Tips for Libertarian Activists

Campaigning: Using allied groups

Last updated 1994-11-10 by Tom Isenberg

[Here's a classic example of grassroots activism in action. This is why we won. Congrats to Peter and everyone else around the country who participated one way or another in campaigns, even if it was just dragging your friends to the polls. Great going Peter and others; this is exactly how it's done! -- Jeff C.]

Date: Thu, 10 Nov 94 22:28 EST
From: Peter Nesbitt <>
To: California Firearms <>
Subject: Northern California Success!


We did it! We cut 'em, we dried 'em, we rolled 'em, and we smoked a bunch of anti-gun incumbents and challengers this past Tuesday. It should perfectly clear to the rest of the country that Grassroots created the landslide that cleaned the hillside in D.C. and other State Capitols throughout the country.

Congratulations to you all for a job well done.

After the June Primary was completed, the Fairfield/Suisun NRA Members' Council sat down with four candidates and members of their campaign staff. We discussed their campaign strategy, finances, and needs. We offered our membership with the understanding that no monetary donations would be forthcoming from our group, just a lot of hard-working NRA members.

Our monthly meetings then turned into strategy sessions, get to know the candidate and sign-up to work type of meetings. We asked various individuals from the community who had been involved with campaigns in the past, to come and speak to our group. The county coordinators for these four candidates also attended.

These campaign leaders and experienced people set out with the difficult task of bringing us up to speed in assisting their campaigns. Granted, we had a pretty active group, but we were clueless in the campaign arena, as it was our first time out.

We established a Campaign Point-Man within our group for each of the four campaigns. The Point-Man would be directly responsible for working with the campaign and their county coordinator. The Point-Man would then work through the officers of our NRA Members' Council, and utilize a sign-up sheet of volunteers, and any other personal contacts that might be available, to accomplish any objectives that may be established by the campaign staff.

Sign up cards were distributed at meetings, asking our membership what they would be interested in helping out with. We wanted to know if they would: Walk precincts, make phone calls, assist with road-side signs, place signs in their own yard, hold neighborhood meetings, work in the Campaign HQ, work in the GOP HQ, assist with GOTV (get out the vote) on election day, etc.

Clip-boards were passed around the room at each meeting, soliciting volunteers to work for each campaign. The campaign coordinator and the Point-Man each received copies of the sign-in sheet for their use.

At each monthly meeting we had boxes and boxes of candidate information, flyers, bumper stickers, yard signs, and fence signs. Each member was asked to take what he could and distribute the material throughout the community, and to friends and family.

For those people who could not normally attend the Thursday night meeting, materials were delivered to their residence by one of our volunteers.

All three gun stores in the local area were very active participants, and made these materials available to customers who visited their place of business.

Other businessmen in the community did the same, and one fellow engaged in a sign war with the Fairfield office of Congressman Dan Hamburg. Last I heard, Hamburg had run out of window space.

Each campaign had a life of their own. Frank Riggs ran a very high-profile campaign, with many debates and public forums throughout the 1st Congressional District. Riggs and Hamburg were constantly taking jabs at each other in the press.

The LeFever campaign appeared to be low key, but I feel that was due to the fact that our County only makes up a small portion of the 3rd Congressional District. We didn't hear very much from either Fazio or LeFever here, but Fazio did attack LeFever on his stance on guns, abortion and religion. The hit pieces called LeFever an "extremist".

State Senator Maurice Johannessen was without a doubt, the most prepared of the campaigns we worked for. The county coordinator, Bob Davis, has been involved with several campaings in the past. Bob was the first to have a campaign office up and running in this county.

The senator made his way through the newy reapportioned 4th Senate District, gaining support as he went. The Johannessen staff knew in advance what McGowan was going to hit them with. A McGowan piece would hit the mail, and the very next day Johannessen would drop his in your mail box. They were prepared for everything that McGowan threw their direction.

Bryant Stocking ran a campaign that was very low-profile, yet very grassroots oriented. He never attacked incumbent Assemblyman Tom Hannigan, instead choosing to campaign on his own merits and beliefs, insisting that he would be a breath of fresh air for the 8th Assembly District.

I received many calls asking, "When will Bryant start slinging the mud?" The Stocking strategy was to let the sleeping giant sleep, he didn't want to force Hannigan to campain, and was hoping to be a stealth win. It almost worked, and Hannigan never launched into any heavy campaigning.

We established teams of NRA members to travel throughout the Solano County area, and place signs in strategic locations. In many cases, permission was granted from the land-owner for sign placement on some very prime spots.

Copies of city and county ordinances were obtained from the Registrar of Voters so that we would know where we could legally place our signs.

During the final six weeks before the election, we began phone banking for our four candidates. On at least one night per week, we assisted with one or more phone banks. It all depended on how many people were were able to muster during the prior week.

Towards the end of the campaign, several local realtors and a credit bureau came on-board with us. There were a few nights when we had 18+ phones calling precincts throughout the county!

Several of our members agreed to make calls each week, while others obtained precinct lists from the Campaign HQ and made the calls on their own when they had the spare time.

During the final two weeks I obtained a partial copy of an NRA Membership List from the Sacramento office. The names were members who resided in the 3rd Congressional District, and our group called most of the NRA members in the Solano County area, with Sacramento NRA Members' Councils calling the others.

We actually found a few people on the list who admitted to being for gun control! Tanya will be notified, and hopefully a strike team sent out immediately.

Precinct walking was one of the most successful activities that we participated in. The local GOP HQ coordinated most of these, however some campagns did their own work in this area.

