WEEKLY NEWSLETTER: Q&A with Mark Warner | Managing Optics & a Successful Campaign Launch

March 31, 2023

Q&A with Senior Account Executive Mark Warner

Mark has been involved in Indiana politics for over 14 years. He has worked for and advised candidates from the local level to statewide races, including working with Governor Pence on the advance team and serving at the Indiana Republican Party during the 2015 – 2016 cycle. Iowa is where he grew up; he is an avid Cornhusker fan but has called Indiana home for the last 20-plus years.

What did you want to be when you were growing up?
I grew up in Western Iowa, where my family farmed and owned a trucking company. I planned to stay there, farm, and drive a truck for the rest of my life. But life changed for me; my father passed away when I was twenty years old, and I then decided to leave it all behind and start a new life.

How did you end up involved in politics?
Growing up in a Reagan-conservative home, my Grandpa and Dad taught me the importance of being engaged in politics, and I remember meeting Senator Chuck Grassley as a kid. To this day, Senator Grassley is still a hero of mine. After moving to Indiana, I volunteered on my first campaign in 2004 for Mitch Daniels when he ran for Governor delivering yard signs. It was then that the political bug bit me, and I have been engaged in the process ever since and made it a full-time career.

Tell me your best political story or favorite political memory.
I have so many stories, and probably best not to tell most of them. But my best memory was in 2016 when Donald Trump selected then-Governor Mike Pence as his pick for VP. Indiana had to run Lt. Gov Eric Holcomb in 100 days to be the next Governor. That year we had Trump, Cruz, and Kasich running around in late March and most of April trying to secure the number of delegates for the convention. That was a historic year for Indiana. Our primary happens in May, and by that time, the POTUS candidate has secured enough delegate votes for the national convention, and they don’t have to campaign here.

How do you spend your free time?
It depends on the season; I love traveling, finding quaint little towns, discovering diners, and trying their food. I also love trekking along the bourbon trail in Kentucky, where you can find some great deals in the small-town liquor stores and see some historical sites. But when it’s cold out, I watch a lot of YouTube from people who travel, farm, and watch old Nebraska football games. I also enjoy hunting and am planning a trip to South Dakota next November to go pheasant hunting with friends.

What is the best concert you’ve attended?
Kiss – Omaha, Nebraska 1996

Mark Warner on Managing Optics and a Successful Campaign Launch

They say that you only get one chance to make a first impression. In the world of political campaigns, “they” are right. You launch your campaign for the first time once – you better get it right. Unfortunately, politics is at least 50% show. From day one, you are telling a story, framing the coming months of your campaign, and either setting yourself up for failure or success. When you announce your campaign, the voters, donors, and other leaders must see you are a serious candidate. Of course, optics don’t necessarily guarantee a win. Still, your launch will be what everyone will talk about and how they remember your campaign, especially in the early months when the next vital steps mean putting your head down and raising money. The launch must take you into the next phase and carry you over until the campaign swings into the battle’s retail and paid message portion.

Here are some suggestions for preparing for your campaign launch. (Remember, each campaign, office, and district are unique, so not all bullets below will apply to your race.)

  • Have a group of prominent donors ready to write checks on day one. Doing so will help you quickly secure meetings with other donors, conservative groups, and committees. If you can raise significant money in your first quarter, this shows people you are serious and ready for the challenge of running for office.
  • Prepare an intro video and social media rollout with a clear message of who you are and your vision for the office you’re running for. This could be as simple as an iPhone video to a video with higher production value.
  • Plan a campaign event for supporters, party leaders, and donors. It’s all about momentum.
  • Have rally and yard signs designed and printed and secure a great venue.
  • Be sure you have the right equipment: A/V, a podium with your sign, or a backdrop – think optics for photos/video and name ID!
  • Send a press release with your launch video to all media, including local, state, and national (dependent on the office you are running for).
  • Hire an excellent press staff to run point on messaging; the candidate should never handle the press.
  • Send emails to local, state, and national party leaders, and share your vision and who your team will be.
  • Hire a consulting team that people know and respect and who can assist you in making other connections you need at the local, state, and national levels.
  • Hire key campaign staff: campaign manager, personal assistant, and grassroots director. Ensure these staff members know your race and have long-time relationships in the district or state that you are running in.
  • Have some key endorsements ready to roll out, including community leaders, activists, and elected officials.

Be ready on day one, always run like you are 20 points behind, and never take your foot off the peddle until the polls close. Listen to your team and have healthy debates over decisions, but always come together at the end. The next step is achieving VICTORY!

ICYMI: We won SIX Reed Awards!

We are so proud to announce we are adding SIX Reed Awards to our shelves after the announcement earlier this week at the Campaigns & Elections Reed Awards. We cannot emphasize enough how much it means to all of us at Ascent to be recognized for our work in Direct Mail, Brand & Merch, Digital, and Mobile.

The six Reed Awards we won include:

  1. Bootstrapped Campaigns > Best Direct Mail Piece for a Bootstrapped Campaign
  2. Digital – Advertising & Targeting > Best Campaign Meme
  3. Direct Mail > Best Mail Piece for Special Election Campaign
  4. Direct Mail > Best Use of Technology to Support a Direct Mail Program
  5. Mobile > Best Use of Mobile to Support a Field Program
  6. Brand & Merch > Most Original/Innovative Collateral Item

Keep your eyes on our social media over the next few weeks, as we’ll be sharing our award-winning products. We’re more than just consultants. If you are in need of award-winning services to put victory within reach and want the ability to work with an experienced group of political professionals, reply to this email to talk with our talented team today!

We craft strategies to help you win.

At Ascent Strategic, we devise winning strategies for candidates and political organizations. We'd love to see what we can help you achieve.

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