The Blue Lab

Andy Vargas

Andy Vargas


Creating a pathway for first-time candidates

Candidates across the country spent $7 billion during the last election cycle. Yet, if Teddy Roosevelt visited a typical modern campaign headquarters, he would we feel right at home with the antiquated processes. Campaigns spend money on siloed activities - polling, media, communications, field, fundraising, and mail - rather than using a comprehensive and cohesive operation that houses all of the activities in one outfit. Each cycle, candidates assemble, dismantle, and reassemble professionals from all over for each campaign. In short, everything is largely built from scratch, by each campaign, every election, and then abandoned or wasted.

Because the apparatus is only reassembled every 18 months or so, campaigns invest in all new technology infrastructure and methods or reuse outmoded and obsolete technology. In the worst case campaigns lose valuable time determining deficiencies and upgrade midstream. The cyclical nature of campaigns confines the creative processes to the “on-year,” completely wasting the time in between campaigns to stay on top of advancements in technology or to be creative with communications tools. Continuity and institutional knowledge are also often lost in the cycle-to-cycle shuffle.

This traditional campaign model is rigid, stifling the free flow of innovative thinking present in successful start-ups. Campaigns are too formulaic, slow to innovate, top heavy with costly consultants, and Washington-centered in their thinking. As campaigns raise more and more money, these resources continue to reinforce and support a costly and outmoded business model. As a result, the current system limits competition and prevents disruption to the accepted campaign formula. First-time, minority, and female candidates – even the most innovative and qualified ones – struggle to break through.