My Blog

May 14, 2017

Dr. Politics: Planning Your First House Party

By Dwight Patel Technology Chairman, MDGOP


So, for a quick recap, you have found a treasurer, filed your papers to become a candidate for office, and sent out your first direct mail to raise money from your Christmas card list.  Now you are ready to have your first House Party.


The first thing you need to do is find a speaker, who will be your headliner. It can be a state delegate, a state senator, congressman, or any current or former elected official.  At my first event, I had Congressman Peter King (R-NY) as my headliner.  Remember, your speaker doesn’t have to be an elected or formerly elected official.  You can have authors, newsmakers or pretty much anyone you think would be a draw.




Before inviting your event speaker, you should find a location for your event. Discuss the timing and other details with your finance counsel and finance chairman, and be sure to get commitments from the prospective host of your event. Then SET A REALISTIC GOAL of how much money you’d like to raise at this gathering. IMPORTANT:  Do NOT invite press to your fundraisers.  Many speakers don’t like having press at a fundraiser.  Furthermore, you don’t want to have the media report any possible negative aspects of your fundraiser.




When you contact a potential speaker, be sure to give him/her specific dates for the event. Don’t tell them that you’d like them to speak sometime between July and September, since this drives schedulers crazy, and also makes you and your campaign look like newbies.  Instead, send a message that reads something like this:

Dear Rockstar Speaker, I am having a campaign event…  Would you be available on July 14, 16, 24 or 26, 2017? Then identify the location, specify if it’s a private home or public venue such as a hotel, park, public school or any other public place. Allow for 8 to 10 weeks (remember this is your first event you will need the extra time) prior to date to invite the speaker.


[So, if you are targeting mid-July for your event, you need to have your invitation out by May 5.  Allow two weeks for response (sometimes it might take longer, so plan for rejections as well as alternative dates offered up by speaker’s office) Your speaker should confirm by the end of May.]


Also, follow up with the scheduler after you have made the request.  If you don’t hear back in within 3 weeks, you need to move on.  The best way to get a speaker is to know someone in their office.  When I invited Congressman Peter King, I knew his scheduler and his chief of staff.  I picked up the phone and called Carolyn to let her know my invite was in the mail (this was before everyone used email) and asked her to keep an eye out for it.


NOTE: I’m not saying a cold invitation won’t work, but contacting total strangers who don’t know you makes it harder to get a commitment from them.  Also, you will get rejections (it is very hard) but don’t take it personally. The fact is, members of Congress and newsmakers receive thousands of requests per day. If you are doing a cold invite, there’s a 90% chance is you will get a rejection.  Chances go up if you know someone associated with the office of your speaker.   I’d make a list of people you’d like to invite.  Contact your local Republican Party or the State Party.  Many times, they can help you get a speaker for your event




Ok, you just got a call from your speaker’s scheduler, and your speaker has agreed to headline your event.  The first thing you want to do is inform your host that the speaker has agreed and will be doing the event at his/her home on the previously agreed upon date.  Design the invitation and send the invitation to the speaker for approval. You don’t want to send out invitation out without the Speakers Team reviewing it. Ninety percent of the time they are fine with it, but during my experience, I have had a few speakers make changes to the invitation.




Your invitation has been approved by the speaker’s office. Now you need to do the following:


First put event information on your website, tweet out your speaker and date, create a Facebook event, use targeted Facebook ads (these ads can be focused so that only those in your district will see them) [I will explain more in my later column on digital campaigns]. Send out e-invite via Constant Contact, MailChimp or a Google Group. (Repeat this campaign every week, but don’t send out after business hours (It can be labeled SPAM, so best time to send is M – F between 10 am – 4 pm)


Second, send your invitation design to a printer or go to Staples and make 500 copies. Printer V staples it all depends on time.  I’d recommend for the first event designing an oversized 6 x 9 postcard (please go to to view examples of various postcard designs and best practices).


If you do a postcard, it will cost you roughly the same as mailing via First Class Mail. If you go to Staples and get 500 copies of your invitation, you will want to get your campaign volunteers to come over one night, buy them dinner, have them stuff and hand address the invites.  More people are likely to open a handwritten invitation than a preformatted, labeled invitation.  Also, if they are mailing to people they know personally, have them put a little-handwritten note on the invitation to their friend.  If possible use brightly colored envelopes.


