One of our team’s New Year’s resolutions is to help up-and-coming operatives navigate the early ups and downs of a career in the political industry, sharing our team’s 125+ years of collective experience as Republican political consultants and strategists.
Enter Majority Hunter, a free service for GOP operatives to place the best and brightest talent on the campaign trail each cycle. In 2018, Majority Hunter helped hundreds of operatives secure spots on campaigns and within numerous political and advocacy organizations across the nation.
In this #StrategySession, our team of strategists offers up their accountings of their early campaign experience: the good, the not so good, and the lasting lessons they took away.
President & Senior National Strategist, Majority Strategies
“My first paid job in politics was working as the political director for the Missouri Republican Party. I had previously volunteered on a few campaigns, but I was hired for the MRP job mostly because I was one of the few operatives in the state who had not already been hired by three GOP statewide elected officials running in a primary for governor.
“My primary mission in the job was to help recruit legislative candidates and serve as a free consultant to get them elected. Over a four-year period, I had a very good track record and won a lot more races than I lost.
“However, working for a state party I had a lot of different duties and a lot of different GOP grassroots leaders who rightfully expected my attention. Unfortunately, I used my busy schedule, long ‘to do’ list and winning record as excuses for sometimes not returning phone calls to lower level leaders. As a result, I created unnecessary enemies and a lot of problems for myself.
“I learned the most important lesson of my career the hard way: While it’s important to prioritize your workload, everyone deserves a timely returned phone call and no one is too unimportant to respond to.”
CEO, Majority Strategies
“My first campaign job was doing opposition research for the Ohio House Republican Campaign Committee. Sounds glamorous, being a spy, right? Like an American/GOP version of James Bond!
“Boy, was I wrong. Instead of sipping martinis, chasing bad guys, and getting the beautiful girl after saving the world, my days and nights were spent lurking in newspaper morgues, searching for facts and figures, and getting a headache after reading thousands and thousands of microfiche files.
“What did I learn? Hard work and a willingness to do the things no one else wants to or will is an early key to success as a political operative. Most folks don’t understand the need to put ‘sweat equity’ into the equation when calculating an investment in their careers.”
Senior National Strategist, Majority Strategies
“I volunteered for a congressional campaign in 1996, and they gave me a list of 25 addresses and 25 yard signs.
“The next day, I came back and asked if there was something else I could do. The campaign manager asked me where the signs were, and I said, ‘In the locations you gave me.’
“He was surprised I actually did it and ‘promoted’ me to calling volunteers to march in the parade that coming weekend. We had over 50 people show up. Before that, the most they had was 10.
“I was ‘promoted’ again to using a rotary phone and calling $100 donors to ask them to double their contributions. I raised over $1,000 in 5 hours of calls.
“Our industry is not rocket science. Show up on time, do whatever job needs to be done and do it well. Use good judgment and initiative and people will remember you.
“Thousands of really smart people cannot succeed in campaigns because they are lazy, entitled or both. Work harder than them and, eventually, people will stop asking where you went to college and what your degree was in. All campaign job qualifications come down to 2 questions – do you get it? And do you get the job done?”
Senior National Strategist, Majority Strategies
“I was introduced to politics my senior year at Michigan State University, and I’ve never looked back.
“I needed an internship in order to graduate, and a fraternity brother of mine worked with his local state senator who was up for re-election. He offered me $600 for three months work and he’d sign whatever I needed for my internship requirement.
“Off we went. I went door to door, spent hundreds of hours putting up yard signs, managed volunteers – all the ‘grunt’ stuff you do on a state leg race. I became an expert at using a hole-digging auger that required two people to put up all the 4×8 signs.
“It was a pretty safe seat, we just had to not mess things up. So safe, in fact, that the campaign manager pretty much loaned us out to go to work for two other campaigns. One was a congressional primary (our candidate lost) and one was the Spence Abraham for U.S. Senate race (he won). For a kid who had never seen a campaign up close before, I was now crisscrossing the state doing bus tours with a U.S. Senate candidate, helping organize rallies with hundreds of people, and meeting elected officials, donors, and consultants. I was hooked, all because I started out putting up yard signs and going door to door.
“Post election that campaign manager (who was also the State Senator’s chief of staff) hired me for an office job in the State Senate, which directly led to the next job, which led to the next job, etc. It led to friendships, relocations, work on dozens of campaigns and even my wife (we worked together when she hit on me!) I’ve met Presidents, business leaders and hundreds of grassroots volunteers who truly make a difference on campaigns.
“My advice to people getting into politics is to go work on a campaign, at any level, for any race. Volunteer for the hard jobs, and work the extra hours. Learn from people who’ve done it before. Ask questions. If they want your ideas and opinions, they’ll ask, but if not, listen more than you talk. Don’t be afraid to take a risk or even a step back for the next job because it could be the one that leads to the dream job. You want to be a policy expert, lobbyist, consultant, vendor, or elected official? You can’t go wrong working on a campaign early in your career. You never know who you’ll meet.
“Final piece of advice I truly wish I’d had when I was 20 years old: cultivate your contacts/rolodex like it’s part of your job. Find a reason to stay in touch with everyone you meet along the way. It will repay you 100 times over in the future.”
National Strategist, Majority Strategies
“The first campaign I ever managed was in Ft Worth, Texas, for a guy who was running for state rep. I really had no clue what I was doing but was ready to work and learn.
“In the interview, the GC asked me what my management style was, and I said, ‘Whatever you tell me it needs to be.’ Although I had the title of manager, it was a ton of what’s commonly referred to as grunt work but, frankly, the kind of work that wins campaigns, not the glamorous type.
“I was also the only employee so literally the job was from setting up interviews for the candidate to cleaning the bathrooms at the campaign office. Just doing whatever needed to be done to win.
“I won and got my first win bonus, which was an incredible feeling. The candidate worked so hard doing whatever needed to be done – on primary night, he sent a picture to the Speaker of the House of his shoe that had a hole worn in it from block walking. I learned so much on things like what to do during ‘business’ hours and what do to late at night to prioritize my time.
“The fundamentals of campaigning are lessons I use everyday and are what wins 90% of campaigns out there. For the vast majority of campaigns, the difference between winning and losing is executing the fundamentals and doing the work your opponent doesn’t want to do to win.”
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