ARE YOU READY TO THROW YOUR HAT IN THE RING?
Running for public office is not a step anyone should take lightly. Campaigning will be hard on you, your family and your friends. These guidelines should help you as you decide whether or not to run for public office.
1. Why are you interested in running? Are you articulate and well-informed? Are there specific areas where you would work for change? Make a list of all your strengths and why you would be a good candidate for the position. Develop a theme statement that sums up why you want to run.
2. What are the downsides to running and what are your weaknesses? Be realistic and make a list that includes: cost, loss of free time, invasion of privacy, public attacks, etc.
3. Does this race offer a good opportunity? If it’s not an open seat, what are the incumbent’s vulnerabilities? If several candidates are running in the primary, what are their strengths and weaknesses? Use all available information to judge your chances of being elected.
4. Are you well-known in your community and within the entire district? Have you dealt with the local media and built a relationship with reporters? You’ll want as much free publicity as possible, since building name recognition from scratch can be very expensive.
5. Do you have other experience in public service? Most successful candidates work their way up from school board or city council to state legislature and then to statewide or national office. If you’re new to politics, are you often asked to take a leadership role in your community? Do your friends and neighbors recognize your ability to get things done or other special skills that can be applied to politics?
6. Do you know party and civic leaders and others you will need to ask for political support? Can you build a network of loyal paid and volunteer staff?
7. Can you raise the necessary funds? Make a list of the first 100 people to solicit for contributions, beginning with your closest family and friends. If you aren’t willing to look each of them in the eye and ask them to give you money, you shouldn’t run for office. Consider non-financial resources, as well.
8. Do you have any baggage in your past that could hurt your chances? Carefully review your financial records and your personal life. Your campaign could be dead in its tracks if you didn’t pay taxes one year, ever hired an undocumented worker or padded your resume. Assume your opponent will find any information that could be used against you, no matter how obscure.
9. Talk with your family and others who would be impacted by your decision. Gradually broaden the circle to include everyone you know who might serve on an exploratory committee. Contact leaders of groups which might support your candidacy.
10. Check with your state or local election officials for information on filing as a candidate. School board candidates in Missouri usually file at the school district office in mid-December. Candidates for mayor and city council can file at city hall.
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