When I had my event with Congressman King in 1994, I bought Red, White and Blue envelopes from Kinkos. I found that I got a better response rate from the colored envelopes than I did from the standard white number 10 envelope.  In 1994, I also included an RSVP envelope stamped and addressed for them.  In this day-and-age, I’d say you should still do that, since some of your more senior supporters may not want to go online to pay for an event. However, you do want to include a link where people can purchase tickets or just donate online for your campaign (Again, will cover more on this topic of Digital Campaigns in an upcoming issue)



So, now that your invites are out, does this mean your job is done?  After one week of mailing out invitations, you and your finance team can prioritize invites. You should call the ones who gave from your first mailing FIRST. If they gave more than $200.00, ask them if they’d consider being on your host committee for this event. If they will ask what their responsibilities are for being on host committee, tell them that they should sell 10 tickets or more.  Not all will say yes, but a few will.


After you have called your $200 + donors, call the rest of your list, and also ask them if they have friends who’d be interested in your campaign and issues.  It is important that you, the candidate, make these calls.  Set aside a couple of hours every day where all you do is make calls.  Remember, these are people who have given to you before or were referred to you by people who have donated to you before.




By now, you should have an idea of how many will be attending your event.   Make follow up calls and touch base with your speaker.


You also need to start fine-tuning the logistics for your event, i.e. make sure you have volunteer sign up forms, lapel stickers, bumper stickers, yard signs, tee shirts and your palm cards ready for the event.  (I will cover more on campaign collateral in a future column)  At the very least, you want everyone leaving with a bumper sticker placed on their car that day. Make sure you have responsible people at registration who make sure everyone gets a receipt, collect name and address, email phone and cell phone numbers. You want to plan for someone to put a lapel sticker on all of your guests.  Decide who will be introducing you, your speaker and any other dignitaries in attendance. Decide on a volunteer who will take pictures of your event as well as posting pictures on Instagram, Facebook and Tweeting at your event.  MAKE SURE YOU HAVE A RESPONSIBLE PERSON doing this.




Very important! As a candidate, DON’T MICROMANAGE YOUR EVENT. Keep your cool, and DEFINITELY keep a smile on your face.  Greet your guests.  Introduce your guests to any and all dignitaries at your event and let your donors have some face time with your guests.  Don’t hoard the guests for your inner circle. When Congressman King spoke, he made it a point to shake hands with pretty much everyone in the room.  This made the guests feel that they got some one-on-one time (Remember, Congressman King is great at retail politics and pressing the flesh – Not all guests are like this)




Here’s the answer: Your event was successful if you got within fifteen percent of your goal.  Other factors: Did you get new names for your campaign team? Did you get others willing to host another house party for you?


IMPORTANT: Within 72 hours, send out thank you notes to all who attended the event.  Also, issue a press release about your event after the fact.  Don’t give specifics on how much you raised – Just state that you hit your goal.




Your first event will be one of the hardest and bumpiest of your entire campaign.  Don’t become disheartened if your first fundraiser only has 20 people.  Manage your expectations and don’t confuse your campaign with running for president.  Many candidates, including yours truly, made that mistake in 1994.

April 19, 2017

Dr. Politics: Developing Your First Donor File

By Dwight Patel

So, you have now filed as a candidate, gotten a treasurer and put together a Facebook Live video when you went to Annapolis to file your papers to run for office.  Now you need to start raising money!  For a first-time candidate, it’s a struggle to find donor lists, since other campaigns have learned that such contacts are like gold and don’t share that information.  Your first option is to review your Christmas card Lists.  This is the best place to start because you are sending cards to friends and family, who are more likely to support you by sending a few bucks.


When I ran for the first time in 1994, I was 22 years old. My Christmas card list consisted of about 15 names of friends who were in college and few relatives. Then I went to my folks’ Christmas card list. I was able to use that combined group twice, which totaled about 100 names.  My first announcement said that I was thinking of running for the MD House of Delegates and would need about $30,000.00 (in 1994 dollars) to mount a credible campaign.  My second correspondence was thank you notes with a suggestion that they give me one or two names in their network to donate to my campaign.   I suggested between $50 – $250.00 and left a blank for another amount to donate.


After I sent out the initial mailing (BTW I did it all on my dining room table with my campaign manager and my best friend), I got the first wave of responses a week later when my friend and campaign chairman’s mom gave $500.00. I immediately put a gold star next to her name, along with others who gave generously.  I developed a system of Gold, Silver, Red and Blue stars.  Gold was $500 and above –Silver was $100 to $499, Red was $50 to $99 and blue was anything from $1 to $49.



