5 Key Questions to Ask When Considering a Run for Local Office

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Do people tell you that you would make a great elected official? Do you dream of sitting on the dais at a City Council or School Board meeting and making big decisions on behalf of your community? Do you like getting yelled at while spending other people’s money?

Making the decision to run for office is not easy. But, if you have it in you to put your name on the ballot then there is no denying that urge. Know that if you intend to run then be prepared to win! There are dozens of questions to answer as you consider running for office. Below are 5 key considerations before you take the leap.

Am I Qualified to Serve in Elected Office?

Have you heard of Governor Jessie Ventura or Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger? Then, YES – you are most definitely qualified! Seriously though, the beauty of living in a representative democracy is that anyone is qualified to serve in elected office. You are a taxpayer, parent, community leader, friend, neighbor, or some combination of the above.

Don’t get me wrong, experience serving on an appointed commission, neighborhood group, PTA, or other nonprofit organization definitely provide you with insight that will help you make better informed decisions. However, most sane people don’t think they have what it takes. If you run your campaign the right way, you will feel more than qualified by the time you are sworn in to office.

Trust me – You are more than qualified to serve in local elected office. Just ask Ray!

Here is an example: Over the course of several months in 2016 I recruited and was coaching a potential candidate to run for County Board of Education. She was the wife of a former Mayor, small business owner, and part-time college faculty member. In the late summer of 2016, just 3 days before the filing deadline, she sent me a nice email saying that she loves the idea of serving, but just doesn’t feel qualified. I thanked her for considering it, but asked her to do one thing – attend a County Board of Education meeting and then determine if she is qualified. The very next day she attended a meeting and immediately pulled papers. Not only was she on the ballot, but she defeated a long-time incumbent.

She walked into the School Board meeting feeling unqualified to serve. The next day, after watching the Board, she pulled papers to run.

What she discovered is that serving in elected office is not rocket science. Anyone can and does serve. If you don’t think you are qualified, just attend a meeting and you will see that you are most definitely qualified to serve!

Do I Have the Necessary Support?

As with all new endeavors, the first people to consult is your family. If they are not on board, the campaign experience will be miserable and cause contention. Be candid. The reality is that for about 3 months you will need to eat, sleep, and breath your campaign. Once you win, however, balancing your family, professional, and elected office responsibilities are completely manageable. 
You want to have a similar conversation with your employer. You will undoubtedly have times during the campaign when you are taking company time to campaign. One way to manage your professional obligations is to schedule campaign related meets in the morning before work, at lunch, or in the evenings. I also recommend cutting back your work schedule if possible during the last 30 days of the campaign.

Am I Electable?

First things first. Here are the standard qualifications to run for local office:

  • Citizen of the United States of America
  • Registered voter 
  • Resident of the appropriate jurisdiction for a prescribed period of time before filing 
  • 18 years of age or older 
  • No felonies 
  • No conflict of interest

Additionally, please be sure to review the qualifications for the specific public office you are considering. To do this, contact whichever government office administers elections. Typically this is the County Voter Registration Office.

You also want to complete a political landscape analysis. We’ll be providing an easy to use worksheet in the near future. For now, key considerations are whether or not your party registration matches the district in which you want to run. Although these are mostly nonpartisan offices, partisanship matters at the doorstep and with potential endorsements. Do you have bonafide community experience? What have you accomplished? Are you hungry for the job?

Don’t worry if you don’t have a deep connection to the community. If you follow our advice, we’ll show you how to become intricately plugged in to your community in a short period of time.

What is My Rationale for Running?

Do you feel like it is your turn to run for office? Are you bored and looking for something to do? If so, those are the WRONG reasons to run for local office. Why you want to run for local office is entirely personal to you. However, you better have a good answer when someone asks. We’ll cover this topic more later when it comes to crafting your stump speech and elevator speech. For now, put pen to paper and draft out the following.

  • Your personal story and connection to the work
  • Why you really want the job
  • What you plan to accomplish if elected
  • Why you are going to win

If you get a handle on these key points then you won’t have the blank stare on your face that most candidates (and Ted Kennedy) have when asked why they want to run for office. When you answer, be genuine and not canned. Have passion – it shows!

Can I Win?

YES! You most definitely can win. Running for office is not rocket science. It is about good planning and solid execution. At the end of the day the hardest working candidate wins most of the time. If you utilize the tips and tricks from our blog, you can win and embark upon one of the most professionally rewarding experiences of your life.

Interested in a complimentary 30-minute coaching session with Gary Davis? Contact him at this link. Also, be sure to sign up – in the side bar – for exclusive content, checklists, and a special discount on our soon to be released “How to Run for Local Office and Win” manual.

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Nonpartisan actionable tips and tricks to win local elections by Gary Davis. Gary Davis has coached over 200 candidates running for local and state office while also serving in three local elected positions, including Mayor, City Council, and School Board. His passion for serving in local office and helping others get there drove him to develop the Run for Local Office Candidate Coaching Program, Blog, and Website.

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