On November 6, Libertarian Party of Shiawassee County Chair Mark Owen won his bid for the Owosso City Council, placing fourth among 10 candidates for four four-year terms. Mark received 559 votes, just 26 more than the fifth place candidate. This win comes on the heels of the successful repeal of Owosso's Historic District, an effort which was lead by Owen and the LPSC.
In December of 2000, the Owosso City Council approved a plan to designate an area of town an "Historic District." Homeowners in that area would have been forced to have improvements to their homes pre-approved by a council-appointed "Historical Commission." The plan also included taxpayer-funded subsidies for home improvements by Historic District homeowners.
A substantial number of Owosso citizens, both in and out of the designated Historic District, opposed the ordinance, but no real organized effort was underway to repeal it. Mark Owen organized a meeting and set up a campaign committee named the Owosso Residents for Property Rights. The group included both local Libertarians and non-Libertarians, including some of Owosso's most influential business owners and politicians. Mark was named the group's spokesperson. We set about collecting petitions to force a referendum.
A special election was scheduled for a renewal of the county's library system millage, and the Historic District repeal was added to the ballot in the City of Owosso. On August 14th, the voters of Owosso rejected the Historic District ordinance by a 70% margin.
With the Historic District battle behind him, Mark decided to use his increased name recognition and the new relationships he had formed during the referendum effort to run for-- and win --a seat on the Owosso City Council.
Of 10,366 registered voters in Owosso, 1,906 voted in the Historic District referendum, with 1,324 voting to repeal and 582 voting to keep the district. Among those running for the four open council seats were two strong incumbents, including the Mayor. Another candidate was a local government "insider" and was very likely to win a seat. That left one seat up for grabs, and seven candidates fighting for it. We knew that we would need as many as 500 votes to win this seat.
Thanks to his hard work on the Historic District issue, Mark had a distinct advantage over most of the other six candidates in terms of name recognition. We settled on a simple strategy of focusing on Mark's leadership on the Historic District referendum and targeting those voters who voted in the special election to repeal the district. Knowing that over 1,300 of those 1,900 voters were on our side on that issue, we felt we could count on that group to get the votes we needed to get Mark on the council. We got a list of the voters who voted on August 14th and began discussing tactics for reaching them.
A fundraising letter was sent to Libertarian donors statewide, and another was sent to the local donors who funded the Historic District referendum. Contributions also came from The Liberty Leadership Council PAC and from the Libertarian Victory Fund PAC. Yard signs were ordered and brochures were printed.
The absentee voters represented a large block-- almost a third --of the Historic District voters. We mailed to the entire list of almost 700 permanent absentee voters, timing the mailing to reach their homes within days of their ballots.
The rest of the list was reached through aggressive door-to-door campaigning. A half dozen volunteers focused on doing targeted lit drops, working from the list of voters who went to the polls in August, while the candidate knocked on doors and spoke personally to as many voters as he could.
One hundred yard signs were placed throughout the city, particularly in the former Historic District area.
Volunteers passed out candy to children and campaign brochures to their parents during the City of Owosso's "Downtown Trick-or-Treating" event on October 27.
Newspaper ads were placed in both major newspapers in the county, reminding voters that Mark was the one responsible for the repeal of the Historic District and touting endorsements from several former City Council members, a School Board member, two nationally published authors, prominent business owners, and the one incumbent City Council member who had stood up against the Historic District ordinance and had worked with the Owosso Citizens for Property Rights.
By election day, we had distributed 2,500 brochures to Owosso voters, including all 1,900 on our Historic District voters list. But we weren't done yet. The candidate and volunteers hit the polls on November 6, meeting the voters and distributing photocopies of the newspaper ads we had run. We covered the most active polling spots in the city, taking care to follow local election laws regarding distance from the polls.
After the polls closed, we headed down to City Hall and waited for the results. Doing our homework paid off; the three candidates we had predicted to easily win took the first three seats, leaving only one of the four seats open. Only one of the remaining candidates gave us any real competition, due to name recognition by virtue of a family name and a stake in several local businesses. However, when the last precinct was in, our hard work made the difference. The Mark Owen campaign was unquestionably the most well-funded, well-planned, and aggressive campaign for the Owosso City Council and the results showed in the end.
Without the Historic District issue and the name recognition and political alliances created from it, Mark Owen probably wouldn't have been able to win this seat over several candidates who have lived in the city longer and have deeper roots in the community. Without the support of prominent, non-Libertarian locals, we might have come close, but not close enough. The difference in this race was the hard work, networking, and planning that was done long before candidate paperwork was ever filed.
It is not often that a local government hands us a perfect issue to leverage into success at the ballot, but when it happens, we have to be prepared to take advantage of it. That is the great lesson of the Mark Owen for Owosso City Council campaign.
Please allow me to thank every one of you who helped this campaign with your donations of money and time. Doesn't it feel great when it all pays off?
One of the hardest things for most people to understand when they become candidates is that people vote emotionally. This is especially hard for libertarians to understand.
Libertarians are thinkers and have a disciplined philosophy. We can go on for hours in a very logical fashion about how things out to be, but the typical voter won't stand still long enough for a libertarian treatise on public policy, so we are not very successful.
All that may be changing a bit now with libertarians like Jeff Steinport, Mark Owens and Andy Lecureaux's figuring out how to win elections. Each of those campaign's must have found a way to connect emotionally with the voters--or at least connect better than their opponents.
Next year the LPM should be fielding a large group of candidates. Hopefully, there will be a large number of active campaigns. If you are one of those people, I urge you to take the time to consider what makes people vote for a candidate. Talk to our winners, talk to our campaign professionals and talk to your family, friends and neighbors about why they vote the way that they do. I think you will find that most people vote because it feels good to them to vote for certain candidates. The candidate connected better with them or campaigned more professionally. But the bottom line is that the right emotional button was pushed.
This is why candidates wrap themselves in red, white and blue, get professional smiling photographs and look for emotional issues to trumpet in their campaigns. Emotion is the key.
Now is the time for all good men (and women) to come to the aid of their party.
If you have been a candidate for office before... We Need you now !!!
If you have thought about being a candidate... We Need you NOW !!!
If you have never thought about being a candidate... We Need you NOW !!!
Despite regaining our ballot status, We are not a Political Party if we can not field candidates.
Join the 35 members of our party that have already decided to run for political office. Sign-up today.
The Libertarian Party will help you with all of the training and paperwork involved. Let me answer all questions. Contact me at President@makingfreedomring.com.
The Liberty Leadership Council has just completed our first candidate training and it was a huge success. At least two more training sessions are being planned for this year alone.
What is unique about the Liberty Leadership Council Training. We provide a hard hitting and comprehensive training to you in your area. You don't have to travel hours for basic training.
Our training is done by Stephen M. Townsend, President of the Liberty Leadership Council and State Vice-Chairman and former Clare County Prosecuter, Ghazey Aleck.
Don't be left out in the cold. Sign up for a candiate training in your are. Here's what you need to do.
1. Get a location for an evening 3 hour session.
2. Secure confirmations of at least 4 people interested in candidate training.
3. Contact the Liberty Leadership Council at President@makingfreedomring.com.
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