10 items that should be on your checklist before Running for Office.
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If you are thinking of running for office in the next year or two, there are some things you should do before you make that decision. Doing them will make your time on the campaign trail easier. Failure to do them can make your life hell, or make you wish you had.
Number 2. Get Your Family Finances in Order.
Campaigns often put a strain on the family budget. Even if you are not using your own money to pay campaign bills, you will find there is less time for work. If you are self-employed, you’ll have less time for clients. If you work for someone else, don’t expect that the boss will still happily pay you when the campaign requires you to miss work.
Number 3. Know the Rules for Getting on the Ballot.
In many jurisdictions, it is easy to do that. You collect a few signatures, or pay a small fee and its done. But some states and jurisdictions make it very difficult to get on the ballot, requiring an exorbitant fee or thousands of signatures. And the rule book that regulates the way those signatures are filed is more complicated than the U.S. tax code. Best to know what you are up against before you make a decision of running for office.
Number 4. Update Your Resume.
You’ll need a resume for your website, and some will ask you for it. Make sure it includes the jobs you’ve held, the degrees you’ve earned, organizations you belong to, charitable and civic causes you have volunteered for, and honors you have received.
Do not, under any circumstance, embellish your resume, exaggerate what you’ve done or claim degrees you have not earned. You will get caught and it will be a bad day when you do.
Number 5. Make it Habit to be Informed.
The people you meet and ask for help while running for office will expect you to know what is going on the world, your country, state and jurisdiction. It is hard to find objective truth on talk TV, but it can be found by glancing at the headlines in 3-5 newspapers that cover world, nation, state and local news. Be wary of relying on just one newspaper. Objective journalism is an oxymoron. The views of reporters and headline writers affect what they cover and how they report it. Rarely do you get the whole truth from just one publication.
Number 6. Make Sure You are Running for the Right Office for the Right Reason.
Make note of the problems you’d like to fix and how you would solve them if you had the power to do so. That is what should dictate the office you run for. If you view it as a game of chess, thinking that if you just get elected to a job you don’t want so that you can someday run for a job you do want, you’ll find yourself unhappy at the office and unhappy at home.
Number 7. Study your Jurisdiction.
Before you make the decision of running for office, you really should take the time to learn about the jurisdiction where you are running. It’s size, population, partisan affiliation, voting habits, and the demographic composition, including age, race, ethnicity, income, education level and major employers.
It is OK to run in a jurisdiction where you can’t win if you have something important to say, a cause you want to advance, or a movement you want to ignite, but you should know what you are up against before you make that decision.
Number 8. Study your Opponent.
If you are running for office against an incumbent, you’ll have to explain to voters why they should fire the current office holder. That is easy if the incumbent is unpopular. Much harder to do in a district represented by a popular person.
If you are thinking of running for office in an open seat, you’ll still have to make the case on why you are a better choice than your opponent. Google their name, look for newspaper articles where their name has been mentioned. Look at their social media posts and voting record. You can’t make your case well if you are clueless about your competition.
Number 9. Check Your Social Media Posts
The minute you start talking to people about running for office, word will spread, and someone is going to start looking at everything you have ever posted on Facebook, Instagram, You Tube and Twitter.
If you’ve ever said something offensive, or anything that could be misunderstood or taken out of context, delete it. If you don’t, you will see it in a negative ad.
Number 10. Get some help.
Especially if you are running for the first time. A coach. A mentor. Someone who has run before. Some professional help from someone who has worked on several campaigns.
There are many moving parts to a successful political campaign, and no one can become an expert by reading books or searching for articles on Google. You can learn a lot by doing that, but it takes time, and if you go that route you’ll spend a lot of time learning things you don’t need to know. Better to get help from someone who can help you complete the tasks only you can do, and knows the difference between the important and the not.
I’ll add one more item to this list. If you decide to run for office, be a leader, not a follower. The good Lord gave you your own brain, your own moral code, your own notions of right and wrong. Use them, and be who you are.
Too many in public life today believe politics is the art of sticking their finger in the air, and responding only to the daily shift of the political winds. When voters elect you, they are trusting you to make judgments on their behalf. They expect you to be worthy of the trust they placed in you. You will leave them disappointed if you prove you weren’t.
Political consultant Jay Townsend works with smart, passionate candidates who want to run for office, win elections and make a difference. He has successfully helped candidates learn how to run for the U.S. Senate, how to run for Congress, how to run for Mayor and develop a winning campaign marketing strategy.
How to win an election:
Running for office and knowing how to win an election is a challenge, especially for first time political candidates just learning how to run for office. Discerning the fine points of how to campaign, raise political contributions, and execute a political campaign strategy often requires the help of someone who has served as a political strategist or who has experience as a political consultant.