Tag Archives: how to win a municipal election

City Campaigner – A New Direction


Thank you for visiting the City Campaigner blog! Building this site has been a great experience. I have made a lot of new friends and had some great opportunities.

It’s been a month since the 2014 Ontario Provincial Election and awhile since I posted to this site. Recently, I was celebrating a great election with a two-week vacation in and around Rio De Janeiro. If you have not been to Brazil I highly recommend it.

I want to share with you a new direction for City Campaigner. The easiest way to do that is start with what it was, what has happened and where it is going.

The Original Vision

The original plan for this site was to provide some free advice and resources to municipal election candidates while I virtually managed some campaigns for a fee. I set up a membership portal where I assumed I could scale campaign management, providing detailed advice online and complementing it with some custom work like budgets and database set-up. Unfortunately, that really does not work for campaign management. I can scale providing certain services or teaching specific things but start to finish campaign management is far too unique from candidate to candidate.

What Actually Happened 

Things started off slowly in 2014 and then around August the Ontario Municipal Election craziness started. It seemed all of my candidates where starting on the same day and needed everything right away. I agreed, as I was pushing some of them to start as early as the spring. I wanted to help these people first as they were my family (like my sister Lynn who decided in the end not to run), my friends (like Councillor Arif Khan) and my paying customers. Obviously, with my time already over-stretched, something had to give, so updating this site with free content was it.

In the end I buckled down and really helped six candidates. Some got a lot more help than others. This unbalanced help came because some knew more than others (incumbents vs. challengers) and some were in tighter races than others. I do wish I could have helped people more but time just slipped away. However, in the end this approach worked for everyone. I am happy to say that out of the six candidates I dedicated time to, ALL SIX WON THEIR ELECTIONS! For most of these candidates I was their Campaign Manager and for a few I was just a volunteer advisor who made time to talk when it was needed the most.  I have not lost a municipal election since 2000 when my sister ran for the first time at the age of 20 and I was just 16 – maybe great campaign managers are not ready in grade ten.  This success is solely based on great, hard working candidates. I am not some sort of Municipal Election Rainmaker, even though Keith Davey and I have the same name.

I do not have any municipal ninja tricks. Most of what I know anyone could learn through training, reading, and experience. I simply choose to work with candidates who are serious about winning and willing to spend the time and money it takes. There are people who ask me to work or volunteer on their election campaign that I politely decline because I do not believe they are serious about winning or I simply do not have enough time.

I will conduct a small debrief interview with all six candidates so we can learn from our strengths and identify areas for improvement to build on their success. If they are willing, I will share this information on this site. I do not hold campaign manager debriefs where I brag about my contribution or strategy. Elections are about the candidate and issues not the strategists. If there is a learning opportunity I will share it but it will not be all about me.

What is Next 

I am going to share all the membership site information on this blog for free! Some of the downloads may require an email opt-in but anything I have created to date I will be giving away. There are no municipal elections for Ontario for four years but this could be helpful for candidates in other jurisdictions and applicable to federal and provincial elections.

I struggled with this decision for a bit as I thought I would be feeding some of my current and future opposition with my knowledge. Then I was listening to a podcast where a guest said everyone knows they can do sit-ups to get a six-pack, but they usually need a trainer to help them reach that goal. That is when I realized that even though my knowledge base is large, my expertise and unique offering is not in the knowledge it is in the execution. So I am confident that come election battle time I will still put up a good (clean) fight.

Enjoy the free resources. Since this has gone from a money generator to a hobby, the posts may be slow going up. The order of the posts may not always flow since I am pulling stuff from the membership site. So there may be a post from the spring about budgets and an instructional video on it this winter, but if you are looking for category specific information just use the post tags and you will be ok.

Thank you for following and supporting City Campaigner. 

I will be focusing my time on my consulting business related to government where I help people win contracts not elections. If that interests you just follow along on Twitter@strachansystems and visit my site  SellToPublicSector.com. If you do have a political project I would be happy to hear about it and maybe even help. You can reach me using the contact page.




I’ll leave you with this awesome photo I took on top of Sugar Loaf in Rio.

sugar loaf view



4 Tips For Purchasing Municipal Election Products and Services

Candidates who do not already know will soon find out – election products cost a lot of money. For campaigns that are self-funded or have little fundraising this is a huge obstacle to success. Candidates need to walk the line between looking unprofessional and blowing the budget.


I have compiled four tips to beat the budget breaking blues and source good services and products.

1. Donated Services

If you have friends and/or family who are experts in a certain field ask them for help. Often these people want to support your campaign and you just have to ask.  I find candidates get the most help from talented friends on copyrighting, graphic design and websites. If they are donating their services you need to give them a lot of lead time to complete each request. It’s unfair to expect free graphic design on your three-fold brochure within one day. If you need something quickly you may want to consider hiring a professional.   Make sure you know your friends’ talents. You do not want to wait two weeks for a website and then have to break the bad news to your neighbour that you cannot use it because the free Blogger theme was not what you were looking for. Most important is to just ask for help when you can. The worst feeling is when you show your $300 designed lawn sign to a friend who says “oh I could have done that for free.”

