Unlikely Candidate, pt. IIA story of the transformation from a left-wing candidate promoting the issues he felt a school board should address, to a candidate with a mission to win.
by Paul Franklin
The first installment of this series by Paul Franklin, candidate in the November 2002 election for Live Oak School Board in Santa Cruz County, Paul reported that his friend Jesse asked him a crucial question. Do you want to win or do you just want to promote your issues? That question began Paul Franklins transformation into a candidate with a mission to win. He realized that his effectiveness to advocate for his Green agenda would be much greater as an elected board member. At the end of the first installment, he had just received a telephone call.
Peggy Lewis of the Campaigns and Candidates working group of the Green Party of California called with some very specific questions about my campaign: size of the district, number of votes I needed to get elected, size of my budget, my volunteer base and my chances of actually winning against the opposition. I didnt have many of the answers she sought, but the process of considering these logistical issues motivated me into the mindset necessary to run an effective campaign.
Peggy also suggested that I contact Susan King of the Green Party of San Francisco for advice on how to effectively move forward in the limited time remaining. Susan can be a challenging person to connect with directly, but it was well worth the effort. Among her many useful suggestions was the task of writing a campaign appeal for votes and assistance from the registered Greens in the district. I identified 676 Greens, and I wrote a letter with a necessary minimum of marketing propaganda, on green paper, in a green envelope, and applied $250 worth of red, white and blue postage.
One of the keys to my campaign was identifying the likely voters in the district, those with good voting records, and to parcel out lists of their names and phone numbers into the hands of willing volunteers, along with a suggested script. I had contributed substantial amounts of time and energy to the local Green Party over the past two years and I found that many of the people Id worked with were more than willing to make phone calls. I also recruited some interested teachers and parents in the district, associates from other projects Id been involved with over the years, and even casual friends. I distributed over 3,000 names and numbers from a list of 11,400 in the district, always prioritizing by voting history.
I was given 30 yard signs used in campaigns two and four years previous. Their design allowed for easy re-use: ELECT on top, Live Oak School Board on the bottom, with a big space in between for a name or two. I spray-painted the existing names white, fabricated a Paul Franklin stencil from cardboard, and used it to imprint my name. For support sticks, I used some wood Id recovered from a dumpster and carved it to the size and shape required with the judicious use of a circular saw. I found homes for over 25 of the signs, mostly on high-traffic residential property.
Receiving the endorsement of the teachers association gave my campaign a big boost, which helped to compensate for a poor representation of myself and my platform in the local daily newspaper, a loss of the papers endorsement, and my short-sighted decision at the beginning of the campaign to forgo inclusion of a candidates statement in the sample ballot.
As Election Day approached I prepared for my final tactic, pamphlet distribution at the polling sites, outside of the 100-foot perimeter required by law. Id identified seven polling places in the district and attempted to find two volunteers for each site: morning and evening. I also fired up my laser printer. I calculated an average of 60 voters per hour per site, with eight volunteers working 16 hours total, yielding a need for 960 pamphlets. While the copiers at Kinkos came close, the quality of reproduction was inadequate for the photograph on the front. I was glad to find friends to help me fold them.
On Election Day I got up at 4:30 AM. In addition to accepting responsibility for running my campaign, I had also signed up to perform my civic duty by working a 16-hour shift at a polling place on the UCSC campus. Technically the shift is only 13 hours, from 7:00 AM to 8:00 PM, but I was an inspector, and so I had the additional duties of setting up the booths in the morning and delivering the ballots to the Elections Department in the evening. I was glad for the distractionI could just imagine myself on Election Day running around the district desperately trying to earn just one more vote here or there. Upon checking my answering machine when I arrived home at 11:30, I noted two messages from friends who were monitoring the results as they were posted to the Elections Department web site: with 1,908 votes, I was ahead of the fourth-place candidate by exactly 100 votesit appeared that I had won! The count of absentee ballots two weeks later confirmed my comfortable lead.
The task ahead of me is to understand the culture of the district, the challenges facing the organization, the potential and the limits of my position and the most effective ways to introduce my agenda and proposed solutions while maintaining my responsibilities of coping with the various management issues and decisions that come before the board. With the support of the state and local Green Party organizations, I believe that I will rise to the challenge.
The most valuable lessons for me were the importance of delegating, letting go of control over the details, and trusting those volunteers to do a complete job. It is to those volunteers, and to the children, parents and teachers of the district that I dedicate these next four years. (To be continued in the next issue.)
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