In response to the first wave of donations, always do a handwritten thank you note at the very least, and when you receive donations of $100.00 or more, pick up the phone and personally thank them.  Why call and write a thank you note, you may be asking yourself?  HERE’S THE ANSWER: If anyone thinks enough of you to donate $100 to your campaign, they believe in you, AND it also gives you the opportunity to ask them to host an event for you, which would be a great opportunity to meet and greet to collect business cards from their friends, which thereby lets you build your own donor base.


All of my donors became shareholders in Dwight, Inc.  One of my political mentors told me to give them each a title and put them to work.  So, I followed his advice.

Donor Class Range Title
Gold $500 + Colonials
Silver $100 to $499 Terps
Red $50 to $99 Blazers
Blue $1 to $49 Eagles


As you might have guessed I picked my school mascots for my titles.


I asked my Gold and Silver Donors to join a finance council.  My friend Andy’s mom was the chairman of my finance council.   She had a gift for getting her friends and people in her network to part with money for her son’s friend’s campaign for House of Delegates.   My finance council consisted of Andy’s mom, my brother, my doctor and my dad’s lawyer.


My first mailer cost me $36.80 for First Class stamps. The paper and envelopes cost me about 35 bucks.  I hand wrote each request to give it the personal touch.  So, I did my first mailing for a grand total of $71.80.  I made about $7,500.00 after using that first list. (P.S.: It isn’t normal to get this kind of return.  I think I got much of this support because one I am the youngest in the entire family, and I was 22 years old, studying Architecture at the University of Maryland GO TERPS!!!)


I grew my list of 115 to 639 names, with referrals from the initial 115 I started with. The list included phone numbers and addresses. In 1994 not many people had email – In fact, the only ones with emails were people my age.  So, I had a few emails of my friends. What was amazing was that the initial mailer brought in a total of 639 names.


After going through my high school yearbook, and adding people I went to school with at George Washington, I got another 127 names to go after.  Other resources that I’d use if I were running today would be Chamber of Commerce directories to do a cross reference with Data Center to identify the Republicans and create prospecting lists; I’d also hit up the George Washington and University of Maryland Schools of Architecture alums as well as Montgomery Blair High School Alumni, since we had the very first Republican club in any Montgomery County Public School with 80 + members.   I’d also still start with the Christmas card list.


Final Thoughts


Fundraising is hard, so don’t get discouraged if you don’t get more than 10% return on your first mailing.  In the world of campaign fundraising direct mail, you are doing a great Job if you get 10% from a prospecting list.  Don’t rely on just direct mail– Use the internet, buy targeted Facebook ads, and don’t under-estimate the power of Twitter.  Remember this is a marathon not a sprint, so be like the tortoise and not the hare.  You want the small streams of cash coming in, which will become the mighty river, and YOUR CAMPAIGN IS THAT RIVER.


One More Thing…


I highly recommend taking the campaign fundraising class taught at the Leadership Institute (   If you click this link , you can register for the LI Fundraising School in September.   If you are interested in taking this class, please reach out to me at, I’d be happy to call Morton Blackwell and see if can get you a discount on School you are interested in attending.

March 5, 2017

Dr. Politics:


Dr. Politics:
So, You Want to Run for Office in 2018
by Dwight Patel

Congratulations on your decision to run for elected office in Maryland in 2018. I have run twice myself, and wouldn’t trade the experience for anything in the world.  The offices we need to field candidates for in Maryland in 2018 include the entire State Senate and House of Delegates as well as 8 seats in the
U. S. House of Representatives plus County Council/Commissioners, County Executive, Sheriff, and Registrar of Wills.  On the state level, we will be working hard to re-elect Governor Hogan and Lt. Governor Boyd Rutherford, an Attorney General and a State Comptroller, along with Circuit Court Judges and members of your local Republican Central Committees.

Federal Offices
Office Sought Age U.S. Citizen State Citizen/ Resident District Resident Term of Office Election Year
President 35 Natural born Citizen 14 years a resident within the United States 4 years from January 20th 2020
Vice President 35 Natural born Citizen 14 years a resident within the United States 4 years from January 20th 2020
U.S. Senate 30 9 years & US CITIZEN Inhabitant of the State at the time of the election 6 years from January 3rd 2018
U.S. Congress 25 7 years & US CITIZEN Inhabitant of the State at the time of the election 2 years from January 3rd 2018


