The local election issues that you choose to focus on as a candidate are an important part of the planning process for your political campaign. Regardless of the size of your city or district, researching and prioritizing the issues that are important to voters can help you create an effective, laser-focused campaign message.
When figuring out what issues you’re going to focus on in your local campaign, there are two potential pitfalls that you need to be cognizant of: focusing on too few election issues, and focusing on too many election issues.
As a general rule, I usually advice local political candidates to limit their campaign message to three core issues or themes. Any more than this can work against you on several fronts: your overlying message becomes too muddled and confusing to voters if you focus on more than three issues, and it becomes much more difficult and expensive to make the electorate understand your position on all of the issues.
Keeping your message simple and easily understood is vital to a successful local election. Many new candidates think that they are going to impress voters by showing them how many different issues they have opinions on, but in reality it’s only likely to make your audience roll their eyes and tune you out.
Even statewide and national campaigns, in which a huge diversity of issues come into play, usually keep their message focused on no more than three or four specific issues that are important to voters. A gubernatorial or presidential candidate might devote a lot of attention to issues like the economy, taxes, healthcare or the like, but if their campaign strays into too many more issues, it tends to take focus away from reinforcing their messaging on the core topics that matter the most to voters.
Once you’ve identified the two or three election issues you’re going to focus on in your campaign, there a few simple rules you can follow to make sure the voters identify you with these issues and understand your position. First, make sure that your general door cards, flyers, advertisements and campaign literature always mentions these core issues and gives a brief overview or description of each one.
Secondly, consider devoting an individual mail piece or other advertising options to each specific issue. After giving a broad overview of your campaign’s election issues in early advertising, focus in on each of the individual issues and go into more depth about it for the voters.
For instance, let’s say that you’ve decided to focus on the issues of local business development, safer streets and lower taxes. In your early campaign literature and advertising, you should merely mention that these three issues form the core of your campaign, and get the voters used to identifying you with them.
If you have the funding to do so in the final weeks of your campaign, though, it can be very effective to send out an individual, targeted mail piece to voters focusing on each of your three themes. Three weeks before the election, you send out a mailer that goes into detail about your position on local business development; two weeks before you send out a mailer about safer streets; and one week before, you send one focusing on lower taxes.
This kind of “one-two-three” punch on your core local election issues can help reinforce your position with the voters and ensure that they understand exactly what your message consists of.
More on the topic of political campaign issues later, but it’s worth mentioning that focusing on too few issues can be just as dangerous as focusing on too many. If voters don’t identify you with any issues or message at all, then you run the risk of being looked at as “just some person” who is running for office. While that might work for some candidates, your odds of earning the constituents’ votes is much higher if you actually make an effort to tell them about the issues that are important to you.