How to Run for Office: Keepers of the Keys (to the Democratic Party) - National Democratic Training Committee

Oftentimes, campaigns are won because of the connections you make. No matter the size of the election, you’ll have to get to know the gatekeepers and the people who run the Democratic Party in your locality to really become a viable candidate in your race.

Keepers of the Keys

What are gatekeepers? Who are “party folks”? Essentially, these are the people who can provide access to the network and resources available to the Party.

Networking is key in political campaigns, and the Party is a great place to start. Gatekeepers know the significant actors in politics. They are the best way to tap into the huge amount of resources at the Party’s disposal.

This can include connections to wealthy donors and professional campaign staffers. They also have a reserve of knowledge that is highly useful during a campaign.

Knowing the person (or group of people) that represents the Party is enormously important in getting your campaign off the ground.

If you don’t have your own connection to the Party folks, maybe your kitchen cabinet does. Networking should be on the agenda for your first kitchen cabinet meeting: for ideas on what else you should cover during that first meeting, be sure to check out our blog!

If you don’t have a personal connection to the Party, you can always reach out to the office via email or phone explaining that you’re running for office and request a meeting with the Party.

Don’t be afraid to take the first step in establishing your relationship with the Democratic Party in your community!

Prep Work

After you’ve secured a meeting with the Party’s gatekeeper, there’s some prep you should do before the actual date.

The first task you should work on is thinking of what questions you’d like to ask the Party. This helps you establish what you’re looking to get out of this meeting and what resources you can obtain by working with the Party.

Here are a few questions that you can ask your Party person:

  • Take a list of questions to your meeting.
  • How do I get voter file access?
  • How can you help me figure out my win number?
  • Can you introduce me to people I should meet with over coffee/lunches in the next month?
  • Can you help me identify union vendors for campaign literature and materials?

These are just a few examples to help start brainstorming and are by no means an exhaustive list. The Party person is there to help connect you to the resources you need to really get your campaign off the ground.

It’s also a good idea to prepare your elevator pitch for this meeting. This is a quick 20–30 second pitch that explains who you are, why you’re running, and why you’re qualified for the position you’re running for. Having this pitch in your back pocket can be helpful in the beginning of the meeting to establish why the Party should help you as a candidate.

After the Meeting

As soon as the meeting is over, it’s best to write a thank-you letter to the person you met with. This can be an instant email thanking him or her for the coffee or lunch you had, or it can be a handwritten letter sent in the mail.

This leaves a positive, lasting impression on the representative of the Party, and shows that you’re appreciative of their help. It can heighten the chances of the Party helping you in the future.

Final Thought

One final thought — the Party is there to help elect Democrats, not elect you. They are not the answer to how you run your campaign, rather they are another tool and asset to help you meet your goals. Your campaign needs to be self-sufficient. Let the party help you execute your plans.

Tomorrow, your research checklist (yourself, opponent, district, etc.).

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