The Sorensen Institute’s Candidate Training Program (CTP) is an intensive, in-depth program focused on the fundamentals of a winning campaign for office. It is designed primarily for people who are interested in running for public office or taking on senior roles in campaigns. Apply to the next CTP program.

Goals of CTP

CTP Group Photo

CTP is one of the few bipartisan campaign training programs in the country, providing participants a key advantage in running a successful campaign. Participants will learn how to:

  1. Build a strong campaign from the ground up in the context of ethics and principled public service
  2. Address opponent perspectives
  3. Develop a winning strategy based on help from experts on both sides of the political aisle, including the Sorensen director who successfully chaired five statewide campaigns, oversaw numerous successful local campaigns, and built a track record of success working across the partisan aisle in high-level state government positions.


CTP Participant Success Stories

Our 2019 Candidate Training Program included two graduates — one Republican and one Democrat — elected to the Senate of Virginia in their initial runs for state office. A news story featured the two new Senators and how the friendship they developed in the Sorensen program helped them to adjust quickly to the Senate of Virginia.

A program-record seven graduates from our 2009 CTP class won office in the same year — 3 Republicans, 3 Democrats and 1 Independent. This included 2 Republicans and 2 Democrats class who were elected for the first time to the Virginia General Assembly and were brand new to state-level campaign politics until they participated in Sorensen. Graduates of the Candidate Training Program have gone on to run successful campaigns for office at all levels of government.


Program Details

CTP Group Photo



Participants explore the nuts and bolts of building a strong campaign from the ground up—all within the context of ethics and principled public service. The curriculum does not prescribe a particular set of campaign guidelines or rules, but instead provides participants with a framework for developing their own code of conduct to run a winning and ethical campaign. 


To complete the CTP application, you will need to indicate your availability for each session and discuss any planned absences.

Sample Schedule (from 2020)

  • Session 1: Wednesday, June 17th, 2020: 3:00pm - 7:00pm
  • Session 2: Wednesday, June 24th, 2020: 3:00pm - 7:00pm
  • Session 3: Friday, June 26th, 2020: 8:30am - 4:45pm
  • Session 4: Saturday, June 27th, 2020: 8:30am - 4:15pm
  • Session 5: Wednesday, July 1st, 2020: 3:00pm - 7:00pm
  • Session 6: Wednesday, July 8th, 2020: 3:00pm - 7:00pm
  • Session 7: Wednesday, July 15th, 2020: 3:00pm - 7:00pm
  • Session 8: Wednesday, July 22nd, 2020: 3:00pm - 7:00pm


CTP Group Photo


The Candidate Training Program is focused on giving participants the knowledge and practical skills they will need to build a winning campaign from the ground up. The program may include in-depth coverage of the following:

  • Message Development and Delivery
  • Ethics in Campaigns
  • Planning and Budgeting
  • Direct Mail
  • Organizing an Effective Field Operation and GOTV (get out the vote)
  • Election Law in Virginia
  • Fundraising
  • Virginia Politics
  • Opposition Research
  • Crisis Management
  • Media 101
  • Online Campaigning
  • Dealing with Stresses on Candidates and their Families
  • Roles and Responsibilities of Candidates, Managers, and Consultants
  • Endorsements


We are committed to maintaining a partisan balance among the campaign consultants and political experts who speak as part of the program. Our speakers have a wealth of experience in Virginia campaigns and elections.


applying to ctp

Woman writing while working on computer


How Applicants Are Selected

Preference will be given to Virginia residents and first-time candidates, but others are encouraged to apply. A commitment to fully participate in the program is required. If you would like to refer a candidate to our Candidate Training Program, please visit our referrals page. Information provided will only be used to contact potential candidates about applying for our program.

Applications are evaluated on a weekly rolling basis.

Application Timeline

  • November-January: Applications accepted
  • February: Interviews and selection
  • February/early March: Acceptance packets distributed; forms and payments due 
  • March: Program runs for four intensive days at the end of March


Application Details and Deadlines

Program Applications Open Applications Close Application Process Link to Application
Candidate Training Program Notify me when the application window opens

Tuition & AiD

Person typing on laptop



In 2020, tuition for the online CTP Class was $750 compared to $1500 for the in-person program. A grant from the Claude Moore Charitable Foundation helps us keep tuition costs affordable.

Acceptance to any Sorensen Institute program is need-blind, meaning that the people who evaluate applications to participate in the program differ from those who review financial aid applications.

Financial Aid

Requests for financial aid or scholarships will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis by the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service, the parent organization of the Sorensen Institute, once the selection process is completed. Participants are responsible for their own travel expenses, but meals, lodging, and program materials are covered by the tuition.

More information about our financial assistance payment plan, including how to apply, is available on our Financial Aid page.

According to IRS guidance, the Lifetime Learning tax credit applies to students who are enrolled in one or more courses at an eligible educational institution. The course or courses must be either part of a postsecondary degree program or taken by the student to acquire or improve job skills. There are many other details surrounding the Hope and Lifetime Learning Tax Credits. We suggest that you contact your own tax professional to see if you qualify for these credits. Unfortunately, neither the Sorensen Political Institute nor the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service can provide tax advice. You can also contact the IRS' Office of Public Liaison at 202-622-2970 or view Publication 970 on the IRS website for further information.


If you have questions about the program, please contact Sarah Campbell: sarah.campbell@virginia.edu. If you would like to refer someone to one of our programs, please visit our referrals page