David Holt, former vice chair of the local Democratic party, has been working on political campaigns since he was 16. But, about three years ago, he attended Democracy for America's training academy.
"It was pretty great," he says. "There's a tendency to say we have a campaign; the election is in two months; let's start knocking on doors.
"When you go into this, you talk about making a plan: This is how many doors a week you need to knock on; this is how much money you need to raise each week," he says.
Held in connection with the Mid-South Peace & Justice Center, the two-day Democracy for America training program is back in Memphis Saturday and Sunday, April 25th and 26th, at Southwest Tennessee's Community College's Macon Road campus.
"In my opinion, the big problem in Memphis is we have too many political gatekeepers between the people and the political process," says Brad Watkins with Mid-South Peace & Justice. "A lot of people want to get involved, but they don't know where to start."
Democracy for America grew out of Howard Dean's 2004 presidential campaign. Watkins, the local organizer of the Dean campaign, says there's a lot of "political strip mining" in Memphis communities.
"Politicians come into communities during campaign season and get everyone revved up about a candidate, but the day after the election, they're gone," he says.
The training session will include how to build an activist base, fund-raising strategies, campaign and event planning, and working with the media.
Preregistration for the course is $60 (or $30 for students and low-income participants) and can be done via democracyforamerica.com/events/31887. Registration at the door is $75, or $45 for students and low-income participants.
Attendees are encouraged to bring a calculator because there is some "minor math" about targeting precincts and figuring out how many votes a candidate or issue needs to win.
"If you want to become a candidate for office or work on an issue campaign, this training is designed to give you all the skills you need to do that," Watkins says. "We want to make these skills so common that just about anybody will be able to campaign."