UAFS to host ‘How to’ forum for political candidates

story by Ryan Saylor
rsaylor@thecitywire.com

For anyone with a dream of being the next city councilman, senator or even dog catcher, the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith is planning a workshop to teach novice candidates the ins and outs of running for public office.

"So You Want to Get Elected" will take place Jan. 24 - 25 at the Blue Lion at UAFS Downtown.

According to Dr. Robert Willoughby, chair of the Department of Political Science at UAFS, the new workshop will feature more than just academic information on how to run for office.

"The main reason is to provide a novice who is wanting to get into politics the opportunity to learn from not only academics who are in the political science department, but to learn from a variety of speakers who hold a wide variety of offices across the state."

Among the speakers are former Arkansas House Speaker Shane Broadway, Sen. Joyce Elliott of Little Rock, UAFS Political Science Professor Williams Yamkam and Clint Reed, a partner at Impact Management Group in Little Rock.

"(There will be) a wide range of speakers to help someone who is interested in getting into politics but doesn't want to hire a high dollar consultant a two-day workshop to provide an outreach for their campaign."

While the group of speakers and panel participants, which will also include Michael Tilley of The City Wire, may come from political backgrounds, the workshops spread over the two-day period will not espouse any political leanings.

"It's completely non-partisan," Willoughby said, adding that the workshop will be "more of a how-to."

The workshop is among a select few offered through the United States, according to Willoughby, who said Yamkam had participated in another workshop at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

"Dr. Yamkam actually did a survey or a poll of universities that offer these types of workshops and he thought there were only two or three right now," he said. "(He knows about GWU's workshop) in the nation's capitol because he's been going to them for a number of years. It was part of the stimulus for getting this done. But no, it's not widely done. A lot of candidates just have to go out on their own or hire a political consultant to get them going or figure out how to do it by trial and error. But this is a much better approach for local or state candidates who want to find out what it takes to put something together."

Fort Smith City Director Keith Lau, who ran for public office for the first time in 2012, said having a workshop like this would have been of great benefit to him.

"For me, the first and foremost is the expense you could save by knowing the processes," he said.

Among the processes and topics to be discussed include campaign and issues management, get-out-the-vote methods, media relations, financing a campaign and advertising strategies.

Lau said in the area of advertising and get-out-the-vote methods, he had to rely on the advice of friends who had previous experience instead of getting professional advise through a program like the upcoming UAFS workshop.

The fee for the workshop is $125, which Lau said would be well worth any candidate or potential candidate's time.

"Write it off as a campaign expense. That's what I would do," he said. "And (finding out) how to account for and how to find the information about your campaign financing would be worth that $125."

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The workshop's inaugural event has been timed to coincide with UAFS' new political science major, Willoughby said. The major was first made available during the Fall semester.

"This workshop and any future workshops are designed to give awareness that this campus now has a political science major."

Registration for the workshop runs through Jan. 10. Individuals may sign up for the workshop by contacting the Center for Lifelong Learning at 479-788-7220.

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