Running for local office offers a great way to kick off your political career. While not everyone starts their career with a local office, campaigns for local political offices tend to be much smaller than state and federal campaigns. As...
This is the complete guide on how to work with committees, caucuses and state parties.
Table of Contents
Political party committees raise and spend money to elect candidates of their party to office. The most notable committees are Hill committees like the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) that are officially affiliated with the Democratic Party and support Democratic congressional incumbents and challengers alike. There are committees for virtually any office you can imagine running for, and they can be instrumental in securing a win on election day.
A legislative caucus refers to a state-based organization, led by the majority or minority leader or speaker, that supports candidates for one or both chambers in a state legislature. Caucuses can provide fundraising, strategic, field, communications, or political support for you if you’re one of their endorsed candidates.
State parties are the state affiliates of the Democratic Party generally led by an elected chair and executive director, and governed by a state central committee and executive board who vote on resolutions. State parties also support Democratic candidates and electeds in each state, often running coordinated campaigns to bring the entire state ticket together to concentrate and organize all resources and efforts. However, each state is different and has varying levels of resources and engagement with state campaigns. State parties also fundraise from other committees to support specific candidates. Under the umbrella of the state party are local parties that may organize based on county or legislative district.
Committees, caucuses, and state parties get involved in competitive races where their support is likely to tip the balance in any of their candidate’s favor. Even though these organizations may seem massive compared to your campaign, they also have to raise and budget just as any other campaign would. These organizations usually look for campaigns that (1) have a fair shot at winning or (2) need support to retain the seat and that have, most importantly, (3) have proved capable of planning and managing a campaign budget. Each time an organization supports a race, it’s an investment of their finite pool of resources, and they want to maximize the return on the amount they spend with the largest number of wins on election day. Just as when investing in a company, no one will invest in something where they don’t feel comfortable with the product or those in charge. To make your campaign an excellent prospect to support, make sure you have strong foundations (i.e., a well-run field program, proper budgeting, robust fundraising numbers, consistent communications, and steady leadership). The most common races to work with committees, caucuses, or state parties are congressional races, state legislative races, statewide campaigns, and U.S. senate races. Notably, almost no committee, caucus, or state party will get involved in a competitive primary outside of limited circumstances. There are, of course, exceptions to every rule.
There are many benefits to working with these groups, and the answer to whether you should work with a committee, start party, or caucus is almost always yes. As will be covered later, one of the most significant benefits of joining a coordinated campaign strategy is that it will dramatically increase your campaign’s reach while benefiting Democrats up and down the ticket. By working with a committee, you’ll likely receive fundraising, field, data, communications, and research help. Committees pair your campaign manager and directors with a “desk” who has successfully done their job many times to provide strategic support when crafting and executing your campaign.
Committees function as consultants but also help drive funds to your campaign, either directly or indirectly. State legislative caucuses are similar to committees but are state-based and focus on the specific chamber or legislative body you’re running to join. Caucuses can help find staff, fundraise, aid in communications, and help in a myriad of other areas to bolster your campaign past what’s possible given the resources usually available on a state legislative campaign. As mentioned earlier, state parties can act as the glue between your campaign and others in the state, ensuring you coordinate your efforts and messaging under the statewide narrative that’s likely to be front of mind for most voters you’d want to contact during your GOTV efforts. Depending on the state, state parties can also help with communications, research, political work, field, and data.
A coordinated campaign is a campaign that forms under the umbrella of the state party to elect Democratic candidates up and down the ticket. Campaigns will buy into the coordinated table to help make decisions and run the effort. By pooling all campaigns’ resources, the coordinated campaign can organize a unified strategy, thereby amplifying each campaign’s efficacy while removing the risk of duplicating the work of the state ticket. For example, coordinated campaigns mitigate the risk of exhausting a limited volunteer base getting recruitment calls from multiple campaigns, accidentally saturating a media market with conflicting messaging, or holding duplicative or competing events.
When considering whether to join a coordinated campaign, weigh the pros and cons. The likely pros may include a dramatically increased field program, access to rallies and surrogate trips to amplify your candidacy, the ability to influence the direction of the coordinated campaign, communications and research support, and increased data analytics to monitor the performance of your campaign, to name just a few of the benefits.
You’re likely to weigh the cons of giving up complete control of your field program (even though you can still run candidate-specific canvasses and phonebanks) and budgeting the amount of money required to buy in to the coordinated campaign. If you’re running a competitive campaign, joining a coordinated campaign is almost always a net positive with significant investment return.
The coordinated director runs a coordinated campaign and manages a field director, data director, operations director, voter protection director, and often a communications and research director. The state party pays all staffing costs from the pool of money donated from coordinated campaign members.
The cost to “buy in” to a coordinated campaign varies widely by the state and program and could range anywhere from $5,000 to millions, scaling for the type for race. For example, a gubernatorial campaign is likely to pay more than a state legislative campaign. The reason campaigns need buy in is to raise the funds needed to staff and execute the coordinated program. State parties collect revenue from various sources but rely on buy-ins to fund the organized campaign to benefit all coordinated campaign members.
- What’s the purpose of a state party?
A state party serves as the official affiliate of the Democratic Party, complete with state committee members and an executive board. Parties raise money to support Democratic incumbents and challengers to retain and win office. State parties also serve to run coordinated campaigns on behalf of the entire Democratic ticket with funds from national committees, state caucuses, and state Democratic candidates to ensure concerted efforts for GOTV and messaging.
- How are caucuses and committees similar?
State legislative caucuses and national committees are alike in that their main goal is to elect as many Democrats as possible to a legislative body to retain or gain control of the majority. Both target their most competitive challengers and incumbents to provide strategic, staffing, fundraising, field, and communications support.
- How are caucuses and committees different?
State legislative caucuses and national committees differ in the scope of candidates they support. The main difference is that committees focus on electing Democrats to a particular office nationally, whereas state legislative caucuses are only concerned with their specific state legislature. There is even a national committee (the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee) that provides strategic and fundraising help to state legislative caucuses to then, in turn, support their endorsed candidates.