A new generation of candidates and activists on the left are being inspired by the Trump administration to get involved in campaigns. This is happening as the DNC and the Democrats’ national campaign committees are in the process of rebuilding their staffs in the wake of 2016. This influx of new faces in D.C. and locally is putting pressure on consultants living outside the Beltway to get further involved in candidate recruitment.
Now, it’s important that consultants are mindful of the line between casual suggestions to party officials about a potentially “good candidate” and the process of prospecting future business.
There are some firms such as Higher Heights of America, Rodham Consulting and Winning Women Florida focused on both recruiting more women to public office and managing the journey through the election season. Their operations are somewhat unique. In most cases, party leaders aren't thrilled to have a candidate go through the courtship-to-campaign process without their involvement.
Moreover, they'll give a cold shoulder to would-be candidates recruited by firms for attributes such as being able to self-finance, rather than their retail skills or connections to the district.
But recruitment is a grey area and there are no hard-and-fast rules. If you do choose to head upstream and recruit candidates for specific races, here are a few considerations.
If you're asked to actively recruit, know that every prospect you interview may not be as excited as you are to put themselves up for public scrutiny. It’s important to note that doesn’t mean the person may not change his or her mind down the road. Recruitment should be focused on keeping that strong leader engaged in the political process not just for a particular seat. Keeping strong leaders connected whether they run for office or not will be critical to future elections.
As state and local groups begin to organize in preparation for the upcoming midterm elections, consultants should be working closely with party chairmen and chairwomen, and leadership to identify newly minted candidates. Being a team player can lead to new business.
But be cautious not to co-mingle the delicate work of both recruitment and business development to the detriment of future election cycles.
Be Prepared for Pushback
As consultants, we think it’s easy to spot some of the obvious traits that might make a local leader attractive as a candidate for higher office, and a client. This potential candidate might be just one hard conversation away from going for it. If you take that conversation on, be prepared for tough chats with local party leadership and donors. Remember that local party leaders are trying to navigate new waters and may have strong feelings about how recruitment, coordination, and collaboration with consultants should be handled.
When seeking to nudge a colleague, family member, or community leader to run for office, be sure as a consultant to also share all available options with your recruit, including other firms that may best meet their needs. He or she will inevitably discover them. Recruitment may hopefully lead to more business, but it should be organic and not forced.
Kara B. Turrentine, is the CEO of Turrency Political, LLC, a full service campaign strategy and branding firm based in Nashville, Tenn.