Does anyone want to sponsor me? No, not you Sally Struthers.

I need a sponsor. No, I'm not starving in a foreign land, but I have an idea that is probably going to take a little up front money, and I doubt it will have any financial return. But for Republicans it could have a moral return.

In early March, the South Dakota Retailers and the South Dakota REA will be putting on campaign seminars for candidates. Campaign school. I've been to those types of things before, and they can run the gamut in quality. Some are sterile and boring, and others can be quite good. Back in my party days (GOP, not beer), I had been tasked with lining up speakers for the GOP's candidate campaign school. This was being put together separately from the hubbub of convention, and if I recall, it really turned out great.

Fast-forward 18 years later, and I keep thinking I'd like to put on the SDWC campaign school - with real-life South Dakota lessons, and the things I think the students need to hear.

The big difference here is that my campaign school would not be geared towards being a candidate. It would be geared towards being an operative running a campaign. Because candidate campaign schools often propagate a bad practice that I continually proselytize about - the candidate should not be the campaign manager. It's not their job.

(And just in case you forget, the candidate should not be the campaign manager. The candidate should not be the campaign manager. The candidate should not be the campaign manager.)

Why do I think we need to focus on training campaign managers and staff?

I had one person call me recently about helping a candidate, and part of the way into our discussion, I realized they wanted to help a primary opponent of one of the few campaigns I'm already engaged in.

And it gets me wondering - Is the staffing problem for state legislative campaigns so bad that I'm being asked to run against myself?

I had another person who contacted me about a statewide campaign in June, but based on the issues involved, I explained to them that I did not think I could be actively involved. They noted that they didn't know if they could trust anyone but me (I'll take the compliment), but since I probably wasn't available, they asked if there was anyone else out there who works with campaigns whom I thought would be available to do it.

The bad part was that outside of two or three paid SD consultants who probably wouldn't have taken it on, we couldn't come up with any young conservative Republican operatives who would be free to do something like he had in mind.

As I see it, it's not candidates who need the training opportunities. There are more campaign school opportunities for candidates than you can shake a stick at. As the Retailers and REA are demonstrating, they're using the opportunity to network with the people who might be coming up as the movers and shakers in the political process. And they're not the only ones who use a campaign school to gain access. So, candidates are not lacking opportunities.

But those types of chances to network and learn aren't there for the young campaign activists who want to do this type of stuff in the background. Those who want to strictly focus on how to run a campaign.

Why do I think Republicans need a school of sorts? Because the ranks of effective Republican campaign managers and staff are really, really skinny right now.

Yes, you can find a paid consultant out there. Karen Gunderson Olson in Rapid City and Geraldine "Gypsy" Hines in Sioux Falls are out there and they can do the work. If I were running for statewide office, Gypsy would be whom I would hire for myself.

But as I've said many times, nobody wants to pay for it in South Dakota. And many legislative candidates and candidates at other levels are the ones who need this help. But, they can't afford to pay for it. So they go out and try to tap into a network of political activists.

Except the problem is for Republicans, there isn't much of a network at the moment. Why are the ranks of young available GOP activists somewhat tight?

First and foremost, many of them were snatched up months ago. If you are a winning candidate, and you have won office, one of the first things these winners tend to do is to snatch up activists for their exclusive use. And activists need jobs too, so there's a bit of willing synergy there that takes them out of circulation.

Secondly, blame term limits. Why do term limits affect this? Because with all of the political office turnover since term limits were enacted, there are a ton of opportunities for people to get involved. Instead of waiting years for an opportunity, these young gunners have openings all the time. They run themselves and go straight to the level of public official.

Where your Bob Gray's, Dusty Johnson's, Brock Greenfield's and Rich Sattgast's might have spent more time working in the backgrounds of campaign efforts, with the advent of term limits there are many more opportunities to just jump in as a young person. There's no waiting years for an office as there would have been in a previous day - the office belongs to the bold and brash, and the caste system of old has been shrugged off in favor of young aggressive campaigners.

Third, you see some people who might work a campaign or two and just decide it isn't for them. They might experience a loss, or they just get disenchanted with the system. So they walk away and go into the private sector. I did it myself for a few years until I came to the realization I needed to be helping those I considered friends and participating to promote the things I believe in.

Smart, seasoned political operatives are tough to come by, and there are candidates out there who need them. So I think my idea to train those who want and need training as a campaign operative is a valid one.

And for only a few dollars a day, you can make PP's dreams come true.


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