Four Steps to Running for Office
Running for office can seem super daunting and overwhelming. But I promise that it’s not rocket science. Here are some tips to get you started.
First things first, pick your issues. What policy areas do you want to impact as a legislator? Figure out what issue areas you are care about. Then, do research about which level office affects those policy areas. So for example, if you’re dedicated to helping the environment, then the school board may not be the place for you. Also, the Secretary of State’s website for your state should have helpful information about the local, county, and state level seats in your area.
Second, think big. Run for the highest-level seat that you feel enthusiastic about. Women tend to run for lower-level offices because they sometimes believe they are not qualified. But you should be running for the seat that will make decisions on policy that you want to impact with your voice and leadership. Did you know a number of people who ran for Congress in 2010 election, and won, had never been elected to public office before? Yep – it’s true.
Third, get ready. Even if the seat you’re interested in isn’t available, start preparing to run for it now. Reach out to people who know what it’s like to run for that seat: a former campaign manager, a local party official, a former candidate, or even the incumbent. Build relationships with people who have done it before. These relationships may lead to an endorsement and will help you better understand what it takes to win that seat. Remember to ask, who were their main constituency groups? How much money did they raise? What were their main modes of communication? What kind of fundraising was successful?
Lastly, network like it’s your job. You might feel that you are starting from scratch, but you have an established network to tap into. You want to find the issues that are the hot-topics for that seat and figure out where you fit in. For example, if you are a teacher or a local businesswoman, you should continue to develop and build those networks as a starting point. Also, I have worked on a wide range of races, from local school board to presidential campaigns, and I encourage women at all stages in their decision to run to reach out to political consultants earlier rather than later, even if it’s just for some initial feedback. It’s free advice and it can make a big difference in setting you on a successful path!
For more information, visit Solid Grounds Strategy.
Image of Senator Kirsten Gillibrand from Vogue Magazine.