Towards the end, all campaigns were carrying each others material in a combined effort to cover the whole county. This was the first time in many years that all targeted precincts were walked and phoned.

On the Monday before election day, another campaign sent down a bus full of precinct walkers to the Johannessen campaign. Myself and others who were in possession of large vans, acted as shuttle crew members. We each took a van full of these walkers, provided them with a precinct list, campaign material, and then dropped our payload in the appropriate precinct. Later that afternoon, the walkers would call for pick-up, or to be repositioned for another precinct.

Several debates and public forums were held in our area. The dates and times were mailed out to our membership, and we were instrumental being present at these events to cheer, hoot, and holler for our candidate.

On several occasions we were able to have probing questions asked of our opponent, which was then printed in the local papers the next day.

Voter registration was an important activity during the early months of the campaign. Our Members' Council gained permission from the Solano Mall to set-up a voter registration booth for a week.

While the number of voters who registered was rather dismal, we did have a good time discussing the various gun issues with mall patrons.

At one point, we were asked to help register voters in Yolo County by a Republican group. Several of our members assisted during the evening hours at the Republican booth inside the State Fairgrounds.

All three of our local gun stores assisted various campaigns by offering drawings for firearms. While I don't recall the exact type of weapons that were offered, there were only a limited number of tickets sold, and they were all good fund-raising projects for our Candidates.

The signs for the Riggs campain were normally shipped to a Napa address, so we made several trips to Napa and then distributed the signs to various HQs and individuals who had previously agreed to assist in placing signs throughout the district.

Some of the small yard signs need to be stapled onto wooden stakes, so we did that too.

Charlton Heston was supposed to fly into the Nut Tree airport on October 30 to offer his support for Frank Riggs, but bailed out on the eve of his visit. We had already printed the info in our monthly newsletter, flyers placed in gun stores and old-folks homes, press releases were mailed out to local media outlets, and I phone-banked the day before.

It was pretty embarrassing to be there and tell everyone that Moses wasn't going to make it.

One late night on the week before election day, a Riggs staffer called me at 1 a.m. He had been clued into a press conference the next day at noon. Apparently Congressman Dan Hamburg was going to have a "Veterans for Hamburg" press conference, and announce an $8.2 million grant from the government to build a new Veterans Hospital. (Riggs laid the groundwork for this when he was in office previously.)

The next morning we were able to must 15 NRA members between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. We met at the GOP HQ, made anti-Hamburg signs, and printed original press-releses and news articles about the work of Frank Riggs in bringing the VA Hospital to this area when he was in office.

We left the GOP HQ and marched through the downtown business section of Fairfield to the old County Courthouse. There were slightly more of them than there were of us, and when we arrived on the scene, we were threatened with arrest! After explaining to the Hamburg staff-puke that we were on public property and that we were excercising our right to assemble, and the right of free speech ... well ... they got real quiet, then called us jerks, and finally walked away.

Hamburg and Martin Nellis (his Fairfield Field Representative) walked up the sidewalk. Hamburg didn't look too happy too see us there, as we have been a pain in his neck for the last year. Martin said, "Hey Peter, don't be too depressed on the day after the election," to which I snapped back, "Oh don't worry, I won't. We'll help you guys move out of your office if you need the help!"

If looks could kill! Both he and Hamburg stopped dead in their tracks, and turned to us. They were speechless.

Our people mixed in with the Hamburg folks and we had a video camera there to record the whole thing.

While Hamburg was speaking, three of our people went to the street corner with Riggs signs and posters. As the big trucks drove by, they motioned for them to blast their air horns. The press conference was disrupted on several occasions by horns and people yelling their support for Frank Riggs.

One last comment on this, one of the Hamburg staff knocked the American flag to the ground right after the event. We offered to turn the flag over to the local Vets group for ceremonial burning, but they refused.

Election morning we had 10 NRA members with another 10 Riggs supporters on a street corner in Fairfield at 7 a.m. Armed with a cup of coffee, "Riggs for Congress" signs, a large banner, and "Honk for Riggs" signs, we positioned ourselves at a major intersection.

Frank was right there with us too! It was fantastic! We split ourselves into four groups, with one group on each corner.

As the morning traffic began to build, so did our excitement. People were driving by waving and smiling, honking their horns, and giving us the thumbs-up-signal.

People who were walking to work would stop and talk to Frank, and a few people even pulled over to wish him luck in the election. At 9 a.m., Frank looked at us and said, "Guys ... we're going to win this election."

A local newspaper photographer came by for the photo opportunity, and everyone lined up on the same corner with their signs and banners.

We then went to Suisun, and ate breakfast at "Bab's Delta Diner" with Frank and many of his supporters. As we sat there eating, I noticed my mayor and several city council members a few tables over. They were all Dan Hamburg supporters, and would not even look towards the Riggs party.

Finally, Frank got up to say hello and wish them luck. As I watched this, I couldn't help but laugh to myself ... when Frank wins the election, these people will have to call him and ask for help at some point. It will certainly be a painful phonecall to make!

At noon I was back at the GOP HQ. Myself and other NRA members were there to act as "poll watchers." Basically, we were to take precinct lists, drive to the polling place, then check off those Republicans who had voted. We would then return to the GOP HQ, hand the lists over to other volunteers who would call the people who had not voted, and encrouage to get out and vote.

Between noon and 7 p.m., we each took three to five precinct sheets, and made the rounds to the various precincts. This was very mind numbing and exhausting work.

On more than one occasion I ran into opposition forces doing the same thing. Since there was only one packet I was forced to wait while several of them would drag their feet and try to go as slow as possible. I would just go to the next precinct, then return a short time later to finish up after they had left the area.