I heard that you may be interested in running for office. Let me be the first to say congratulations!
Now, let’s talk about how we can take your grand idea and turn it into a winning campaign.
There are a few key things that you need to do in order to get off on the right foot, regardless of what level of office you pursue.
Find your “Why”
If you are reading this, there is something that lit that fire in your belly to even consider a potential run for office in the first place. The very first question you will be asked by anyone, from your neighbor to the local newspaper, will be “Why do you want to run?”. Depending on who you are talking to, it may also be “Why the hell would you want to do that?” or “Uh, you want to do what now?” In one colorful form or another, you will be asked why. It is a simple question, but one that will ultimately be the cornerstone of your campaign and keep you grounded when things feel less like the West Wing and more like Veep on the campaign trail. So, think long and hard about why it is that you believe stepping into the political spotlight is important to you.
Do your research.
Taking time to look into the history of the district you are running in is key. The internet is chock full of easily accessible election information to get you started. So, while you are watching Netflix, look at who you will run against, the election history from past cycles, the demographics of your potential district, and local news articles. All of those things will play a key role in the type of campaign you will need to run and the approach you will need to take to win.
Have conversations with those in your life.
When you run for office, for better or for worse, everyone in your life runs for office on some level with you. Have conversations with your partner, your children, your friends, those that raised you, and those that helped shape who you are. You are going to need their support in order to be successful.
Talk to community leaders in your area.
There is no conversation too big or too small when you are thinking about mounting a campaign. From other local electeds to party activists to local business owners and community leaders, there are wealths of institutional knowledge right there within your district. Sit down for coffee or lunch with folks. Ask them their thoughts on the race and the district. Ask them about their experiences and what they need from their elected leaders. Most importantly, at the end of your conversation ask them who they think you need to have a conversation with next. You’ll know you have done your due diligence when the same names start to come up again and again and you have already met with the folks that are brought up to you during your conversations.
Think about the team that you want around you.
Campaigns are hard. Having a support network around you and those that you trust to advise you is essential. On campaigns, it’s commonly referred to as your “Kitchen Cabinet”. You want to ensure those in your cabinet are people who know your strengths and weaknesses, people you trust, and people that have differing perspectives and skill sets. The more diverse your cabinet is, the more successful your race will ultimately be in the end.
Look for experienced professionals to help you.
Management and voter contact and fundraising, oh my! There are a lot of moving parts that make up a successful campaign. It can be overwhelming if you have never done it before, particularly this year with a pandemic and a presidential election to contend with. From ensuring you remain on the good side of the Campaign Finance Board (yes, campaign finance jail is a real thing), earning party and organizational endorsements, or contacting voters one thing is certain: Experience matters if you want to win.
Now, I know that one blog post isn’t going to answer every burning question. If you need help getting started or are just completely overwhelmed, we at Apparatus are here to help. Reach out to us and we can help you get your campaign up and running, and get you one step closer to your swearing in ceremony.