Author and Political Consultant, Jerry Austin, sat down with AAPC this month to discuss his new book, True Tales from the Campaign Trail. His piece of advice? “Remember your stories and someday produce your own tales.”
AAPC: Tell us a bit about yourself and your background in the industry.
Jerry: I am one of the nation’s most experienced and successful political strategists and have consulted on races throughout the United States at every level from precinct committee person to President of the United States. Raised in the Bronx, I learned my politics in Cleveland in the late 1960s. After helping elect Richard Celeste Governor of Ohio twice, I became the campaign manager for Reverend Jesse Jackson’s 1988 presidential campaign. I was the senior political director for Paul Tsongas’s 1992 campaign for president and helped elect Paul Wellstone to the United States Senate. In 1992, I was the consultant and media advisor for Carol Moseley Braun’s historic campaign for the U.S. Senate. My work also includes witnessing the Marcos/Aquino election in the Philippines; the Pinochet plebiscite in Chile; and many trips to Northern Ireland to consult for the SDLP party. I earned a BA in American History from the City College of New York; a Masters in Public Administration from New York University; and a Masters in Education from the University of Akron. He is currently an Adjunct Professor and Director of the International Campaign Fellows program at The Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at The University of Akron.
AAPC: What inspired you to write, “True Tales From the Campaign Trail”?
Jerry: Years ago, I contacted long time consultants like myself to send me their stories to publish. One person responded. I forgot about the project for almost twenty years. I decided to interview the consultants–providing them with a no writing audio story telling experience.
The book is a result of interviews conducted over two years with Ds and Rs- many of whom I had never met.
AAPC: Give us a taste of what readers can expect.
Jerry: These stories take you behind the scenes in campaigns from the most local to the White House. These are not kiss n tell stories. They are the joy of politics from a time when Ds and Rs were adversaries, but never enemies. It was a different time.
AAPC: Tell us why AAPC members, specifically, should read, “True Tales From the Campaign Trail.”
Jerry: AAPC members should purchase this book for two main reasons. First, all proceeds go to the Elaine Fortney Fellowship at The University of Akron Bliss Institute of Applied Politics. Second, for older AAPC members, these are stories from consultants they should know. If you like political soirees and want students to participate in campaigns—this is a twofer.
AAPC: What was the most difficult part about articulating these stories?
Jerry: The most difficult part was locating the consultants. Thankfully, a combination of Google and the AAPC and IAPC member directories proved invaluable for those consultants I did not know.
AAPC: Any advice for new political consultants just getting their feet wet in the industry?
Jerry: Advice. It’s all about the stories. You tell your story to a potential trial client to obtain their business. Then you tell the client’s story to the electorate to get them elected.
AAPC: The stories are impressively compact and easily digestible. Was this format purposeful?
Jerry: The stories are compact and easily digestible because in campaigns we operate in 30 and sixty second intervals as well as 144 characters. This is not a novel. These are stories and vignettes. Remember most successful political media consultants have ADD.
AAPC: Where can folks get a copy?
Jerry: “True Tales From The Campaign Trail” may be purchased at Amazon.com, University of Akron Press (www.uakron.edu/uapress) or through your local bookstore.
About the book: True Tales from the Campaign Trail finds Democratic and Republican political consultants putting aside their differences to offer entertaining and honest insights into the art of the political campaign. First-hand accounts from across the spectrum detail the trials and tribulations of primaries for Ted Kennedy, Oliver North, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton; fraught Senate races fought with direct mail; and down-and-dirty tricks pulled in local elections. The variety of funny foibles and lessons learned makes for an engaging celebration of the democratic process and the campaign trail.