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Axe The Tax - Grassroots Success

By Doug Guetzloe


It was Election Day around 2:00 in the afternoon when I received my first call from a reporter covering the multi billion dollar Mobility 2020 referendum vote.  This reporter had covered the campaign during the last several months and the question was an odd one.  “What are your thoughts on losing the campaign today?” 


With five hours of voting remaining and no exit polling being conducted of which I was aware, I was surprised by the question.  The reporter continued that Orange County Mayor Rich Crotty the leader and inspiration of the “Crotty Transportation Plan” and the instigator behind the $8.8 billion tax plan had just released the results of not one but three separate and independent surveys.


They showed that when the polls closed the massive tax increase would pass with between 58 and 64% of the vote, handing my grassroots political committee, Ax the Tax, is most devastating defeat in our 21-year history of defeating tax increases.


Since I founded Ax the Tax, we have led taxpayers to 13 victories, defeating over 11 billion in proposed taxes.  Ax the Tax is the most successful grassroots political effort in the country, so naturally, the question took me by surprise.  I responded that we didn't plan on losing and that we had scheduled a victory party at a local sub shop whose owners supported Ax the Tax and we'd see them then. 


The reporter said that Crotty had told him he better get a quote early since when I lose I wouldn't be found for a comment.  I laughed and told them I'd see them later.  That was the first of several calls over the next hour as more reporters called with the same dour prediction; the Crotty plan would pass and we would be defeated in the highest profile battle we had ever conducted.


After all, it made sense to the compliant media.  The Crotty Transportation plan called “Mobility 2020” had raised and spent over $1.5 million.  Another $300,000 had come from allied trade associations and organizations.  Mob 2020 as we called it had raised and spent more money than any other tax proposal in the history of Central Florida.  Ax the Tax had defeated large sums before with our well organized grassroots mobilization, but previous campaigns paled compared to the seemingly invincible juggernaut of Mobility 2020.  It made sense to the media.


We had raised about $34,000, spent mostly on organizing the grassroots and on campaign signs and materials.


That night was certainly interesting as we watched the returns come in and Ax the Tax took the lead.  When the smoke cleared and a winner was declared, Ax the Tax had, once again confounded the experts and the pollsters and all the political pundits who had predicted defeat by winning 54% of the vote from Orange County taxpayers.


The next day our incredible grassroots victory found its way into the pages of USA Today with a photo of me claiming victory at our Ax the Tax victory party.


How did we do it?  How did we defeat a $1.5 million dollar bankroll to win?  Effective, motivated, informed and mobilized volunteer forces are a MUST for any campaign. Effective grassroots management is critical for any candidate's success.


Our volunteers were dedicated, hard-working and well-organized.  We organized key voter canvass by door and by phone.  We held carwashes to generate support and get our Students against the Tax involved and energized.  We used our grassroots for radio and TV internet polls to show support for our side.  We used our award winning website (www.axthetax.org) to keep everyone informed and involved.


In the high tech world of campaign tactics, utilizing real time communications has become a catalyst for effective grassroots politics.  Rather than negating the need for grassroots, it provides the means to enhance the grassroots experience and provide the cutting edge, especially in a close race, for victory.


Organization and a solid plan are a must.  Here at ten proven ingredients for implementing a successful grassroots effort: 

  1. Budgeting for grassroots success.  Employ a grassroots consultant.  It's critical to have a strategic and tactical plan in place to maximize volunteer grassroots involvement in your campaign.
  2. Mesmerize, motivate and mobilize your volunteers.

  3. Feed them.  “Water” your grassroots with food and plenty of thanks from the candidate and grassroots coordinator.  You don't have to have a campaign headquarters to do that.  Prior to a grassroots event meet at a local coffee shop to distribute maps and instructions.

  4. Involve the media in organized grassroots events.  Standing on street corners with signs or going door-to-door or having a volunteer car wash is always good media.

  5. Communication is critical.  Use the Internet; phone trees. Websites to keep grassroots volunteers involved.  If you don't use them “you lose them.”

  6. Internet warriors.  Grassroots volunteers can be organized to participate in candidate internet polls and research.

  7. Rally support.  Use your volunteers as a “praetorian” guard for your candidate.  Enthusiastic sign waving volunteers are always good media at rallies, news conferences, candidate debates and more.

  8. Use grassroots volunteers for individual postcard mailings.  Have grassroots volunteers bring their Christmas card lists; civic groups; church membership list; youth sports list – any and all lists and have your grassroots individually address postcards with a personal message to everyone they know.

  9. You CAN fire volunteers.  Don't get stuck with the volunteer from hell turning off other volunteers.  That one could be a spy or just on a power trip.

  10. Keep your grassroots involved and active – grassroots are the key to victory in a high tech world.

Doug Guetzloe, President of Advantage Consultants is a battle hardened
veteran of hundreds of successful political campaigns. Doug
is the founder and Chairman of Ax the Tax, one of the
most successful grassroots political committees in the country.

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