Executive’s book offers step-by-step path to political success

Ron Wallace breaks down elements of election campaign



MILTON, Ga. – Ron Wallace has had a hugely successful career heading up UPS International’s operations, dealing with heads of state and conducting global marketing campaigns. Since his retirement, he has handled numerous election campaigns as well, using his skills and experience to advise and direct their planning and execution.

Joining him in writing “The Power of the Campaign Pyramid: Hope Is Not a Strategy,” a how-to book to win elected office, is Wesley McCall, whose own savvy and political skill have led him to be a sought-after campaign manager himself.

Brandon Beach can attest to the power of Wallace’s book. After Beach failed to unseat state Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers last summer in the GOP primary, he got a second chance in a special election when Rogers resigned.

This time, he ran under Wallace’s tutelage.

“That book is a great book,” Beach said. “It specifically targets the grassroots and gets so many people involved in your campaign. It teaches you how to get your votes out. That’s what it did for me. We were missing that before.

“He was very instrumental in my winning that special election,” Beach said. “We ran three races, and this race was the best we ever ran. The thing he stressed was a sense of urgency, which was true. We only had a month, so it was a 30-day sprint.”

Beach handily defeated a sitting Cherokee County state representative in a district that is about 75 percent Cherokee County.

Wallace was not really interested in going into politics, but he knew he had a lot of skills that would translate well into public service.

Gov. Sonny Perdue tapped into that when he asked Wallace six years ago to lead the appointed committee that was to guide the nascent city of Milton through its transition to an incorporated city.

It was Wallace’s committee’s job to create a city that was ready to go and to hand over to the newly elected City Council some months later. Wallace agreed to preside over that transformation.

One of the few conditions the governor imposed on those serving on the committee was that the members could not run for a city elected office – which suited Wallace just fine. He was content with “setting the table” for a new Milton.

“I was never really interested in politics and campaigns while I was working for UPS,” he said. “But I spent a lot of time in Washington D.C., and a lot of my work was similar to that of a lobbyist.”

In short, he saw close up how a lot of the political process worked. And his work overseas put him in contact and often in negotiations with presidents, premiers and even a prince or two.

This would involve acquiring companies for UPS, getting laws changed, new regulations promulgated and developing the people skills that go with all that.

“You had to acquire a lot of knowledge about how public affairs are conducted. Then after I retired, candidates would approach me about conducting their campaigns,” he said.

He began to give talks to grassroots groups that sought his advice on how to organize campaigns. He saw that his notes for these talks could quite easily become a manual for running a successful campaign.

“After I drafted my presentations, I saw it could be the basis for a book – something I could just hand out to people,” he said. “I knew it had to be simple and down to earth.

“It’s targeted for political campaigns, but it is applicable to most any kind of [public opinion] campaign,” he said.

“The Power of the Campaign Pyramid” is not a theoretical treatise, but is based on extensive research, empirical data and interviews with winners and losers, he said.

The result is a step-by-step process that spells out how the candidate can most effectively use his or her time, money and talent.

It starts at the beginning: Know why you are running.

Potential candidates must assess their campaign readiness. That means learning not only what their own positions are, but how they may relate to the wants and desires of the constituency. If candidates can’t connect with constituents on the issues, they won’t get to first base.

“It means gaining a thorough understanding of the issues. A campaign is a long, winding road with potholes, detours and detours,” Wallace wrote. “If you only look at the first 10 feet, you will be poorly prepared for the journey ahead.”

What Wallace proposes is providing a roadmap for the election. His “campaign checklist” includes not only the campaign assessment – why you are running and your position on the issues – but also obvious but often overlooked elements such as understanding election laws and identifying key dates and deadlines.

Key is choosing a campaign manager who can organize and help build the cadre of volunteers – you’re a team, Wallace calls it – a person who will provide the essential legwork and data collection that will get a campaign off the ground.

The campaign checklist starts 20 weeks out from the election and identifies no less than 59 key tasks necessary for success. These include identifying donors, creating a platform and talking points down to creating a stump speech.

“If you expect to succeed on charm alone, you’ll be sorely disappointed,” he said. “You need to know how to grow your influence and have an impact on voters. But most candidates don’t even know how to get started.”

Most start by knocking on doors, but is that the best use of time and talent? Wallace says candidates should do their research first. How many voted in that precinct in the last election, for instance.

“It doesn’t do any good to knock on the doors of people who don’t vote,” he said.

A candidate should concentrate on the voters who vote most of the time. That is the pyramid concept. The candidate should put the most effort on those who will be participating (voting).

The race is often not to the swiftest, but the best organized.

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