Where You’re At
In order to plan your campaign, it’s important to have a comprehensive understanding of your district. After all, this will be the area, people, and community that you’ll represent when you win!
For our final installment of our series on how to use NDTC’s campaign plan template, we’re talking about creating your district overview. A district overview will provide important background on your district’s residents, economy, and political landscape.
While we’re covering it last, it usually comes first in your planning. Knowing who your constituents are is fundamental to all the other parts of your campaign — your field strategy, communications efforts, and fundraising.
Your district overview can be broken down into four parts:
- History & Industry
- Electoral Information
- This Race
Like our previous posts on how to utilize the NDTC campaign plan template, we’re going to use the example of our imaginary candidate Megan Hammond and her Bear County race for School Board.
(If you don’t know about Megan, check out our post about her and her race here!)
Megan’s plan – and yours – should begin with key information about where the district is. Basic information about where it’s situated in the county and/or towns that the district encompasses.
Megan’s running in the Second District of Bear County, New Mexico. Her district includes two towns, one major suburb of a local city, and one unincorporated, rural community. However, there are other parts of the county that are not within her district.
Ideally, the rest of the information she compiles would be for her district in particular. That may be difficult for areas like which industries people are employed by, but for demographics and election information, that level of specificity is essential.
History & Industry
The first portion of the district overview is general background on the district. This includes economic developments, social issues that are important to the community, and major stakeholders within the community.
This information can come from your personal experience, or you can refer to sources like the U.S. Census Bureau or your local record holders. If you’re relying on your personal knowledge about your district, be sure to check your biases — beware of overgeneralizing your experience or those of your friends and neighbors, who may only comprise a certain segment of the community.
Include the information that’s going to help you and your campaign. This might include major businesses and employers in the area. It might also include major community issues that have arisen, like a proposed new development or recent school closing.
For Megan’s district overview, she highlights the area’s prevalent mining, construction, and service industries. She also includes information about the growing elderly population and environmental concerns.
This type of information will help to provide Megan’s campaign with a sense of the community’s priorities.
In addition to general information about the area, your district overview should include demographics. Sources like the US Census Bureau or your local election official (find yours here) are great for demographic info.
You will want to know where your constituents live (e.g., the town, village, neighborhood) and what identities they hold (e.g., race/ethnicity, gender, age). Any demographic information you can find could be useful as you define your target audiences and decide how to spend your time.
In Megan’s district, the total population is 15,639, of which 7,317 are registered voters and 57% of voters registered turned out to vote in the 2016 general election. She could only find geographic and racial and ethnic information on her district’s residents:
You may notice Megan includes information about citizenship and preferred languages to further inform her field plan and potential voter targeting. This information might not apply to your area, but the more information you can gather the better!
This section of the district overview template is pretty straightforward -— the party breakdown of the district and the district’s key representatives.
How many people in the district are registered as Democrats, Republicans, and Independents?
To best inform your field planning, make sure to include both the percent and the actual number of people fall into each category. If people in your state don’t register with a party affiliation, you can get a rough sense of this by noting the number and proportion of votes cast for the top-of-the-ticket candidates of each party in the last election and/or the Democratic Performance Index of your district (which your local or state party may be able to provide).
As for the district’s key representatives, think broadly! Local, state and federal offices are all possible connections, and the variations can provide helpful insights. For example, if your county elected a Democrat to one countywide position and a Republican to another, is there some insight you can gain from their similarities and differences?
You want to know who’s who in the area. Don’t disregard an office because it doesn’t sound helpful at first. Local politicians can have a lot of influence in their communities.
The list of key elected officials Megan notes in her overview includes mayors of small towns within her district all the way to her district’s Congressman and her state’s Democratic Senator. Keep your options open for possible connections.
The final section of the district overview is the most information-heavy. This is where you’ll gather and summarize all the information about your race that will inform your campaign strategy.
That might sound overwhelming, but don’t worry! The template is organized to guide you through what information is relevant.
The section has two subsections: Nomination/Primary Election and Candidate Background. Each subsection includes plenty of information prompts to help guide you to create a comprehensive narrative about your district and race.
Some prompts include;
- Are you preparing for a primary election?
- Who are you expecting the challengers to be, or why do you not expect any challengers?
- In a couple sentences, describe your opponent(s) at a high level. What are their credentials and vulnerabilities?
- What issue or reason propelled the candidate to run?
- Why is the candidate running for this particular office/seat?
Megan’s plan includes information about the incumbent, the challenges she expects to face, and her motivations to run. All this information (combined with plenty of additional details) helps create a source of information that Megan can reference throughout her race.
The main thing to remember with this section – and your entire district overview – is that the more information you can collect, the better. All the information you collect can be helpful for creating strategy for your campaign’s communication, field plans, and voter outreach.
Your district overview may not look like Megan’s – that’s fine! You’re not running for School Board in Bear County, so your plan is different.
Every overview and every campaign plan is unique to the race it’s designed for. That’s what makes NDTC’s campaign plan template such a useful tool! You can copy the plan from Google Drive and make it your own. Add things, delete things, it’s up to you!
We hope that this guide (and the past guides on fundraising, fieldwork, and communications) have helped show how useful our campaign template can be. We know a solid plan is fundamental for a successful campaign, so we hope Democrats all over will use our template to help organize and mobilize their campaigns.
And of course, for any questions about running for office or specific parts of campaigning make sure to check out our course catalog. Our courses cover all aspects of creating and running a successful campaign. (Plus, they’re all free!)