With Scandal still drawing in millions of viewers on Thursdays night, audiences get a closer look into politics with more than a pinch of drama. Election season is upon us and today’s youth are involved now more than ever in social issues and politics. Although this country’s issues may not get solved in an hour with the help of Olivia Pope, Atlanta does have its own superwoman to help guide first generation politicians.
Keisha A Carter serves as the Principal Consultant of RaZor Solutions Group, a political consulting firm specializing in first generation politicians. “My responsibility is to guide individuals into elected service. We primarily serve as fundraising consultants, but we usually are involved in many different aspects of the campaign for our clients.” Whether RaZor Solutions Group comes in at the beginning or end of your campaign, its main goal is to catapult a client into the position he or she wants to be in.
“Our firm is usually the first consultant hired, because you need money to run an effective campaign and hire the rest of your staff. Sometimes we are the last one hired, because people realize that running for office is really expensive, and after they've spent more than what they thought it would cost, that is when I get the call.” Campaigning for Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump seem effortless because they have funds to hire able staff that are knowledgeable of the process. Luckily, RaZor Solutions Group can give sound advice and direction to those who are just starting their political career.
Carter makes it a point to tell RYSE that politics are not like Scandal at all. “Many times, people don't run, because they get a false sense of reality watching politics on television. I tell candidates all the time that this is not Scandal, it’s more like the old Michael J. Fox show, Spin City, a comedy.
Most first-time candidates can't trust their gut when they get started, because running for office is probably the opposite of what you believe you have to do to get elected, that is why you need experienced people around you to get you to a point where you can trust your own instincts again.”
There will always be room for those that want to make a social change and be a voice for those who have something to say. When asked what advice she could give to those who are interested in running for office, Carter offered eight tips.
- Know Where you Live: If you are a Democrat but live in a Republican District, you need to move to be elected, if your races are partisan or where party plays a role in the election.
- It Takes Gold to Run a Campaign: All campaigns cost money, even grassroots campaigns cost money. Yard Signs, T-shirts, Rack Cards, Printing, Gas, Food for Volunteers, Campaign Headquarters, etc. All of this cost money. You don't have to raise it, but you will have to spend it. Have a plan for how to pay for the campaign.
- Time: Do you have time to dedicate to running for office? Some jobs don't make it easy to run for public office. Voters want to see you. Donors need to be called. Volunteers need to be trained. If you don't have time to do all of that, then you need to hire people to do all of it and you have to look back at number 2.
- Coalition of the willing: Do you have people that will support you by volunteering their time, donating money or items, helping you walk precincts etc. If you don't then how or where do you get them, but you will need them. Great campaigns grow this coalition over time.
- Know Your Opponent, Don't be Your Opponent: If you run a campaign chasing your opponent everywhere, you might as well stay home, because unless you are the lead dog, the scenery doesn't change. Have a plan for your campaign. Know your opponent and know more than your opponent to stay ahead of them.
- Peak at the Right Time: Campaigns can be really long, so you have to understand when voters start to pay attention and not when your friends (I call this the Bubble) want to see your signs in everyone's yard or you on television.
- Did I mention Money: Campaigns are expensive, but not impossible. You do not have to be rich to run, or have an ivy-league education, but you do need the willingness to serve, and work to earn every donation and every vote.
- Closed Mouths Don't Get Fed: You have to ask for votes, money, volunteers, support, etc.If you are not asking, people don't know what you need and can't help you when you need it. Most people that run are very strong individuals, so people assume they have it all together.
“Over the years I've had the opportunity to work with really great people: Atlanta City Council President Ceasar Mitchell, Fulton County Chairman John Eaves, Senator Hillary Clinton, Congressman Ben Chandler, most of the Atlanta Board of Education, and so many more that are doing this because they want to change the community they live in. Not just for themselves, but for the people around them.” Many people believe that politicians are selfish individuals that don’t have the community’s best interest at heart. That may be the case sometimes, but Carter believes the opposite to be true.
“When you work with those that are running for office, you are reminded that people run for the right reasons. This is a tough job to do with no guarantee that you will win. You must have a heart for service to put yourself and your family through the experience.”
For many young black people, their social media may be the outlet for them to get current events and updates when it comes to the news. Movements, such as Black Lives Matter and the evolving and inclusive Women’s Movement, come up often. Although people rally to get their voices heard and incite changes, they can’t be made without there being a political push and change as well.
The Black Lives Matter movement is said to be the second wave to the Civil Rights Movement, which if one remembers, required politics in order to be effective. Prompting that same action – all the while incorporating the new tools that now existto spread information farther and faster – makes the likelihood of this movement being powerful, if not more so than the first movement. Petitions, marches, hashtags, and t-shirts aren’t going to drive the change people want to see; however, communicating with elected officials would be a great start.
Carter has seen many people shy away from running, because politics doesn’t mimic what’s shown on TV. Not every election is going to be as popular and scandalous as the upcoming presidential election with Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Donald Trump constantly in the lime light. A campaign doesn’t have to imitate television drama to tackle real life issues.
Many of the complaints heard from people supporting these movements are the lack of attention and understanding, and a need for change. Those complaints indicate when voters and potential politicians have to invest time in doing their research to either elect someone who can help them fight for their causes or better equip themselves to dialogue with officials that are already in office. Something that older voters urge the younger generation to do is research. Although partisanship matters, there are candidates on the other side of the isle that may agree with an issue that you stand for. Understanding and researching candidates, while knowing where you stand on certain issues, will help you further assess and vote in the best way possible for you and your community. Understanding the political process and knowing all the details that go into inciting changes better prepares voters and potential politicians for the road ahead of them. As Carter mentioned earlier, there is an overt difference between television’s version of politics and real life.
Most people are not fortunate to have born into a political dynasty such as the Kennedy’s or Bush’s, but with a superwoman such as Keisha A. Carter and the RaZor Solutions Group there to guide first generation politicians, who’s to say she can’t help mold and direct a new potential candidate into office.