Guest post by Matt Ames
It has been my great privilege to serve as Chairman of the Republican Party in Fairfax County since March of 2014. This blog post lays out my plans for a second term, should I have honor of being re-elected.
We all know that November 8, 2016, is a critical date. We must win the Presidency this year if the nation we know and love is to remain strong and free. Despite the electoral gains our Party has made in recent years, the “progressive” left has achieved too many of its aims. That kind of “progress” must end. When I first ran for this office in 2012, I said that the Democratic Party is a clear and present danger to the national security and the economic prosperity of this country. This is truer today than ever.
The nation needs true reform, based on conservative principles, consistent with our traditions, and aimed at fair, effective and long-lasting solutions to our problems. For that to happen, our Republican candidate for President – whoever it may be – must carry Virginia. A strong and well-led organization in Fairfax will be essential to victory in 2016.
I have the experience, the drive, and the commitment to lead our Party for the next two years.
- I understand our financial needs and challenges: During my tenure – and with your help — we have raised 40% more money than we did during the previous comparable period (2010-11).
- As County Chairman, and previously as a precinct captain and District Chairman in a Democratic area – again, with your help — I have met the challenges of grassroots organizing in a difficult environment.
- And, I have proven that I can lead a complex volunteer organization in a county of over one million residents.
This election offers a tremendous opportunity. We will see an enormous outpouring of volunteer support. We have an excellent leadership team in place, who understand and share my vision. With their help, our Party will channel this new energy where it is needed in 2016, and capture it for future campaigns, including the critical race for Governor in 2017. We cannot just surf the wave – we have to harness it and use its energy to accomplish our goals.
Winning in 2016 will invigorate our Party here in Fairfax and across Virginia, and lay the foundation for future success. Please join me in making sure this happens.
2016 will require a massive effort, even greater than that of 2012. We must do everything we have done before, but bigger and better. We have our weaknesses, but the FCRC is in fact a strong and effective grassroots political organization – we punch above our weight because of the dedication of our grassroots volunteers. This year, we will get bigger and stronger, we will keep punching, and here is how we will do it:
- Volunteer and Member Recruitment and Integration. The FCRC community extends far beyond the membership: there are hundreds of thousands of Republican voters in Fairfax County, and thousands of people volunteer each year. Our single most important task between February 1 and Labor Day will be to recruit as many people as we can, and give them all volunteering opportunities that suit their interests and talents.
- The concept is easy, but execution will require constant communications, attention to detail, and especially follow-through. We’ll start by contacting former members, past volunteers and past convention delegates early in 2016 and asking them to re-engage with the Party in this critical year, as part of the regular process for becoming a convention delegate and joining the FCRC. Next, we’re going to contact likely prospects who do not sign up through the pre-convention process. This will continue all year, as we bring into the fold the many individuals who will contact the FCRC or RPV staff during the course of the year.
- We’re also going to conduct door-to-door canvassing early in the year, targeted at Republican voters and using collateral materials designed to recruit new members and volunteers.
- We’re already working with RPV staff on a process for capturing and sharing volunteer contact information. Our Executive Director will maintain a master volunteer contact spreadsheet, and pass on each volunteer’s information to the appropriate member of our leadership, as well as our Membership Committee. He will also contact each volunteer, determine their interests and level of experience, and give them information about membership in the FCRC and contact information for our leadership. The Executive Director will follow up with each volunteer within 72 hours to ensure that they have been contacted by the leadership.
- Operations Plan. Every year, the Operations Committee prepares a calendar of festivals and community events that we will cover, and identifies all of the operational tasks to be performed during the course of the election cycle: production and distribution of back-to-school night literature, staffing of polls on Election Day, absentee ballot programs, and many others. The plan will also address the door-to-door recruitment canvassing described earlier; training for precinct captains, precinct-level volunteers, pollwatchers and the post-election canvass team; and recruitment of Republican election officers for referral to the County Office of Elections.
- Precinct Captain Recruitment. The precinct captain is at the center of every successful grassroots political organization. We have already begun implementing an aggressive plan to recruit a precinct captain in every one of the 238 precincts in the County. This effort will be coordinated with the campaign plan being put in place by the RPV, RNC and the eventual Presidential nominee.
- Cooperation with the RPV, RNC and Presidential Campaign. The FCRC has been working with the RPV and the RNC to assist them in their initial recruitment plans for several months. We will work with them through the summer to help them meet their recruiting goals, and they have agreed to share information with us. Once we have a Presidential nominee, we will continue the same effort with the campaign itself.
- Communications and Marketing Plan. In a county as big as Fairfax, staying in touch with existing and prospective volunteers requires a substantial communications capability. We have been doing a good job at this, but we can do better. To emphasize the importance of this function, I intend to create a new position on the Executive Committee, the Vice Chairman for Communications and Marketing.
- The FCRC recently signed a contract that will allow us to replace ConstantContact and give us more flexibility and control over our email communications. We have also acquired tens of thousands of new email addresses, potentially quadrupling the reach of our email program. The new Vice Chairman will use this system and our existing social media accounts to push traffic to the FCRC Facebook page and our website. This strategy will be aimed at engaging current and potential volunteers, encouraging new membership applications, and informing volunteers, members, and the public about the party’s activities in Fairfax County through Election Day. We will also develop print and digital collateral materials, using consistent branding, to engage the broader GOP community and advance our goals for fundraising, membership, community engagement and volunteer recruitment and retention.
- Community Engagement Plan. Eighteen percent of Fairfax County residents are Hispanic; 16% are Asian. For our party to grow for the long term, we have to strengthen our relationships with the various ethnic communities in the County. Since 2012, the Community Engagement Committee has been working to build the personal relationships and trust that lie at the root of success in local politics. Only after laying a foundation based on trust can we have serious conversations about values, issues, and politics.
- Last year we held our third annual Diwali celebration with the Indian community in Fairfax County; we sponsored a dinner for leaders in the Hispanic business community; and several of our members helped organize events with the Korean community. We also have a very effective team working with the Vietnamese community, and we have a strong relationship with Chinese American Republicans of Virginia. We will sponsor more such events and continue to strengthen those relationships.
- We will also strengthen our relationships with existing coalitions, including the VFRW and the women’s clubs in the County, the CRs and YRs, and our own Veterans’ Coalition and Lawyers’ Coalition.
- Fundraising. The FCRC has done an excellent job for many years operating on a shoestring, but you can only go so far on a shoestring. The Democrats have typically raised and spent three to four times as much as we have. In recent years, we have started to close the gap, and our goal for this year is $250,000. This will allow us to implement new initiatives and fully support the efforts of our volunteers in the field.
We will win in 2016 because we have to win. The plan is a good one, and I know we can make it work if we all get on board and pull together. I’m looking forward to a great night on November 8.
Matt Ames is Chairman of the Fairfax County Republican Committee, having been elected in 2014 after running unopposed. He is currently running for re-election this year. For more information on the Fairfax County Republican Committee please visit their website fairfaxgop.org.