Candidate training offered

Posted: 10.26.17

As Seen in the Leader-Telegram:

All too often voters enter the voting booth only to see their decision involves no choice at all. The Realtors Association of Northwestern Wisconsin elected to tackle the issue of uncontested races head-on by offering a free candidate training academy on Thursday at its Eau Claire office. The session, which attracted five participants, sought to provide an understanding of what it takes to run for political office at the local or state level and an overview of topics to consider before making the leap into politics. Related

Land sale clears way for Eau Claire lower west side park relocation “The reason we are doing this training is that we have seen a number of local races go uncontested, while other races have nobody running for open seats or write-ins getting elected,” said Bruce King, government affairs director for the Realtors. “We want to be able to provide the necessary tools to citizens to make an educated decision about running for elected office, be it a town board or city council/ county board/ school board, or even a state office.”

The theory is that more and better candidates will lead to a better functioning democracy. Though turnout was small for Thursday’s session, a straw poll of participants indicated the training, offered by veteran campaign specialist Alastair Macaulay of Raleigh, N.C.-based Cornerstone Solutions, was top-notch. Macaulay covered subjects ranging from fundraising and campaign tactics to polling and social media in the hope of helping candidates be more efficient and effective.

While social media and websites obviously have taken on much more importance in the past 15 years, Macaulay said he still reminds potential candidates that hard work often remains the deciding factor in local races. “The best way to win is still by knocking on doors and talking to likely voters. All things being equal, the person who works the hardest and knocks on the most doors usually will win,” said Macaulay, who warns potential candidates that running for office can be like adding a full-time job. Eau Claire hairdresser Kris Verbracken said she signed up because she has always been interested in politics and is seriously considering a run for county-level office next year. If she follows through, it would be her first political campaign. “It’s very intimidating, and I think that’s why so many people don’t do it,” Verbracken said. “I took the class so I would not feel so intimidated and I would feel like I know my stuff.” Halfway through the academy, she declared it a success and said she had expanded her knowledge of political campaigns.

On the other end of the political experience spectrum, 32-year Eau Claire County Supervisor Gerald Wilkie said he attended because “there’s always more to learn.” He also suggested the session could give him more information that would help him encourage others to consider running for elected office. “It really can be fun and enjoyable, and it’s a good way to give back to your community,” Wilkie said, adding that having diverse backgrounds represented on local governmental bodies leads to sound decisions because it means decisions take into account multiple viewpoints.

Thursday’s session was nonpartisan, focusing instead on the nuts and bolts of political campaigns. “We’re not telling them what issues to focus on,” Macaulay said. “It’s more about how to develop a campaign strategy. We tell them to develop a 40-second answer about why they’re running and get really good at it. We used to say two minutes, but people’s attention span is shrinking.” Macaulay also advises would-be candidates to develop a thick skin because not everyone will like them or their ideas, and that’s a difficult realization for some people. That’s true today more than ever with the increasingly partisan, divisive nature of politics, he said, noting that those concerns can be reduced in local campaigns that tend to focus on less controversial issues such as sidewalks, snow removal and sewage treatment facilities.

Despite the bad rap that state and national politicians often get, Wilkie said residents generally seem appreciative of people who serve in local government. “They just ask that you be honest and do the best you can for the community,” he said. “It’s not that complex at the local level. It’s about listening to people and doing the best job you can when voting to make the community safe and healthy for everybody.”

Contact: 715-833-9209,, @ealscoop on Twitter

By Eric Lindquist Leader-Telegram staff

The REALTORS® Association of Northwestern Wisconsin is the professional trade association that all professional REALTORS® residing within the association jurisdiction belong to. The association provides educational opportunities for its members, is active in local, state and national advocacy efforts, engages in community outreach through charitable giving, operates its own private foundation to help homeowners in need and remains a positive force for the members they serve.

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