So You Are Thinking About Running For Office

First of all, good for you. Never again should Republicans run unopposed for seats. We should always, at minimum, make them work for it. Voters become more engaged when Democrats run also, and you can’t win it unless you are in it.

Prospective candidates ask, “Where do I start?” There are a number of sites that offer online training for running for office. Emily’s List just launched a training center. The Democratic Party has online support and in person training. Emerge is an organization that provides actual training for Democratic women, and if there is a state organization in your state, I recommend starting with applying for their program. They lay excellent groundwork to help candidates understand how to begin and what to expect. You will also be connected with other female candidates in your state, which forms a sorority of sorts and will provide support for you. I did the Emerge bootcamp training for the Southeast, and I am connected with lots of interesting women running for a wide variety of races.

Think about what kind of office you want to run for. Thinking about what issues you are passionate about can help you discern where to focus. If you are concerned about your town, your local schools, development, infrastructure or the environment, local races may be right for you. County or City Council races, or School Board are all seats which enable you to affect the direction of your town. My town recently experienced insane development, including myriad apartment buildings which we had never had before. Developers were literally running our town. There was a coup, and we ousted our mayor and many town council members who were too chummy with developers. Our new town council also voted to ban all plastic, which was widely supported by residents. The tea party made a concerted effort to infiltrate school boards, so now many school boards are stuck with board members who care about where students go to the bathroom, among other inane issues. We need progressive school board members who make sure dollars get put to use in ways that affect the education of all students. And we need support for our teachers.

Local elections do not require as much money in terms of fundraising. They are often hotly contested, however, you will have to learn a lot about the needs in your community. These races require debates and media coverage, so be prepared to hone your public speaking skills.

Help Women Win can be especially helpful to candidates running for state house and senate races, particularly in Republican or rural areas which have few Democratic resources. While many candidates overlook these races, these representatives are the lawmakers for the state. They can help protect women’s reproductive rights in the state. Even if Roe v Wade is overturned, each state will write legislation regarding abortion in their state. They also control education, infrastructure and energy investment. They will make future rulings about gerrymandering in their state. The California state government is fighting Trump’s legislation at every turn. The problem with these seats is that they are low-paying and not full-time but they are just time consuming enough to derail your regular job. That’s why legislators like the ones we have in SC have figured out how to be very corrupt and get paid big bucks to consult for the utility, and let the utility get away with bilking consumers when they are supposed to be acting in our interest. That’s only the tip of their corrupt, self-interested iceberg.

State races do not necessitate the fundraising war chest that Congressional and Senate races do. They are a good entry into politics without as big a headache as Federal races. But if you see Congress or the Senate on your horizon, go for it. Most Democrats these days want the lifers out of office. There are a lot of representatives in both parties who are just parked in Congress and they need to move on. Recent races show the old guard can be voted out with fresh voices.

Whatever seat you decide to run for, there are many questions that need to be asked. Campaigns are extremely time consuming, and emotionally taxing as well. What is your current job and how much freedom do you have? Campaigns will mean time off for events, debates, canvassing, and more appearances than you can imagine.

Another major concern is, can you ask for money? Can you close a sale? Fundraising is a huge part of the process, and you need to be prepared for dialing for dollars on a daily basis.

Also ask yourself, do I have the right personality to run for office. Can I work a room? Do I have tireless energy? Can I connect with all kinds of people? I have seen candidates running for office sit at a table with their family and squander the opportunity to meet and greet. You need to be extroverted to run for most offices.

Did you dread your public speaking class? That could be a problem. You will be speaking off the cuff about a wide range of issues and need to be quick on your feet and able to form articulate thoughts on the spot.

How thick is your skin? This was one of my flaws. I was really hurt and derailed by things people said about me and people who ghosted on me. I think I can coach women through this now, but it was hard to navigate on my own. I’m the kind of person who, if I say I will do something, I will absolutely do it. I realized not everyone is built that way. My campaign manager and I called my campaign the story of the Little Red Hen. Who will help me thrash the wheat? No one. But who wants to eat the bread. Everyone. Even volunteers have 5 million other things to do the entire duration of your campaign. It’s bizarre.

There are other issues to consider, but these are a few of the basics. I managed to work throughout my campaign and take only about 10 days off before the campaign. But quite honestly, I needed more time. Candidates have told me they took a year’s leave of absence to campaign. Not being a trust fund baby, that was a crazy concept to me. I can help candidates figure to how to balance this equation.

If you think you want to run for office, good for you. I think I can help.