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How do people running for office hire campaign managers? For many campaign-related professional positions it's easy to reach out to a firm specializing in that field (campaign law, accounting/finance, policy experts, canvassing firms, etc.).

However, I'm at a loss about hiring campaign managers. I have never seen an ad seeking a campaign manager and I have yet to locate firms specializing in that kind of work.

I'm in the United States.

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Campaign managers are usually hired by word of mouth from a network of people with experience working on campaigns with whom the candidate is familiar, often a close confidant of the candidate. A campaign manager does not necessarily have to have served in that capacity before, but must have considerable experience in campaigning, the trust of the candidate, and some management aptitude.

Often a candidate will talk with several other people that the candidate has worked on campaigns with before who function as a "brain trust" for the candidate to come up with ideas. Former political party officials such as county political party officers, former legislative aides, former campaign treasurers, and people with experience as volunteer coordinators are often near the top of the list of prospects.

Less often, but not infrequently, a family member with leadership or business experience, or someone suggested by an important financial backer for the campaign, is brought on to fill that role.

It is uncommon to hire a "professional campaign manager", to whom the candidate does not have other ties, to serve as a campaign manager.

(This answer is based mostly on experience serving in various capacities on political campaigns.)

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    I don't have sources other than my personal experience. I've worked on perhaps a dozen or two campaigns, as a treasurer of four or five campaigns, in a variety of local political party offices (precinct committee person, county treasurer, house district officer, delegate to various conventions), as a partner in a law firm with a state elected official, and as a Congressional leg. aide. So, I've had a front row seat to the behind the scenes working of many campaigns in multiple jurisdictions, although I've never had occasion to hire a campaign manager myself or to serve as a campaign manager. – ohwilleke May 14 '18 at 15:32
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    Personal experience is a great way to back up some questions! – indigochild May 14 '18 at 15:54
  • "must have considerable experience in campaigning" I dunno about that... it is not a licensed position and it sounds like a catch-22... 'entry-level campaign manager position looking for a candidate with at least 5-10 years of campaign manager experience!' :-) – TylerH May 15 '18 at 14:13
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    @TylerH I read this as "has to have worked in (many) campaigns before", not necessarily as a campaign manager. This sounds inherently accurate to me. – xLeitix May 15 '18 at 15:10
  • @xLeitix My point is that you don't have to have worked in politics at all, in any position, ever, to be chosen by someone as campaign manager. You should have to, but don't have to. – TylerH May 15 '18 at 15:18
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If you are having trouble finding mouths with words to share, I would start by talking to the local party organization. This might be

  1. The municipal party, if the district is within a single municipality in whole or in part. I.e. if more than half the district is in one municipality.

  2. The county party, if the district covers multiple municipalities but is mostly or wholly within one county. Or if the municipal party is inactive.

  3. The state party, if the district covers multiple counties.

The party organization should be in the phone book. Sometimes you might have to call the county organization to get contact info for the more local organization.

One of those should exist and should be able to put you in touch with people who have either managed a campaign previously or been prominent enough that it makes sense for them to be promoted.

Sometimes they may not want to work with you. For example, if you are challenging an incumbent in a primary, the party may not want to encourage that. An alternative then is to canvass the local party organizations. So if you're running statewide and can't get help from the state organization, ask the county organizations to let you go to their next meeting. Even if the organization as a whole doesn't want to work with you, you may find that individuals will. This is more work, so it wouldn't be my first choice. On the bright side, meeting with the local organizations is something that you would want to do anyway. It's just that normally you'd pick or hire a campaign manager first.

Another possibility is to call previous candidates that you liked but who failed. Ask them for advice. Successful candidates can be hard to reach without party support, but failed candidates are often grateful for the attention.

If all else fails, find someone that you trust to run the campaign. This could be a family member, friend, or long time employee. Even if that person only covers the role during the primary, that can take some of the work off you and allow you to concentrate on campaigning. And if you win the primary over a party-preferred candidate, the party will be eager to work with you in the general. So you can bring in a more experienced person then.

  • Simply looking at everyone who has served as campaign manager for campaigns in your party in the last several election cycles in your general vicinity can provide a working list and can also help you understand what sort of people tend to be hired for these positions. – ohwilleke May 14 '18 at 19:08
  • Why is it important that they have worked specifically with my party? If I were hiring a manager at AT&T, I wouldn't care if they came from T-Mobile or Sprint. Heck, I may even consider it a bonus. – indigochild May 14 '18 at 19:55
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    I don't know that I can explain in a comment. But to give you an idea, when I worked on a campaign, I was paid for twenty hours a week and worked about sixty. Beyond that, would you hire a Mennonite who believes that it is sinful to use a phone at AT&T? You generally want someone you trust either personally or professionally. I would only hire someone from the opposite party if I were running a bipartisan campaign. – Brythan May 14 '18 at 20:05
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    @indigochild Do you honestly think that a campaign manager whose personal politics might be diametrically opposed to the campaign which is recruiting them should be offered the job? Should take it if offered? Even if they weren't moved to deliberately sabotage the campaign from within, wouldn't you be a little concerned that they might not be giving it their sincere best effort? – Beanluc May 14 '18 at 20:30
  • @indigochild The reality is that most kinds of political activities are divided on a partisan basis, largely to assure trust and loyalty which are critical to such a position. You might trust a sister or parent to be sufficiently loyal despite a political party difference, but it is very hard to do that any other way. Also, it isn't just the candidate's trust that is necessary, it is the trust and networks of the campaign manager in the pool of potential volunteers and donors whom the manager must motivate. It is a very rare campaign manager who can overcome those issues across partisan lines. – ohwilleke May 14 '18 at 20:47

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