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Candidate Ballot Statements

My most valuable campaign experience


by Daniel B. Lee
Campaign Consultant
Voter Technology

Testing Ballot Statements


I met Ron Leone in 1981 while running against him for the Mt. Diablo School Board. In the process of the campaign we became good friends.

Two years later, I decided not to run again and support Ron in his second campaign. We spent 10 months drafting and rewriting his ballot statement.

We collected hundreds of candidate ballot statements from winning school board candidates from all over Contra Costa and Alameda Counties. Then we pulled out what we thought were some of the better ones and invited friends and Ron's relatives to read them. They were asked to circle the things that really impressed them and underline words and phrases they did not like. Then we talked about them. We did not know that at the time, but today in the campaign management/consulting "industry', they refer to this exercise as "focus groups". It was amazing what we learned.

Looking back at over 30 years of managing campaigns (22 years as a professional), this was one of the most valuable campaign experiences I have ever had.

Ron is currently serving as Mayor of the City of Concord, California.


Other Lessons learned - 1983 Candidate Ballot Statement


After Ron's 1983 campaign, Lon Underwood the Contra Costa Registrar of Voters, told me that when candidates and campaign volunteers asked him for examples of what a Candidate Ballot Statement should include, he would give them a copy of Ron's 1983 statement. He also said that it was the best one he had ever read.

I was so impressed with Underwood's praise that I spent years studying it and dissecting all of its parts. I know what are the best opening lines, how the candidate's spouse should be mentioned, how to list college degrees, and many other things that should be included and excluded from a candidate ballot statement.


Ballot Names & Designations


I also spent time studying people's reactions to ballot names and designations. Should a candidate use "Jim" or "James", "Chris" or "Christopher". Also, should a candidate use "Small Business Owner" or "Realtor", "Incumbent" or "Concord City Council Member", "Farmer - Business Owner" or "Agricultural Business Executive". I have invested a lot of time testing what works and dispelling a lot myths.

I have seen many candidates win and lose based totally on the weight of their ballot designations.



 
 

Daniel B. Lee
Campaign Consultant
Voter Technology
(925) 709-9999 ‚óŹ id@votertechnology.com