How to Run for Your Local School Board (And Win)

This is a transcript from my radio show. You can listen live here from noon to 3 pm.


So you want to run for office. I used to be a political consultant. What do you do? First of all, why are you running? What is your message? Why do you want to run?

Do you want to run because of the mask mandate? First of all, be sure, even though you think you're right, be sure you're in the majority. There's a lot of data that suggests the majority of parents are actually okay with the mask mandate. You're not. Okay, I get it but are the majority of parents opposed? And is that your only issue? If that's your only issue, you're probably not going to win, let's just be brutally honest out of the gate.

What is your larger issue? Your school board is not listening to you. They're not educating your kids. They are indoctrinating your kids. They're teaching your kids that they're either victims or victimizers. They've given up on educating and they've gone woke. Your school board, in other words, has become insulated, isolated, and out of touch with the community.

So here's what you got to do. First of all, is anybody else going to run against you? Is it going to be a heated primary where you're going to have a bunch of people running against you? Are you, in your assessment, the best person to run? Sometimes you have to exercise humility and say, you know what, I'm not a very personable, gregarious person. There's somebody else I like who would do good and is a people person. I'm going to get behind that person.

However, if it's you… if you've set aside your ego and your pride but know you're the guy. You're the guy who's going to run. Okay, let's tell you how you run.

First of all, get your family and friends in a room with you. They've got to tell you the good, the bad, the ugly. They got to tell you your strengths and your weaknesses. Your wife or your husband needs to be there because they’ve got to be brutally honest, and the spouse is always brutally honest. First of all, you need to make sure they're okay with you doing it. If so, get them in the room with you and get someone to man the whiteboard. Put up the strengths and the weaknesses. What are you good at? What are you bad at? Are you a terrible people person? That needs to be there. You're good with finances? That needs to be there. Do you come across to some people as aloof? That needs to be there. Put all of your strengths and all of your weaknesses up. Your personal weaknesses, your personal strengths. Your job weaknesses, your job strengths. Your background weaknesses, your background strengths. Put them all up there.

If you're running against an incumbent, you need to be real honest. What are their strengths and weaknesses? Be real honest. Maybe that person is gregarious in a crowd but they're very progressive and you're in a conservative area. All of the strengths and weaknesses need to be there.

Then you need to do a SWOT analysis. Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats. You draw a big square and put a plus in the middle of it so you have four little boxes. Your top left box is going to be your strengths and the top right is going to be their strengths. Bottom left is your weaknesses, bottom right is their weaknesses. And then you're going to try to see where your strengths overwhelm his weaknesses and where his strengths overwhelm your weaknesses. When you do that, you're going to see which strengths you have that highlight an opponent’s weakness. From there a campaign message takes shape.

For example, say your strength is you are in touch with the community, and his weaknesses is that he's out of touch with his community. Well, obviously, one of your messages is going to be you're in touch with the community. His strength is that he's got a business background and handles the school finances, and your weakness is you've been bankrupt in the past. Well, you're going to hope that he doesn't. Now, how do you mitigate if you've been bankrupt? Well, you mitigate it with messaging. You say, "Yes, I ran a business and I ran it into the ground. It was tough economic times. I was a small business owner and you know what? Small business owners, our money is used to prop up the school board. And while he's been a good steward of it overall, look at what he's spending his money on. He may have a balanced budget, but it's balanced on wokeness." You’ve got to be able to mitigate his strengths.

Now, let's move beyond the messaging. Let's get into the raw politics of this. Every county is divided into precincts. Your school board typically is countywide or citywide. Every city has precincts, every county has precincts. You need a list of every single precinct in your county. And what you need to do is you need to ask your local board of elections how many people live here and how many people voted in the last school board election.

Now, pay attention to this. This is something people forget. Not everyone votes to the end of the ballot. There were 4.9 million people who voted in the presidential election in Georgia in 2020, but there were 5 million people who actually voted. About 100,000 people did not vote in the presidential election. That's not a sign of fraud, that's a phenomenon of every election. There are people who don't vote in particular races.

Now, what's most common is that Democratic voters in particular are notorious for not getting to the bottom of the ballot. So if your local school board election is at the bottom of the ballot, what you’ve got to do is figure out how many people voted in your school board’s last election when your opponent was on the ballot. You’ve got to do it precinct by precinct. You must take into account if the precinct has gained or lost voters. The local board of elections can give you the fluctuation by precinct.

So let's say, just because I'm terrible with math, let's say in the last election, there were 100 people in a precinct who voted and from then to now, it's gone up 100%. So you'll have 200 voters. Last time there were 100 voters and you needed 51 to get elected. This time, there are 200 voters in the precinct, so you need to get 101 if 200 voters turn out. Now, let's say normally only 100 people ever turn out in this precinct. Well then, you know you need 51 of those people to vote.

So what do you do? You map out every precinct. The trick is taking into account the population shifts in those precincts between the last election and now.

What you get from your Secretary of State is a list of all of the voters in the state. Only request the list of voters in your county. So let's say it's Monroe County. You need the list of all the voters in the Monroe County Secretary of State's office or the local board of elections can get you that.

Now, some people only vote in presidential elections and some people vote in midterms. What you need to do is determine the people who voted in your county in the midterm election. That's what 2022 is, a midterm election. You need to determine who are the people who voted in the last midterm election in your county. The reason? If you voted in the last midterm, the odds are you're going to vote in this midterm. If you've never voted in a midterm before, the odds are you're not going to vote in this one. Ignore all of the people who didn't vote in the 2018 election. Ignore them all, unless they're brand new voters. Then you put all those people on a list. They're sorted by precinct. That's what the Secretary of State's database will do. Those are the doors you need to go knock on.

If they always vote Democrat in primaries, they're considered hard Democrats. You don't know who they voted for, but you know they voted Democrat. If they always voted in Republican primaries, they're hard Republicans. You're running as a conservative Republican. From that list of people who voted in 2018, delete all of the hard Democrats. They're not going to vote for you anyway. It's a non-partisan race, but you're a conservative and you're running against woke politics. You don't need to waste your time with the hardcore Democrats.

You knock on every door and use the message from your SWOT analysis. What are your strengths? You're playing to your strengths.

"Hi, my name's Erick Erickson. I'm running because our school board has lost touch with the local community. Our school board member, he may be in charge of balancing the budget, of which he does a good job, but he's balancing the budget on the backs of our values. He's balancing the budget by making the school board woke. He's forcing my kindergartner into a mask every day, even though the science says our kindergartners don't need masks. Our kindergartners are falling behind as a result. I'm running to replace him. Please vote for me."

That person's either a yes, a no, or undecided. If they're undecided or they're yes, you follow up with them again. Make sure they're still a yes. If they're a no, you send somebody else to go make the case for you. You keep doing this over and over and over, contacting them constantly. It's a school board race. It's not like there are a billion people. You’ve got plenty of time between now and your primary or your general election. You keep knocking on doors and revisit the voters.

Keep in mind, don't waste your time on the voters who have never voted in a midterm. Don't waste your time on the voters who are the polar opposite of you. But on everyone else, you repeatedly contact them. You knock on doors, you go see them, you put in the sweat equity. The person with the highest name ID wins. If you are positively knocking on doors, you're going to win, but you’ve got to do the legwork. You’ve got to take the time. You’ve got to get the data. Don't just go out there and knock on every single door thinking you're going to win. Not everybody votes and you're wasting your time. Be smart about it and you can do this.