State Offices
Office Sought Age State Citizen/ Resident District Resident Term of Office Election Year
Governor 30 5 years & US CITIZEN 4 years from 3rd Wed. in January 2018
Lt. Governor 30 5 years & US CITIZEN 4 years from 3rd Wed. in January 2018
Comptroller US CITIZEN 4 years from 3rd Wed. in January 2018
Attorney General 10 years & US CITIZEN 4 years and Practice law in MD for 10 years 2018
State Senate 25 1 year & US CITIZEN 6 months 4 years from 2nd Wed. in January 2018
House of Delegates 21 1 year & US CITIZEN 6 months 4 years from 2nd Wed. in January 2018
Circuit Court Judge 30 5 years & US CITIZEN 6 months 15 years or until the age of 70 and Member – Maryland Bar 2018



County Offices
Office Sought Age State Citizen/ Resident District Resident Term of Office Election Year
County Executive US CITIZEN 4 years 2018
County Council US CITIZEN 4 years 2018
Co. Commissioners US CITIZEN 4 years 2018
County Treasurer US CITIZEN 4 years 2018
State’s Attorney US CITIZEN Subdivision 2 years – Member – Maryland Bar 4 years 2018
Clerk of the Courts US CITIZEN 4 years 2018
Register of Wills US CITIZEN 4 years 2018
Orphans Court Judge US CITIZEN Subdivision 1 year 4 years 2018
Sheriff 25 5 years Reside w/in subdivision 4 years 2018
Board of Education US CITIZEN Vary 2018


Baltimore City Offices
Office Sought Age City Citizen/ Resident District Resident Term of Office Election Year
Mayor 25 a resident and qualified voter of Baltimore City for at least 1 year preceding the election 4 years
City Comptroller 25 a resident and qualified voter of Baltimore City for at least 1 year preceding the election 4 years
President City Council 25 a resident and qualified voter of Baltimore City for at least 1 year preceding the election 4 years
Member At Large City Council 21 resident and qualified voter of Baltimore City for 1 year preceding the election 4 years
District Member City Council 21 resident and qualified voter of the district for which you seek office at least 1 year preceding the election 4 years







Party Offices
Office Sought Age State Citizen/ Resident District Resident Term of Office Election Year
Central Committee 4 years 2018


These are Maryland’s 8 Congressional Districts

Congressional District 1 – Represented by Congressman Dr. Andy Harris of MD-1 – Republican holds seat – No need for candidates to run in CD1.  Vote Andy Harris for Congress in CD-1 and keep 1 Red.
Congressional District 2 – Currently represented by Democrat Dutch Ruppersburger, who has represented MD-2 since 2002. He has voted for every single tax increase that has come down the pike.  We need to find a good candidate to oppose him.  This seat was previously held by former Gov. Bob Ehrlich and the late Rep. Helen Bentley.  Let’s make CD-2 Red once more in 2018.
Congressional District 3 – Represented by John Sarbanes, the Uber liberal son of Sen. Paul Sarbanes of Sarbanes – Oxley fame.  John Sarbanes, like every other Democrat, supported Barack Obama’s radical agenda. Let’s make CD-3 Red in 2018.
Congressional District 4 – Represented by failed Lt. Governor and gubernatorial candidate Anthony Brown, who was elected in 2016, and joined the chorus of Trump haters in Washington.  Let’s make CD-4 Red in 2018.
Congressional District 5 – Represented by Rep. Steny “Tax, Tax, Tax, Spend, Spend, Spend Democrat” Hoyer.  In 1992, Rep. Hoyer nearly had a heart attack when Gov. Hogan was the projected winner, but was saved by mystery boxes of ballots that managed to show up and put Steny Hoyer over the top.   Let’s make CD-5 Red once more in 2018.
Congressional District 6 – Represented by John Delaney who purchased this seat after corrupt Democrats in Annapolis Marty-mandered the congressional district which represented western Maryland.   John Delaney is a carpetbagger and isn’t well liked by other Democrats.   Let’s make CD-6 Red once more in 2018.
Congressional District 7 – Represented by Elijah Cummings, who has held this seat since 1996.  Many people suggest the Rep. Cummings should be in jail for the numerous ethics issues that have dogged him over the past several years.   Let’s make CD-7 Red in 2018.
Congressional District 8 – Represented by newly minted radical leftist Democrat Jamie Raskin who hails from Takoma Park, the town that declared itself a Nuclear Free Zone.  TP is home to some of the most radical leftists in America.  Let’s make CD-8 Red once more in 2018.


In addition to this line-up, we will also have a U.S. Senate race in 2018 when radical leftist Democrat Ben Cardin is up for re-election.  We need to find a great candidate for this slot, especially since there is speculation that Cardin will be retiring from the Senate. With the popularity of Governor Hogan, someone like Former MD First Lady Kendell Ehrlich could pull off an upset and beat Democrat Ben Cardin or someone else.  The open Senate seat would create an interesting dynamic, since some of the above congressional seats may become vacant.

