A Campaign That Made The Difference

We hired Mr. Avramov to work as an Election Campaign Manager in Stara Zagora Mayoral elections through a well established PR agency we used to work with. Our party (GERB, member of EPP) had just come out of a 4 year term in local government, which defined by the public as unsuccessful mostly due to the governing style of the outgoing Mayor, a respectful academic, who did not managed to run the municipality in accordance with the general expectations.

I was nominated for a candidate for Mayor by my party and accepted the challenge. Despite the fact that I was about to turn 30, in the middle of the election campaign I was confident in my own ability to build a good team and to come up with an agenda which would attract support. I have had a short political experience – two years as a member of the local council and another 2 years as member of parliament when I was nominated to run for Mayor of Stara Zagora.

My age 29 along with the unsuccessful 4-year term of the previous Mayor (2007 – 2011) were expected to be the main challenges in the upcoming election campaign. There was also another thing to consider. I was expected to run for Mayor in a Socialist party’s main stronghold. Our opponents have been a ruling party in the municipality with their own Mayor and majority in the local council for 12 years, from 1995 to 2007.

So I needed someone who had the experience in campaign management, but and at the same time one who’d be willing to go into details and pay enough attention to the local political process and its specifics. Mr. Avramov proved to be exactly the one we needed.

He integrated very well in the local party organization and helped me build a strong election campaign team. He chose a winning strategy for us and was patient enough to work with the local party organization members and with those who were on the ballot for members of the city council. He had explained to them the challenges and managed to persuade them to be very supportive and to follow the campaign agenda very strictly. This made it much easier for me to participate to conduct my own campaign as candidate for Mayor and at the same time, as a regional party leader, responsible for few municipalities, to run the party’s organization.

As soon as I was nominated for Mayor, the opposition begun launching attacks agains me. Their message was “Hi does not have experience to run the local government”, which considering my age at the time was legitimate one which was not easy to be addressed. My opponent was a candidate with significant experience as a member of the local council and current member of parliament.

the-best-mayor-stara-zagora-2011We could have responded by start explaining that my age would not be a problem and that I’m experienced enough to run the municipality. However, this would give an advantage to my opponent and would make it easy for him to establish himself as a front runner. So we needed to respond in a way that would send a clear message that the attacks on me work insignificant. We needed any unconventional approach to the matter. Mr. Avramov asked me to bring an old baby picture of myself and I found one for him. Then he used it to create a some kind of leaflet, a postcard, saying “This is the best candidate for Mayor of Stara Zagora”. It turned to be very successful one. Voters, especially undecided ones like it a lot and on a later stage of the campaign many used to come to me asking me to sign the leaflet for them. We have printed and distributed this leaflet at a pre-campaign stage. We weren’t allowed by the election laws to release any official election campaign leaflet or poster, before the official opening of the election campaign. So the challenge was not just to respond to the attacks launched by my opponent, but only to do it in a legitimate way.

This is one of the very few examples of an innovative, targeted and very successful election campaign. With the help of Mr. Avramov and the election team I managed to draw a comprehensive program, a detailed plan which outlined a number of priorities for the local government and it received significant support by the local business organization and most of the opinion makers.

At the pre-campaign stage we have conducted hired a reputable polling agency conduct two (2) surveys. We weren’t interested to see the numbers. We used the surveys to collect a valuable data that we used to create strong foundations of the election campaign. This helped me to lead effectively over the course of the election campaign.

For a period of 90 days Mr. Avramov helped me to establish myself as front-runner and put the opposite candidate in position to trail behind. We led on a number of issues such as Lower taxes; Infrastructure projects; Improving Public services; Culture; Conservation & historical heritage; Green environment.

Thank’s to the way Mr. Avramov designed and conducted the campaign we managed to keep the expenses at reasonably low level and kept the process of public communications very simple and effective.

On the first round I have received 44.28% of the vote, while my opponent got a result of 19.11%. The party proportional list with candidates for the local council virtually doubled the results we expected and we were able to form a majority very easy, without a need to bargain, go backwards or to revise our priorities.

On the second ballot I won by 67.12% of the votes, against 32.88% for my opponent. Thanks to the way Mr. Avramov structured and conducted the whole election campaign we achieved a decisive win. In two years we invited him to run the campaign for general elections in our district.