Venice-based Democrat Lisa Stortstrom said her interest in electoral politics began to change after she began attending environmental caucus meetings hosted by the Sarasota County Democratic Executive Committee. So when she started seriously considering a candidacy earlier this year, she began taking free classes with the National Democratic Training Committee.
“They have training courses all the way through if you are planning to show up for a seat and what to think about, then the next steps,” she says. “They give you the skills one at a time with the tools to implement this type of career. “
Stortstrom is now challenging GOP incumbent James Buchanan for the Florida House District 74 seat in Sarasota County in November.
The National Democratic Training Committee (NDTC) is one of many “training camps” across the country that provide tools for first-time candidates running for political office. The NDTC works exclusively with any Democrat who wants to run for office, campaign or become a local leader, says CEO and founder Kelly Dietrich.
Dietrich began working on Democratic campaigns for the United States House and Senate after graduating from college. Meanwhile, he says he saw the need for such services and started offering free classes in 2016.
Any Democrat who signs up for his program has access to over 70 online training courses, starting with videos such as “So You Think You Ought to Run” on what to do on election night.
“We place a great deal of importance on understanding the goals your campaign needs to achieve in order to win, and then making plans for them,” he says. “All of our courses are designed so that it’s not just about the big picture. You have immediate advantages: you have downloads, models, examples to implement immediately on your campaign. “
The NDTC says more than 1,200 Democratic candidates, ranging from Congress to city council and hospital boards, have taken at least one of their courses this election cycle. Among those who have taken such courses in Florida are Democratic House wannabes like Stephanie Dukes, CL Townsend and Lloyd Dabbs.
While the NDTC works exclusively with Democrats, there are a plethora of other organizations that work with more specific type candidates.
This includes New Politics, a bipartisan organization that works with veterans and national service alumni from organizations like AmeriCorps and the Peace Corps.
“We are not about a platform or a party ideology,” said Gabe Ramos, spokesman for New Politics. “He’s really about the person we work with. Let them demonstrate that commitment to service, that they have this core set of values, that they are ready to take office and lead with courage, integrity and empathy and they will put partisan politics aside.
Among the candidates they are working with for this election cycle in Florida is Matt Tito, a Marine Corps veteran and businessman who now runs as a Republican in November in the Pinellas County House District 68 race against incumbent Democrat Ben Diamond.
“I knew I wanted to get into politics since I was in the Marine Corps,” Tito says. “But where are you going? Where do you start? What do you do?”
He says he learned about the new policy “somewhat at random” and took a five-week virtual course called “Answering the Call.”
“It was about learning more about the path to politics,” he says. “Write your mission statement and really dive into your core principles. (Tito is featured in a New Politics podcast that you can listen to here).
Another candidate New Politics is working with is Fiona McFarland, a Navy Reserve officer who ran as a Republican in November in the State House District 72 race.
For more information on the National Democratic Training Committee, you can visit their website.
For more information on New Politics, see their website.