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How to Engage Candidates


When candidates are called out in public, it can spur them to take action, quickly! We call this “bird-dogging” -- showing up in person at campaign events and asking the candidate to fill out the survey. It becomes more effective when it happens multiple times: at every public event, an activist is there, putting them on the spot, insisting on a straight answer. Bird-dogging is a really fun tactic that you can build a team to get involved in, and we can train you on everything you’ll need to know to get results.

1) Recruit some friends
Bird-dogging is a lot more effective if you have a team of people who show up at a member’s public appearances with a few people. It’s always better to have one person ready to ask the questions and one person recording the exchange to get it on the record.
2) Find your candidates
Over the next few months, all candidates should be at public events often. Start by looking at their website, reading the paper, Googling, or even calling their campaign office directly and asking about upcoming events in your neighborhood. The best opportunities are events where the candidate will be taking questions or will be somewhat approachable.
3) Put your event on the map
Let everyone in your area know that you will be going to the candidate's event and ask them to join you. The more of you the better! Add the event to this map and we will email all Common Cause members in your neighborhood to ask them to join. Make sure you follow up with them and arrange a place to meet up in advance to make sure you all sit together and assign someone to take video of any interactions and record your target’s comments.
4) Prepare and attend your event
Make sure you call every person attending your event on the map above and make sure they have all the information. If you want to have more of a confrontational conversation, make signs and posters. Make sure to include the text “” on all your signs. Alternatively, print off a copy of the questionnaire and hand it to them when you talk to them.
5) Ask your question!
Once you are at the event, your goal is to publicly ask the candidate this question: We have reached out to your campaign to ask that you talk to voters about democracy reform. Will you tell voters what you will do to reform our democracy by filling out the questionnaire at

You can get several people to ask them directly, hold up signs, get reporters to inquire, etc. The key is to be respectful but also relentless and highly visible.
6) Don't give up
It might take multiple meetings to get candidates to realize you aren’t giving up easily. But if you keep going and keep making sure candidates know we’re not stopping, they will respond.

Democracy is on the ballot in 2018.

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