I’m going to spend over 1,700 words telling you how to win against the Missoula City Council, but the truth of the matter is it takes just one word:
Just 43% of registered voters in Missoula voted in the past municipal election, which was last year.
That translates to 22,000 people voting of the 51,000 that were registered to do so.
That election saw us get another 4 years of Mayor Engen, and we just saw him vote to boost his own pay while at the same time calling for a Missoula sales tax.
One of the City Council members actually sat there knitting while property owners told of their inability to keep up with the 10 years of tax increases the Council has foisted upon them.
Just one member of the City Council voted against the recent round of tax cuts, Ward 4’s Jesse Ramos.
I’d like to talk about how he, a conservative, won a seat on the liberal Missoula City Council.
What I’d like you to do is think about this post, and share it with those that might be able to help Ramos out by winning a seat of their own.
Let me give you some ideas of how that can happen.
Alright, so we have 51,000 registered voters in the City of Missoula, and 22,000 of them vote in municipal elections.
When we break it down to each ward, we find that the highest number of voters in 2017 was in Ward 5.
In that two-person race we saw 3,900 people vote.
The lowest turnout was in Ward 2, which saw 2,100 people vote…though that race had just one candidate.
The lowest with two or more candidates was Ward 3, with 3,100 people voting.
The City Council candidate with the most votes last year – not counting the four wards that had just a single candidate – was Stacie Anderson in Ward 5, with nearly 2,300 votes.
So there you have it – you need to get about 2,300 people to vote for you if you’re running in a two-person race.
Remember, wards in Missoula typically have over 10,000 people living in them.
So this is doable.
But how do you do it?
That’s the main thing – knock on doors.
It’s not hard to do. The hardest thing is that first day, getting out there and introducing yourself.
The next hardest thing is keeping up with it.
Many people do it a few days or weeks and then get burned out and don’t do it again.
From my experience, you can do about 50 doors a night, and around 20 of those doors will have no answer.
So that’s 30 people you can reach a night, or 150 people over the course of a work week.
If you get out on the weekends you can reach more, but again…you often don’t get an answer.
People are out doing things, and they’re not home. Sometimes the kids are home, and they’re no help. Other times the people don’t vote, or don’t vote your party, or – most of all – they just don’t care.
That can be deceiving. Oftentimes they do care…they just don’t show it.
So by my model, over the course of a month you can knock on 1,800 doors and you can talk to 600 people.
Slow going, isn’t it?
That’s where yard signs come into play. Those advertise your name and message 24/7. The trick is getting them out there.
How do you do it?
There are two main ways – knock on doors and ask, or use your party’s voter access network to identify strong political types in your ward.
If you choose the latter, you can easily get a list of addresses and/or phone numbers. Just knock on their door or call them up, or even better – send them a fundraising appeal. If they donate, they’ll surely put up a sign.
But that’s not good enough. Getting a yard sign out is great…but if it’s in a slow-traffic area, it’s not a huge help.
That’s why you need to knock on every door in the high traffic/busy intersection areas of your ward.
Sure, you might get rejected or chastised when you do so, but that’s what running for office is all about.
If you’re serious about getting yard signs out, talk to Jesse Ramos. He had a ton last year, and that was a big part of his win.
Myself, I’d love to run for Ward 4 again in 2019…but I know it’ll be an uphill battle.
The reason is simple – money.
It takes money to run for office these days, even the smaller races like City Council.
For instance, I know I’d have to raise at least $8,000 if I wanted to even compete in Ward 4, let alone win.
I know this because I went to the Montana Commissioner of Political Practices website and their campaign finance pages.
By doing so I was able to type in the name of my opponent – or the person that last won this ward – and from there I can see their campaign finance reports.
By reading through those reports, I can see how much money they raised during their election, who they raised it from, and also what they spent and where they spent it.
Do not discount this, do not discount it in the slightest.
- First of all, like I said…you realize how much money you need to stand a chance.
