Having built a career in business as a financial planner, Andy Millard has a process he follows for any new endeavor, and the first step is always selecting the right digital platform to make it work. His first time running for office was no exception. In 2016 he was the lone Democrat running against established Republican Patrick McHenry for North Carolina’s 10th Congressional district—a sprawling area composed of seven rural counties that were solidly Republican. Millard chose NationBuilder early on because it was “cheaper, more effective, and more complete” than the alternatives; moreover, he thought its “technology just seemed to be several generations ahead” of the party’s first choice.
A recurring argument in his conversations about which platform to choose revolved around partisanship. Can a Democrat justify using software that’s also embraced by Republicans, or should party loyalty extend to even the technologies used to run for office? Aside from the fact that resistance to “hyper-partisanship” in Congress was a cornerstone of his campaign, Millard’s business experience taught him that it would place him at a competitive disadvantage to avoid effective technology on those grounds. “When I was a financial planner, every software I worked with was used by my competitors. That wasn’t a disqualifier—It wouldn’t have made sense then and it doesn’t make sense now.”
Millard campaigned tirelessly leading up to the November 2016 election, and though it was an uphill battle, having a fully integrated website, email, and CRM platform (that also identified prospective supporters via social media matching) freed up more time to build valuable relationships with voters on a walking, running, and bicycling tour of his district. Though McHenry won the election, Millard remains proud of his campaign and committed to creating change. “I spent a year and a half of my life, sold my business, gave up my livelihood, spent upwards of 60 hours a week and more for a year and a half for this endeavor knowing that the odds were stacked strongly against me,” Millard says. “But we kept the faith, we represented people in ways they needed to be represented, and gave them a voice they wouldn’t have had otherwise.”
His next project will focus on driving support for people taking on the daunting task of running for office—specifically newcomer Democrats, who typically don’t receive party support unless they’re in a targeted race with strong odds of winning. Millard says, “The challenge is that with the party, everything is kind of top-down. They’ve got their headquarters and staff in DC, and now they’re talking about recruiting candidates. The problem is that you may not know who the best candidates are. No one would have recruited me, but I turned out to be a pretty decent candidate.” One answer to this problem is to identify and assist candidates earlier on, and that’s exactly what Millard hopes to do. In his words, “I’m developing a conference for candidates who are running and need the support that I needed. I want to provide them with the support that I never got, and I believe we can do that.”
Registration for The Democratic Candidates Conference opens on July 7, 2017. Learn more and sign up here.