Local-Level Tips for Running for Office

Diana Mendez
Most elected officials begin their political careers by becoming active in the community.

Most elected officials begin their political careers by becoming active in the community.

GettyImages

In an era of extreme political views and frustration with the political establishment, political activism is growing at a rate never experienced before in American politics. Many who have never participated in politics are now organizing. People are taking to the streets to voice their opinion on important issues, such as immigration, social justice, women’s rights, and the environment. The ultimate step in political advocacy, however, is running for office. If you are aspiring to run for office, here are some tips you should know.

Civic Engagement

Most elected officials begin their political careers by becoming active in the community. Create a community project or advocate for an issue you genuinely care about. An example of this is gathering a group of neighbors to advocate for a park’s cleanup. Civic engagement can also involve joining a community organization or participating in a local advisory board.

Strong Support Network

Networking, networking, networking. All campaign managers emphasize that. Before deciding to run for office, organize your contact list and assess your network. Your contact list will be vital in providing the necessary support structures during the campaign. Do not be discouraged if you do not yet have an extensive contact list. Realizing that your network is still small only signals that legwork must be done before running for office. Setting a goal to meet a minimum number of people each week by visiting different organizations and finding common ground with its members has proved to be valuable for political newcomers in developing their network.

Fundraising

Be willing to tap into your network to request financial support. Asking for help is never easy, especially when it involves money, but political campaigns can become expensive quickly. Donating to causes you care about may alleviate some of the uneasiness about asking for money later. If you do it for others, asking others to do the same for you should come more naturally. Understand that you are not asking for money for yourself, rather, it is for the project that you are developing by running for office.

Successfully running for office is possible when you allow enough time to prepare and do so strategically. While significant hard work is involved, it is not impossible. The long-term policy impact that you can have by being elected will make it well worth it.

Entity:
Topic:

Diana Mendez is a partner at Llorente & Heckler, P.A. in Miami, Florida, and the immediate past president of Next Leaders Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to training progressive young leaders to become civically engaged and run for office.