Once you’ve made the decision to become a candidate, figured out what office you’re going to run for, and identified your winning number, then it’s time to start building the most important resource you’re going to have in your election: your campaign contact list.
When I say “campaign contact list,” I’m not talking about scribbling down a few names and addresses on a sheet of notebook paper. I mean compiling a serious, detailed, kick-ass spreadsheet that you’ll slowly grow over the course of your campaign and use for multiple purposes throughout the year. Your contact list will help you have an awesome launch, get butts into seats at your events, raise lots of money, find yard sign locations, and much more.
Make no mistake about it: your campaign will live or die by your contact list. Putting work into it before you announce your candidacy — and continuing to develop it as your campaign progresses — will make you much more likely to win on election day. And your contact list won’t just help you in your current election . . . it will continue to be a huge help to you in future years, as it grows and becomes more detailed.
To create the best contact list that you can, you’ll need to start with voter data for your district from your county’s local Board of Elections. For a small fee, you should be able to easily get a spreadsheet from the B.O.E. that details all registered voters in your county, city or ward. The spreadsheet will include information like names, addresses, political party and voting history (yes, all of that is public information that anyone has access to). If you don’t have any experience with using Excel spreadsheets, then take some time to familiarize yourself with the program and how it works. The knowledge will come in very handy over the course of your campaign.
Once you have your local voter data handy, it’s time to start your campaign contact list. Create a new Excel spreadsheet, and begin by listing the names of everyone you can think of in your district who you know personally. Make sure that you use two separate columns for first name and last names (that will come in handy later for organizing and mailing). There’s no need to create multiple rows for two people who live at the same address; just list “Bob and Mary” in your “first name” column.
Put some serious thought into who you can include in this first batch of people you know! You should include anyone in your district who you’ve ever met in person or worked with . . . even if it was a long time ago. If a person would remember having met you, put down their name. When you’re done, you might have a few dozen names, or perhaps hundreds. Don’t worry about the initial number of contacts on your list; it will grow significantly over the course of your campaign.
After you’ve added the names of all the people you can remember off the top of your head, it’s time to open your registered voter list and search for more. You’ll probably be surprised at how many more acquaintances you’ll identify by scanning over the names of registered voters in your district. Whenever you come across the name of someone you know (or, more importantly, who might remember you), add them to your contact spreadsheet.
On your contact list, add columns for address, street, city and zip code (yes, make them separate columns . . . you’ll be glad you did when it comes time to organize a long list). Using your own personal records or the registered voter list, fill out every single column for each of the contacts. Add a column for phone numbers and email address, as well, and include as many as you are able to (this can be harder information to get, and probably won’t be on your registered voter spreadsheet).
You should also consider adding columns for “donations” and “yard signs.” As your campaign progresses and you get contributions and yard sign locations from your contacts, you can record all of it on this same spreadsheet (this is great information to refer to for future re-election campaigns, as well).
Finally, include one last very important column: “reminders.” In this column, you’ll write short snippets to remind yourself where you met the person, the issue you spoke about, or other details that you don’t want to forget. You might have a good memory, but believe me: if you run your campaign like you should, you’re going to meet a lot of people. This column will come in very handy over the years.
I’m going to refer to your campaign contact list frequently over the course of this book, and you’ll be surprised at how many different ways it can be put to use in your campaign. Getting your list started is an important step . . . but continuing to develop it is even more important.
Every time you meet someone over the course of your campaign — indeed, any time you have any interaction with anyone at all — you should add them to your contact spreadsheet. If you meet someone at an event, add them to your list. If you hand someone literature while going door-to-door, add them to your list (even if you have to write down an address and then look up their name on the registered voter list when you get home). Even if you meet someone at the supermarket, add them to your list. You need to be very thorough — even obsessive — about continually keeping your contact list up-to-date. Never put off adding a name to your list if you can do it immediately, because that increases the chances that you’ll forget to do it.
If you commit yourself to adding the names of every person you meet over the course of your campaign, you’ll be amazed at how large your contact list will eventually become. By the time the month of the election arrives, you could have contact details for hundreds — or even thousands — of voters in your district, all of whom have interacted with you personally in some way. And I’m going to show you how to turn that list into the most powerful tool in your campaign arsenal and use it to win on election day.