According to the April 7, 2009 Election Results posted at the Lisle (pronounced Lyle) Township Republican Organization in Illinois, RLC member Michael A. Tams won his election to be Lisle Township Trustee. Lisle is in Dupage County (metro Chicago) and has a population of roughly 25,000.
RLC member Tams was the only non-incumbent winner and the number two vote-getter, hopefully because “when I got the chance to talk to people I clearly articulated a pro-Constitution, originalist view of the role of government and a low-tax, pro-prosperity agenda,” he says.
Tams also offered some advice to other RLC activists running for local office:
“Local elections, in my limited experience, are successful when they’re able to do two things. First, they take an enormous amount of work. We started walking in the beginning of March for an April 7th election. While some people think that’s plenty of time for campaigning, it is NOT enough time for door-knocking. The best experiences I had were knocking on doors in early March. People generally find running for office daunting enough, and few people are comfortable putting themselves out for potential ridicule. As such, if you’re willing to put yourself through all of that, people admire your nerve.”
“Towards the end of the campaign, we didn’t have the time to knock on supporter’s doors. With just a couple of weeks left until the election, my team resorted to hanging literature on doors instead of making personal contact. While time-effective (one can cover a neighborhood very quickly just hanging materials), it is not necessarily results-effective: you have little idea if the effort will yield a return (a vote).”
“There’s a book a friend told me about — Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game. The book is about the Oakland A’s and how they were able to field consistent contenders. They revolutionized On-Base Percentage (OPB) as the measure for building a team. Briefly, there’s three outs in each half of an inning and that’s the only sure thing. If you have a team full of “tough outs” — high OBP players — you’re more likely to score runs and win (in the extreme example, if you never get an out, the score is infinity to zero). I think the application to politics is this: our On-Base Percentage equivalent is converting the person who answers their door from just an at-bat to someone who is likely to make a point of voting.”
“The first thing I took away from this election is that winning races is all about retail politics. You need to knock on a lot of doors, shake a lot of hands, and even endure your fair share of rejection. I’ve worked in sales positions before, which prepared me for this. You’re going to have your fair share of people who will judge you before you ever utter a word; you need to know how to do simple objection handling and have the confidence to brush off slights, insults, or indifference.”
“I started out saying that you have to do two things. The second thing is layering networks of people. I used my friends and family as a network. Then I used my business relationships as a network. Then I used the traditional township GOP organization as a network. Then I borrowed the network of the local baseball league that one of the guys on the ticket has been involved with for 20 years. Then I borrowed the network of another guy who fought some huge corporate development in town. Then I spoke at Meetup groups and C4L groups. Then I used my neighborhood association as a network. And so on.”
In doing this, the first thing I was able to do is turn out people to our caucus in January. It was 2 degrees, but I was able to turn out enough people to unseat an incumbent trustee. By the same networking — and a lot, but not nearly enough of the handshaking — I was the #2 vote getter on Tuesday night, beating two incumbent trustees on our ticket.”
“A couple of personal keys, for me, to this win: first, people need to get involved in their township GOP organization. Yes, there are things we all dislike about the GOP; get over it, get involved and try and change it. There is also the fair share of useless placeholders in these groups, but there’s also probably a third of the people who give a damn about the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and hate the way the party is run. They’ll fight for you.”
“Second, join or start a politically-oriented Toastmasters group. These groups meet twice monthly and require 20 people to start a new group. This will give members invaluable experience getting up in front of a group and speaking about issues that matter to people who share our principles. Then, when you need to speak for a campaign, you’ve done it dozens of times, sometimes prepared and sometimes not, and it will be second nature. It’ll seem silly at first, but stick with it. It will pay dividends.”
Congrats to the citizens of Lisle and to Mr. Tams on his victory!
The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect official positions of the RLC.