I’m in the middle of doing one of my favorite activities, something I’ve been involved in since the late 1990’s. It’s the Candidate Training Program, run by the Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership at the University of Virginia.
I was a part of the design team for this program and have been involved in different ways every since. It’s a multipartisan group (D, R, I) of people who are running for their first political office. Over the course of four days, some of the top political consultants in Virginia share the nuts and bolts of running campaigns from the standpoint of planning, direct mail, fundraising, media relations, crisis management, and more. It’s top-drawer advice and is very effective: roughly a third of alumni have gone on to win races, an astronomical statistic considering that most first time candidates lose.
Here’s what makes the program different from other candidate training programs, though: It is built around ethical decision making. The design of the program is meant to elicit thoughtful reflection by the candidates on what they feel their relationship with the public ought to be. We open with an in-depth discussion of ethical decision-making principles, and then check in repeatedly throughout the weekend to unpack what the experts are saying, relating it to the kinds of relationships the candidates are trying to foster.
Over the years, I’ve written a number of blog posts from and about these sessions. Some of the notable ones are:
- “Resistance” — things I’ve noticed candidates just don’t want to do . . . but must.
- “Oh, D.E.A.R.” — Tips on campaign crisis management from a real pro.
- “Free Advice For Candidates” — Just a compendium of tips I’ve heard the experts tell first-time candidates over the years.
- “On The Lam” — A scenario for discussion that I developed and distribute, based loosely on true events.
- “All The News That Fits” — Another ethics scenario, again based on true events.