Now that you’ve got the offices and districts that need candidates in mind, it’s time for the next step.

Let’s Start with the Basics

Before you announce, it’s important to talk to your spouse, your family and close friends.  Let them know you are thinking about running.  RED FLAG: If your spouse isn’t on board with your plans, then you don’t want to run.  It will lead down a rough and bumpy road.

After you’ve gotten the blessing to run for office from your spouse and family, your first task is to find a campaign treasurer.  You can’t run without one, and you’ll want to find someone who is detail oriented, because you don’t want to be late with filings.   Your treasurer’s name will be on every piece of political material you put out, from your website to tee shirts.  A good rule to follow is that when in doubt,  put the authority line on it.   I will address the authority line in a later column.

After you become a candidate and get a treasurer, you need to go to Annapolis to file. This is a cool location, and depending on which office you are running for, you should make a day of it and take plenty of pictures and videos on the day you file.  Consider doing a Facebook Live right after you file – just something brief.  Congratulations!  You are now a candidate.  My next column will cover do’s and don’ts  for setting up your first campaign event and building a donor list.

Final thoughts

Before you file and make the decision to run for office, depending on the office.  If you are running for State Senate or State Delegate contact the Republican Caucus and spend a day with some of our great elected Republicans in Annapolis.

If you are running for Congress, contact Rep. Dr. Andy Harris, talk to his people and find out the pros and cons to see if this is something you actually want to do.  Speak with the NRCC (National Republican Congressional Committee) as well as the MDGOP.  When I first ran for House of Delegates, I spoke with Sen. Marty Madden and Larry Haines who were my political mentors during the 1994 race.  I also spoke with Sen. Alfonse D’Amato and old family friend Rep. Peter King. If you are interested in running for county office, Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh is a great resource, as are many of our Republican County Executives and County Council members around the state.

One more thing: If you’d like to run for office or need advice, feel free to email me at  I have over 20 years of experience in managing and
consulting to various campaigns.


December 29, 2016

2016 Predictions – RECAP

  1. Get ready for blizzards in the Midwest this January and February – HIT
  2. Redskins will choke in wild card game. – HIT
  3. Winners of Iowa caucus 1. Cruz, 2. Rubio 3. Trump – HIT
  4. New Hampshire Primary winners 1. Christie 2. Rubio 3. Cruz – MISSED THIS ONE
  5. Rand Paul Drops out before super Tuesday – HIT
  6. Thunderstorms in Mid-Atlantic and people will lose power – HIT
  7. A Democrat(s) will have to resign from office – I think this happened
  8. Donna Edwards will win the Democrat Primary for US Senate – MISSED THIS ONE
  9. Hillary Clinton will have yet more problems with campaign and yet do another re-boot. – HIT – I lost Count of all the reboots
  10. Republicans pick up more seats in house and senate – HIT
  11. Republicans win the White House – HIT
  12. Comptroller Peter Franchot switches parties – WRONG
December 29, 2016

2017 Predictions

  1. Snow storms in January and February in the north east and Midwest. Keep those snow blowers and shovels handy
  2. Thunderstorms this spring, will lead to power losses
  3. No major hurricanes
  4. Obama will not leave Washington
  5. Few more stars will pass away in Hollywood
  6. Real Unemployment will drop like a rock
  7. Major Traffic Delays over Memorial Day weekend
  8. Continued staged sightings of Hillary Clinton
  9. Big Foot will be discovered in pacific northwest (when he goes to a 7-11 for a Slurpee)
  10. UFO Sightings in New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, Arizona and other western States
  11. Democrats still will be harboring resentment of 2016 Election blowout
  12. iPhone 8 will be awesome
  13. black will be the number one color of new cars
  14. Stock Market will break 21,000
  15. Russian economy falters
  16. Civil War in China
  17. Home prices will go up
  18. Housing market will heat up
  19. Earth quake in California
  20. Cat 1 or 2 Hurricane hit south Florida no major damage
  21. Global warming exposed as a hoax
  22. Prepare for some lousy movies in 2017 and three or four great ones
  23. New desert craze will sweep the nation
  24. First Contact will be made
  25. President Trump Approval ratings got to 60%
  26. Bill Clinton Reveals he voted for Donald Trump
  27. Wild fires this summer
  28. Hollywood liberals fail to keep promise of moving to Canada
  29. Announcement of reboot of Space 1999 with big screen movie of Space 2099
  30. 2 vacancies on Supreme Court