13 Tips On Running For Local Political Office
So you want to run for office. You’re tired of the local amateurs fouling things up. You know that a couple of the issues need your personal attention. The problem is, you have no idea how to get elected.
Here are a few tips, if you have decided to enter that most important of arenas. Keep in mind that breaking into politics is extremely difficult, requiring a wide-ranging skill set and a small army of friends, allies and supporters.
1. Choose Your Platform Wisely
Make certain you know the local issues and have a solid position on each of them. Attend city or town council meetings, as well as school board meetings. Talk to people on the streets and in businesses. Obviously, read the local newspapers.
You need to know what people want of an elected official. You need a stance on the issues. If there is one issue that dominates the campaign, you need to have a proactive, well-defined position on that issue. This should be the central plank on your platform.
At the same time, avoid being pigeon-holed as a one issue candidate. This will limit your appeal and make you sound like a broken record. Have a full command of the issues. I’ve seen local politicians wilt in the debates, once the conversation got away from their pet issues.
2. Choose Your Opponent Wisely
Avoid running against an incumbent, if possible. It’s a political reality that most incumbents win the job. If a position is being vacated by an official, then you have a better chance to win that position.
If you must run against an incumbent, find one that is unpopular or controversial and run against this one. You will be a political unknown if you have never held office before, so it will be difficult to swing voters to you if they have a well-known, safe option already on the ballot.
3. Know the Position
Research the various powers and responsibilities of the various elected officials in your town. Figure out which position best suits you, then figure out if you have a chance of winning that position. You need to be realistic when choosing the target of your ambitions. You might think you’ll be a great mayor, but if you have no experience in government or even in running a business, you’ll have a hard time convincing people you’re the person for the job.
This brings me to my next point.
4. Collect Endorsements
Make sure you have endorsements from as many of the local power brokers as possible. This might be the local newspaper. It should include local politicians and business leaders.
You are trying to break into the system. Having political allies helps you with every other aspect of the campaign.
Talk to people. Find out which ones share your views on the issues. Make a connection to these people and make certain they know what your viewpoints are. In this way, you will find natural political allies you would never have calculated having.
5. Know Your Audience
Get to know about your constituency. Read all you can about the history of your city and why the city is run as it is. Know the important players in the local political scene, as well as the demographics of the city. You need to take into account the issues that the people of your town are interested in, as well as the interests of that city’s leading citizens.
6. Stop Being Sensitive
If you are easily rattled by criticism, then don’t get into politics. A person who gets defensive when questioned will turn off the voters. A person wracked by self-doubt will be destroyed by a campaign. You have to listen to peoples’ concerns and withstand their criticisms.
Learn from the criticism. Take the constructive criticism and put it to use. For the personal attacks, you have to let those roll off your back.
7. Keep Your Closet Clean
Understand that you and your family will become public figures when you run for office. Your life won’t be the same, and the life of your family members will similarly change. More important, your lives will become an open book. So make sure that your closet and your family members’ closets are free of skeletons. These could cause you to lose the election, along with bringing embarrassment and humiliation to your entire family.
Don’t think that national politics are the only place slimy tactics take place. It happens on the local level, too. They say academic debates are so nasty because the stakes are so low. The same could be said of local elections.
Before you declare for office, hire a professional to sift through your lives. This vetting process will give you an indication of what your political opponents will come up with.
8. Build An Organization
You will need volunteers to make your campaign effective. This requires people to put up signs and move house to house talking to constituents. Assign specific neighborhoods to certain volunteers, giving them the assignment of getting out the vote in their area.
9. Become Known
Make certain to be seen by as many constituents as possible. Walk house to house in key precincts when you have the time. Appear in public places where people gather, such as the Post Office or local businesses that allow it. Get your message into the local paper or television station. Have campaign rallies.
10. Rally the Troops
The campaign rally helps raise public awareness of your campaign. It also raises money for the campaign.
Not only will you get more people to watch you speak, but people driving by the campaign rally will want to stop and see what all the commotion is about. It will also draw local media outlets to cover you.
11. Become A Public Speaker
A good candidate is going to have to be a good public speaker. If you have stage fright, then your campaign will probably never get off the ground. You will need to give speeches, give a good account of yourself at a debate and speak at city council meetings. You must be a solid speaker to convey your ideas to the audience. To get good, you’ll need to practice your craft.
Join a toastmasters club. These are people who gather to give speeches before one another. Start talking before smaller crowds before you hit “the big time” of the debates. If you have the money, hire a P.R. man. Hire a voice coach, too. You need to polish your public image if you are going to sway public opinion.
On a side note, you need to be image conscious. Wear professional business attire and practice looking comfortable in it. Make sure you have a clean cut image and your clothes aren’t wrinkled all the time. If you look like you have your act together, people will focus less on that and more on the words you’re speaking. The past is littered with people who had great ideas, but who didn’t look like a traditional leader.
12. Become a Leader
Being a leader is inspiring the troops when they can’t inspire themselves. It’s staying on message when events threaten to spiral out of control. It’s being the person that people look to lead them in the events of the day.
Staying positive is a large part of being a leader. This requires immense reserves of conviction and confidence. If you don’t believe in yourself and your ideas, then no one else will. So remember to stay positive at all times, because your people are looking to you for direction.
13. Advertize Yourself
Disseminate as many signs, handouts and fliers as possible. Make certain that signs are everywhere people might pass, whether it’s on the side of the road or near local businesses. Your name needs to be ubiquitous in the days and weeks leading up to the election.
Some voters will know everything about the candidates. Most will have a passing knowledge of the campaign. You need to make certain that when this second type of voters enters the “voting booth” and sees you name, it is more recognizable than your opponent’s. You might win simply off of name recognition.
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