2. Beware of Buy Local

This is an ongoing battle with some clients of mine. Some Candidates think that because they are running for local office they should shop their campaign locally. However, this is not like spending an extra dollar on a head of lettuce at a farmers’ market. Geographically limiting your election purchasing can end up costing you thousands of dollars more, or worse, you can end up with a bad product.  For example, the SignARama franchisee owner around the corner is probably a great person and you may win her and her husband’s vote by bringing your business there. However, if she does not specialize in political signs and they require pounding a wooden stake in the ground it’s not worth it.

3. Know what you need

Based on your budget and campaign plan know what products you actually need. Some suppliers will try to sell you everything and the kitchen sink. Stick to what is effective and affordable. No need for a small town councillor to purchase a billboard or a big city councillor to buy a GTA-wide radio ad.  If you are unsure about a product or service, send me a quick email or tweet and I’ll give you some free advice on if it’s worth it.

4. Always get quotes

There is no product or service in the world of elections that only has one capable supplier (despite what some companies may tell you).  Always get at least three quotes on everything you buy. This can result in huge savings, especially on print services. Keep in mind the cheapest is not always the best. Ask them if they have done similar work and check the client list on their website.  I remember in the Barrie 2000 Municipal Election a candidate purchased paper lawn signs with her face on them. After one rainfall the distorted mugshot did not achieve its goal of name recognition.

An extra note: Please know your own strengths.  Just because you have Adobe Illustrator does not mean you know how to use it. You can do some of your own work if you’re an expert, however if you are going to take 3-4 months of your life to run in an election, do not cheap out on essential products.

As an added bonus to City Campaigner Members we use group buying to lower the costs on almost any election product or service needed. Check out the Services Page for more details.

Raise as much funds as you can and watch the pennies. Good luck in your campaign.

Keep Knocking,




Election Door Knocking Heat Map

I tirelessly tell candidates they need to knock on doors. It is the most effective way to ID voters and to distribute your message. Canvassing is free and gives a personal touch to your election.

In the case of a City Councillor election I say you need to knock on every door at least once – the question is where to start.  The traditional way of starting on your own street and making your way outwards results in a number of missed opportunities.

When canvassing in the municipal election you need to start at doors where:

  1. People who actually vote
  2. Residents who have a current issue
  3. The lawns are prime location for signs
  4. You do not already have a lot of support

The last one always trips people up. They feel they should reach out to those who love them first. Sure, canvassing your existing fans is a great confidence booster; however you are just wasting precious campaign time. I believe the expression is “preaching to the choir”.

Numbers two and three are a bit easier to determine.  It’s number one that you really want to be the prime focus of your heat map. These streets are coloured red because they are hot and are ready to be knocked.  How you determine who votes can in a number of ways be based on demographics and history. Sorry I can’t give you the exact details on this one, it would be like Pepsi publishing their trade secrets online.

Below is an example of an election door knocking heat map. The streets are grouped by colours. You need to get to red streets ASAP (like yesterday), the orange are next on your hit list, followed by yellow and then blue. These maps in a political party HQ obviously use different colours based on the party flag.

Where to Canvass In Your Ward

Where to Canvass In Your Ward

Map Notes:

  • Sorry I’m a campaign manager not an artist. I usually draw these with a marker on paper.
  • This is just a visual the map comes with a MS Excel list of streets ranked one by one. The list also details why a street has been prioritized.
  • This is not an actual door knocking heat map. It’s my neighbourhood and I just made up the results.

If you are a member of the City Campaigner team you can log into the portal later this week for instructions on how to create your own election heat map. You also have discounted pricing on the service if you do not have the time or confidence to do it yourself.

For those who are not yet members but want to hit pavement with a plan in hand, we are now offering customized Election Heat Maps for a one-time cost of $250.00 (click Buy Now Button below) We will not create one for your competitor so that trade secret in your ward belongs to you.

Now if I only had a product that would light a fire under a candidate’s ass to get out there and door knock.

Good luck in your election.

Keep Knocking,



$250.00 + HST

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Back From Vacation

Hey Guys,

Spent the last week in the sunny south building a base tan for the summer  –  No one likes a sunburn after a round of golf.

While away I got an opportunity to read some read some awesome books with innovative customer engagement ideas. There were a number of tactics that could be customized to a municipal election and I plan on making some videos and posts about them this week.

Keep Knocking,



Municipal Election Well Underway

There are fewer than 6 Months left in the Ontario Municipal Elections – only  179 days!

If you think that is plenty of time, think again.   Each councillor candidate running in a ward election has about 5,000 voter homes. If you do not have to luxury of  incumbency and are serious about winning you should get to every house twice, meaning you have 10,000 doors to knock.  If you started today that is 56 houses per day, which is manageable. However,  throw in a kid’s birthday, a friend’s wedding, a couple of community events and a bunch late nights at work and that 56 door target starts growing.   All of sudden you need to hit a few hundred houses a day.

Do not let this discourage you there is still a lot of paths to victory (good determined candidates are hardly discouraged anyway).   If are starting on your election now here is what you should do right away:

  • Door knocking, start today!
  • Seek volunteers and a support network (Election Kitchen Cabinet)
  • Write a campaign plan with specific week to week goals
  • Draft a budget
  • Write your platform and create your professional  literature
  • Raise some money – elections are not cheap
  • Order lawn-signs (the lead time in the late summer could burn you)
  • Knock on more doors

All that being said, pace yourself by holding back a number of events and ideas for the fall when everyone is watching. Hopefully by the fall all your voters recognize you from their doorway.

Keep an eye on this site for some municipal election strategy and tips.   Good luck in your campaign.

Keep Knocking,