What if I told you that there was a surefire way for any candidate (whether you are running for the first time or trying to win as incumbent) to win any political election? This is the truth: and this campaign secret isn’t a tactic that your opponents are likely to use even if they do know about it. This is why I write to share part of my experience with you. Come along with me!
In the race to win the House of Assembly election (Nigerian state legislature) for a client during the 2015 election, I discovered that the secret to winning elections are ruthlessly simple. To win a local election (or race for an office like a school board position or local government council chairman) doesn’t have to do with the message you focus on, the color of your political campaign yard signs or even how fat your purse is. No, it’s nothing as complex as that; in fact, it’s very simple. If not, my client stood no chance against an incumbent whose financial war chest could buy our campaign staff all put together.
Here was one thing we did in order to produce a winning candidate in our fund-starved political campaign: outwork our opponent. By this I don’t mean outworking our political opponent by only a few degrees; I mean campaigning so hard that we had to throw away our shoes (in some cases) when the election season was over. I meant knocking on so many doors in our district that the voters start rolling their eyes when they see us coming to their houses. We had to make up for our lack of funds with our enthusiasm and zeal.
Getting out and knocking on every door in a city as large as Lagos can be difficult. Calling every registered voter is hectic. Writing personal cards to thousands of people is time consuming. But all these we did!
As a consultant for a first-time candidate for the state Legislature, I can remember a question one supporter asked me after I had gone door-to-door in the entire city for a second time (and was gearing up for a third): “That’s great, but don’t you think you’re just doing too much?”
When it comes to local grassroots campaigning, you can’t do too much. Local races don’t come with weekly tracking polls to give you an idea of how you are doing with the voters.
When you’re a political candidate running a campaign for a local election, you have to constantly assume that you are behind your opponent. You have to play a continuous game of catch-up. You have to outwork the competition on all fronts. We knew these lessons like the palms on our hands!
As a political consultant, I have seen many candidates win and lose races. The first time I heard a voter tell a candidate that they were “sick” of seeing him so much; I knew he was going to win the race. We knew we had to overwhelm the prospective voters. We had to lay ambush less the incumbent takes undue advantage. Don’t forget, the purse is lean and we can’t compete on that basis!
So as the election day drew near, we had to get out and “market” our candidate in a way that voters were sick of seeing us so much. We had to start earlier than our opponent, for an election that will take place in February. We started knocking on doors in October the previous year. We started our door-to-door efforts in December. We knew the competition was going to make up to a thousand phone calls; we set ourselves a goal of 10,000.
That was how we defeated a tough incumbent for the state legislature last year. It can work for you too, if it did for me!