- Second, you see the names of donors. Sometimes – and I’ve done it – you can send those donors a fundraising letter of your own, and it might work.
- Third, you see what your opponent or previous winners are spending their money on…and you’ll want to spend money on similar things, and quantities.
- Fourth, you see which businesses might help you, and which might hurt you. I suggest not using the same printer as your opponent, for instance.
Now I’d like to run through the fundraising of all the current Missoula City Council members.
Amounts will correspond to the 2017 races for those that ran that year, and the 2015 races for those that ran then.
- Ward 1 – Bryan von Lossberg: $570 ($5,400 in 2013)
- Ward 1 – Heidi West: Never filed a campaign finance report
- Ward 2 – Jordan Hess: $1,055 ($3,640 in 2013)
- Ward 2 – Mirtha Becerra: Never filed a campaign finance report
- Ward 3 – Heather Harp: $6,625
- Ward 3 – Gwen Jones: $4,175
- Ward 4 – John DiBari: $7,789
- Ward 4 – Jesse Ramos: $7,690
- Ward 5 – Stacie Anderson: $8,015
- Ward 5 – Julie Armstrong: $3,285
- Ward 6 – Michelle Cares: $2,915
- Ward 6 – Julie Merritt: $1,105
There are lots of takeaways here:
- First, if you’re running in a competitive race you’ll need to raise anywhere from $4,000 to $8,000 or more.
- Second, if you’re running in a race with no opponent, chances are good you’ll still raise $1,000 or more…though I have no idea why.
- Third, some candidates with no opponents either don’t raise any money at all, or simply don’t file a campaign finance report (I think it’s the former).
- Fourth, too many races in Missoula have just one candidate in the general election, and oftentimes in the primary too.
It’s that last point that Missoula conservatives need to focus on.
If you can’t even field a candidate, how the hell are you going to win? And if you can’t win, how are you going to get your way?
Currently, conservatives want to see tax increases stop, and hopefully in a few years, taxes can actually decrease.
Liberals will laugh at that idea, and that would make a good talking point for conservatives and their City Council runs.
Bottom line – Missoula conservatives need to figure out how to identify likely City Council candidates, and then they need to convince them to run.
And then they need to vote for them, and they need to tell friends and neighbors to vote for them too.
This is how the lone conservative on the City Council got elected last year.
Jesse Ramos ran in a crowded 4-way general election race, and he won with 42% of the vote.
Splitting the Vote
Finally, let’s talk about splitting the vote.
I bring this up because I want conservatives that are thinking, ‘Boy, I could run and raise money…but there’s no chance I’ll win.’
That’s simply not true, and you can identify races like this before the filing deadline even comes around.
For instance, if two liberals or more are running in one ward, you can bet they’ll split the vote.
In that Ward 4 general last year that Jesse Ramos won, his two liberal opponents split the vote between themselves, and that’s a big reason why the conservative got elected.
Chris Badgley got 29% of the vote (1,130 votes) and incumbent Jon Wilkins got 25% (973 votes).
Ramos won it with 42%, or 1,646 votes.
He could have had problems if the other conservative in the race had tried harder, but they didn’t, and they got just 3% of the vote, or 122 votes.
That fourth person was me.
That’s the only race we can point to when it comes to vote-splitting, as the only other race with more than two candidates was Ward 3, and all three of them were liberals.
There was only one other race last year that was competitive, and that pitted conservative Cathy Deschamps against liberal Stacie Anderson.
Anderson won it with 58% (2,290 votes) to Deschamps’ 41% (1,642 votes).
Deschamps will be back, and I bet she could win.
Remember, even though we had 6 races last year, just three of them had more than one candidate, and only two pitted conservatives against liberals.
If Missoula conservatives are truly passionate about seeing a change to their tax bill, they need to find candidates.
After that they need to convince those candidates to run, and then they need to donate money to them and put up yard signs for them.
Most importantly, they need to vote for them.
With a dismal turnout rate of 43%, things are not looking good.
Will that change when the 2019 municipal elections roll around?
I hope so.