I’ve run as a Green Party of Michigan candidate in three elections; once for State Representative, once for County Executive, and once for US Congress. Now I’m 72 and have been retired for several years. I no longer have the knees, the energy or the money for serious campaigning. I’m also opposed to just “standing” for election, so I’m not going to be a candidate again.
I am willing to help new Green Party candidates – first with a bit of advice about questionnaires.
Now that you are on the ballot, you’ll soon be getting questionnaires to fill out. Among these, probably the most important will be the one from the League of Women Voters (LWV).
You can safely ignore the one from the NRA asking your position on the Second Amendment. The LWV questionairre is one you should work on giving clear, concise answers with correct grammar, capitalization and punctuation. The NRA isn’t going to whip up any votes for a Green Party candidate, even if she does have a position on the second amendment that they approve. The LWV, however, simply uses the answers to publish voter guides which a number of people actually read.
Here’s a sample of League of Women Voters questions and answers for State Representative from a previous election. (The answers are from a Republican candidate):
Please provide biographical information including your qualifications for the office you are seeking and the reasons you are running.
I am not an experienced politician; I am an upset citizen. I am running because Michigan is no longer an option for many of our people and businesses. Our family members, friends and neighbors are forced to leave the state they love in pursuit of jobs elsewhere. I want to work hard and provide a strong voice to return opportunity to Michigan. I was born and raised in the district and look forward to raising my family here. I am currently an attorney with a practice focused in estate planning, elder law and business planning. [95 words]
What are your state budget spending priorities and how would you adjust revenue and expenses to support those priorities?
My spending priorities are education, roads and public safety. These are three core functions of government, that unfortunately today are underfunded because our government is too involved in other areas. While more funding is needed, I do not support tax increases. Measures to improve our economy will take time, so additional cuts will be necessary. I will support reducing public assistance payments to able-bodied workers from the current cap of four years. I will also support measures to eliminate the abuse of the Bridge Card program by college students. These programs must be protected for those truly in need. [100 words]
What are your top two other priorities, why did you select them, and what actions would you take regarding them?
Improving our economy and creating jobs. The way that we do both is to improve our business climate. Currently we force businesses to leave Michigan and prevent others from relocating here due to the fact that Michigan is a tax and regulatory nightmare. We have a skilled workforce and innovative entrepreneurs that just need the government to get out of their way to allow them to succeed. Not only does this benefit working families and business owners,but the state will receive additional tax revenue that will allow for adequately funding education, roads and public safety programs. [97 words]
We can ignore the bullshit content of these particular answers for purposes of understanding other characteristics of a League of Women Voters Election Guide. The LWV asks the same questions of all candidates, and they have a strict word limit that they enforce in what they publish.
In this case the word limit is 100 words for each answer. If you were to send them 98 words for one answer and 102 words for another, they will cut your long answer off in the middle of the last sentence after the 100th word. They will not look at it as an overall 300 word limit and be flexible. They will not do editing for you.
The League of Women Voters Election Guide is one place in the current setup where minor party and independent candidates are treated exactly the same as major party candidates. The guides they publish are usually available at public libraries and are used by local journalists, so it is important for Green Party candidates to have good answers to LWV questions, to follow the word limits, and to get their response in by the deadline.
It’s free, and it’s good practice for a candidate. Once you have your answers, you can use the text as boilerplate for a basic flyer and for the intro on your web site. If you want to expand on any of the topics, a word or phrase in this text can, on your web site, be a link to a web page or blog posting where you discuss the topic more thoroughly. You also have a 1-minute elevator speech ready when you meet new people who ask “Why are you running?” or “What’s your main issue?”
My second piece of advice is that every candidate should have a responsive website with contact information easy to find.
By contact information, I mean specifically, a phone number and email. That’s in addition to any other stuff like a Facebook page, Twitter handle, etc. Sometimes, even though “the press” generally might try to ignore you, a reporter may want to call or a local candidates’ forum organizer may want to invite you, and they need a phone number or email address to do that. And who knows – someone in the neighborhood may want to volunteer to work on your campaign, if they can contact you.
By “responsive,” I mean a website that looks good and is easy to use when accessed by way of a smartphone. Responsive templates are free. A lot of people, especially younger ones but some of us old folks too, use a smartphone as the main or sometimes only way of getting on the internet. If you want your campaign to reach people who only use a smartphone, you need a web site template that makes your site readable on a smartphone.
Since it’s perfectly possible to have a decent-looking website for free, or a more professional website without advertising for about $100 per year, there’s no excuse not to have one.
My personal preference is for a site using the WordPress content management system. I’ve set up 5 of those so far, the earliest going back about 7 years. I’ve coached several people on how to use their own site or how to become editors or authors on a site I manage. Basically, anyone who can use a word processor can learn to use the WordPress system for a website in an hour or two.
You might want to look at athf3.org or the GPMI blog, migreenparty.wordpress.com for examples. If possible, look at one on both a regular computer and then on a smartphone to see the difference. The first one is ~$100 per year and contains no advertising. The second is free, and you will see the occasional commercial advertisement that I do not control. If this is the sort of thing you would like as a candidate website, I’m happy to help you set it up.
OK, that’s my simple advice: Answer the LWV questionnaire and set up a candidate website. If you are a Green Party candidate and want my help, call 248-224-0623 or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.