Email list (email@example.com for instance)
Professionally printed materials (literature, remit envelopes, etc.)
VIABILITY: 0-6 points for this section
4. Do you have a realistic chance to win this election? If yes, please briefly explain (no need to repeat campaign organization questions above). ie: Yes, there are only two candidates and I am more organized- see above, or yes, I have strong name recognition in the community, strong ties to the issue my intended position represents, etc.
5. Election information:
(a) How many seats are up for this election in your race? Please provide the name, party affiliation of all opponents. Indicate if one of your opponents is an incumbent.
(b) How many candidates are vying for these seats?
(c) Is only one major party (Dem or Rep) candidate running for this seat?
(d) Is this an open seat?
(e) Does your area use IRV?
6. Are you qualified to hold this position: Do you possess specialized skills relevant to this particular seat? ie: if you are seeking a school board seat, are you involved in education? Please briefly list your qualifications for this position.
DIVERSITY Affirmative Action: 0- 4 points for this section
7. Is the candidate a person of color? (This question is worth 2 points.)
8. Is the candidate female? (This question is worth 2 points.)
9. Is the candidate lesbian, bi-sexual, gay, or trans-gendered? (This question is worth 2 points.)
10. Is the candidate under 30? (This question is worth 2 points.)
PARTY BUILDING: 0-4 points for this section
11. Will this campaign result in an increase in registered Greens in your area? If yes, please briefly explain the voter registration drive effort within your campaign.
12. Is this the first time a Green candidate has run for this office in that particular district?
13. Will your campaign increase the visibility of Green values or the Green Party? (please explain how this will be achieved, besides having a Green candidate listed on the ballot).
14. List other campaign goals, besides winning, that this campaign will achieve:
RECRUITING: 0-4 points for this section
15. Did your local or other party chapter identify this seat as a priority prior to your announcing your candidacy?
16. Were you asked by someone to seek election before you announced?
17. Are you running with a slate of candidates (can be others from different parties)?
18. Please describe outreach methods used by your local to find candidates: check all that apply
(a) outreach at regular meetings
(b) special meetings to identify seats and candidates for election
(c) outreach beyond local Green party activists to find candidates
(d) individualized outreach (calls, face to face meetings) to potential candidates
(e) attend meetings where activists are present to find candidates
(f) visit local elections dept website/office to get info on seats up this cycle
(g) ask elected officials to help identify good prospective candidates
(h) work with other progressive orgs to find candidates (ie. Vets for Peace, Code Pink)
(i) other, please briefly describe