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Farm Team Conservatism

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
This has been a bad year for conservatives at the ballot box. Washington Republicans and their allies, enabled by chaos in the presidential race, began targeting down-ballot conservatives for defeat. They were highly successful.

Concurrently, the last vestiges of the old tea party movement finally divided between pro-Trump populists and principled conservatives. Unshackled from principle, the populists saw their candidates defeated in elections across the country. Kelli Ward, a hero of pro-Trump populists, went down to defeat in Arizona after her opponents exposed her as a believer in chem-trails.

Whatever sad reality we find in the next presidential administration, conservatives are going to have to look around for help to rebuild. They tend to do better in off-year elections where attention can be focused more on issues than personality. But conservatives tend to look straight to congress and ignore local elections -- ironic for a party so keen on federalism. A conservative farm team is needed. There are various groups that help candidates learn the skills to run for office. Travel to Washington and you can learn how to campaign or manage a campaign at various right and left leaning organizations.

In Texas, where conservatism makes the case for the Texas way instead of the Washington way, a new group has sprung up. They are calling themselves "My Campaign Coach." Raz Shafer, who is undertaking the effort, has been a long time conservative operative and friend. He graduated from Hillsdale College, worked within the conservative movement helping train activists, then signed on to help Texas' Senator Ted Cruz.

I talked to Raz this past week, and unlike many of the conservative activists I talk to these days, he has a lot of optimism and excitement about the future. He shares my belief that conservatives need to look to their city councils, county commissions, school boards, and state legislatures before just jumping into congressional races. Lay groundwork, build reputations and gain knowledge.

Raz is setting out to train conservatives on how not just to win elections, but to serve in office without sacrificing integrity. The latter is more challenging than most people realize. I was a city councilman for one term in Macon, GA. I assure you it was the most painful, miserable job I ever had.

I did not actually want the job. But no one else wanted it either and local Republicans pushed me to qualify. The only issue I campaigned on was shutting down the various Asian themed massage parlors that had sprung up around Macon, GA, serving as fronts for human trafficking. It took four years, but I and others were mostly able to accomplish that goal.

Along the way, I learned that many local politicians care little about the long term. So wrapped up in re-elections, the short term goals are always more important. As a result, some politicians make decisions that cast their integrity into question, but think the issue will long be forgotten by the time they seek higher office. I will not claim to be purer than others in this regard. I just knew going into office I had no desire to serve more than one term. I never bothered with making the calculations others make for re-election and future office. In fact, six months before my term ended I was offered a job in radio, but I had to resign my seat to take it. I resigned. Hanging on to a part time city council job while losing a well paying, full time job did not make sense.

I have seen others step forward both to fill my seat and other races who really did not know where to begin. They did not know who they could trust to help them or teach them. Having come up through the ranks of conservative activists together, I hope Raz Shafer and his Campaign Coach can provide conservatives around the country what has been lacking -- a coach to teach them how to run for office and a friend who helps hold them accountable to their values once in office. In 2016, it is clear conservatives need friends like that.

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