Venice-based Democrat Lisa Stortstrom says her interest in electoral politics began to evolve after she began attending environmental caucuses meetings hosted by the Sarasota County Democratic Executive Committee. So, when she began seriously considering a run for office earlier this year, she began taking free classes with the National Democratic Training Committee.

“They have training courses all the way from if you’re thinking of running for a seat and what to think about, and then next steps,” she says.  “They give you the skills one at a time with the tools to actually implement this type of career.”

Stortstrom is now challenging GOP incumbent James Buchanan for the Florida House District 74 seat in Sarasota County in November. 

The National Democratic Training Committee (NDTC) is one of a number of “boot camps” around the country that provide tools for first-time candidates running for political office. The NDTC works exclusively with any Democrat who wants to run for office, work on a campaign, or become a local leader, says CEO and founder Kelly Dietrich.

Dietrich began working on Democratic campaigns for U.S. House and Senate after graduating from college. During that time he says he saw the need for such services, and began offering free courses in 2016.

Any Democrat who signs up with his program gets access to more than 70 online trainings, starting with videos such as “So You Think You Ought to Run” to what to do on Election Night. 

“We place a big importance on understanding the goals your campaign needs to meet to win, and then building plans for those,” he says. “All of our courses are designed so that it’s not just the big picture. You have immediate takeaways: you have downloads, templates, examples to put to work on your campaign immediately.”

The NDTC says that more than 1,200 Democratic candidates, ranging from Congress to city council to hospital boards, have taken at least one of their courses this election cycle. Among those who have taken such courses in Florida include Democratic House aspirants like Stephanie Dukes, C.L. Townsend and Lloyd Dabbs.

While the NDTC works exclusively with Democrats, there is a surfeit of other organizations that work with more specific type candidates.

That includes New Politics, a bipartisan organization which works with military veterans and national service alumni from organizations like AmeriCorps and the Peace Corps.

“We’re not about any party platform or ideology,” says Gabe Ramos, a spokesman for New Politics. “It’s really about the individual that we’re working with. That they have demonstrated this commitment to service, they have this set of core values, they’re ready to get into office and lead with courage, integrity and empathy and they’re going to put partisan politics aside.”

Among the candidates they’re working with this election cycle in Florida is Matt Tito, a Marine Corps veteran and businessman now running as a Republican this November in the Pinellas County House District 68 race against Democratic incumbent Ben Diamond.

“I knew I wanted to get into politics from the time that I was in the Marine Corps,” Tito says. “But where do you go? Where do you start? What do you do?”

He says he learned about New Politics “kind of randomly” and took a five-week virtual course called “Answering the Call.”

“It was all about learning about the journey into politics,” he says. “Crafting your mission statement and really doing a deep dive into what are your core principals.” (Tito is featured in a New Politics podcast that you can listen to here). 

Another candidate that New Politics is working with is Fiona McFarland, a Navy Reserve officer running this November as a Republican in the State House District 72 race.

To get more information on the National Democratic Training Committee you can go to their website.

For more information on New Politics, check out their website.