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HOOSER: Campaigning 101 — just do it

With the Aug. 10, 2024, primary election only 14 months away, local candidates need to get moving.

In Hawai‘i, given the dominance of the Democratic Party, the primary is “everything.” You win the primary and you sail through the general election. For most races, this is the reality.

While a candidate cannot actually file to run for office until February 2024, serious candidates seeking to win for the first time can and should begin running now.

The first step is making that commitment, taking that initial step off the ledge and into the abyss. Say the words out loud to your immediate networks. “I’m running for election to the county council or state house or fill in the blank.”

There’s no going back. It’s full tilt boogie, pedal to the metal for the next 14 months.

Next, starting with family and friends, you build a team.

Grass roots, community-based candidates can beat the well-funded “good-ole-boy establishment types” if they are willing to do the work, and if they start early and don’t stop until they cross the finish line.

Yes, having the money for glossy mailers is helpful, but face-to-face contact, knocking on doors and listening to the voters in the district is what wins elections.

An organized candidate with a small team that starts early can literally knock on the door and meet face to face every single voter in a state House or Senate district. In a house district it’s possible to meet that voter two or three times.

Trust me. Most voters vote on name recognition, first impressions and intuition. If a candidate actually comes to their house, knocks on their door and spends a few minutes to speak and listen to them, when it comes time to vote they will remember.

If a candidate comes to their door a second time, and that candidate actually took notes about the issues important to them, that voter will likely reward the candidate with their vote and will tell friends and family about that hard-working candidate who took the time to come by.

A winning campaign team will “reflect the district” — age, ethnicity, income, etc. Most teams start small, perhaps just a handful of people who believe in their candidate can make a difference, and who have the time to help knock on doors, hold signs on the highway, research, social media, graphic design, etc.

Before spending or receiving any money the campaign must register with the state Campaign Spending Commission:

Don’t mess this part up! Every campaign must have a treasurer who will be meticulous in keeping track of the money and reporting requirements.

A simple campaign brochure, a basic website, and “campaign business cards” will get you started. A basic website with resume, pictures of the candidate at home and in the district, visuals showing broad-based, diverse support is sufficient. Later there will be yard signs, banners and advertising expenses, but in the beginning the cost is minimal.

Sometimes it’s necessary to pay a stipend for a campaign manager or treasurer, but more often qualified retirees or others with time on their hands can/will step up to fill these roles.

So that’s the long and the short of it.

Get off the dime, consult with family and friends, and announce you are running.

Assemble your team. Follow the campaign spending law. Do some basic district analysis, grab a voter list and start walking.

It’s never too early to start. The first walk is simply an introduction. The candidate introduces themselves to the voter and listens. The candidate learns what’s important to the district, and then makes those issues the top campaign priorities.

Go for it. Our community needs you.


Gary Hooser is the former vice-chair of the Democratic Party of Hawai‘i, and served eight years in the state Senate, where he was majority leader. He also served for eight years on the Kaua‘i County Council, and was the former director of the state Office of Environmental Quality Control.
Source: The Garden Island

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