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Kephart 3, on Campaign Contributions: Ask Early, Ask Big

Last updated on 2013.09.04

Hey hey! Now that the blog is working again, I can resume my series with Sam Kephart on the 2008 GOP Senate primary. In Parts 1 and 2, Kephart talked about where he found support despite the efforts of the GOP machine to squeeze him out as an uppity and unorthodox outsider. In Part 3, Kephart attests to the need to get big donors in the chute early. Primary candidates, pay attention!

Heidelberger: Dykstra outfundraised you in the primary. What kept you from tapping bigger donors and bigger donations?

Samuel Kephart, 2008 GOP U.S. Senate candidate
Samuel Kephart, 2008 GOP U.S. Senate candidate

Kephart: One of the biggest mistakes of my primary campaign was to underestimate the need for a “sugar-daddy” and to not have a ready stable of already-groomed large donors who could prime the pump with several hundred thousand dollars. Realistically, Joel Dykstra suffered somewhat from the same issue, although he certainly knew way more wealthy people in the state than I did.

I very naïvely thought that the power of my ideas, my direct approach, and my ‘fresh eyes’ would bring out the donors, once they heard my campaign pitch. Boy, was I wrong.

I tried to go from 0 to 60 in one jump; I had no prior campaign experience, I was new to the state, and I was scary to some people.

I did have a couple of total strangers give me the maximum donation of $2,600 based on a 30-minute talk, however, many prospective donors were defensive, at least initially.

More folks started warming up to me towards the last 6 weeks of the campaign, but it was too late then. I was completely unprepared and inexperienced, donation-wise, to ask for the “big give”... and I didn’t have the down payment necessary to hire the proper outside fund-raisers.