The 101 Steps for Running for Office: Our Top Five
Recently our friends at Storefront Political published a great guide for first-time candidates, with 101 tips to help their campaigns win. We picked out our favorite five for candidates who are just getting started, before officially launching their campaigns…
#6 – Give your campaign enough time to succeed.
The story you might have heard about the person who decided to run at the last minute and overcame the “powers that be” is a nice story, but it almost never works out that way. It is a whole lot better to have six months to get your message out than 90 days. It is even better to have a whole year. In other words, within reason, earlier is almost always better. Give yourself time to win by launching your campaign as early as possible, particularly if you are a first-time candidate.
#17 – Use your [fundraising and electoral] research to make the tough decisions.
This is where the rubber meets the road for most campaigns. Be very honest with yourself. If you don’t think you can raise close to the average in campaign donations and also find the time to personally reach out to voters, it’s not time to run yet. It’s important to be realistic. If you decide that you can’t make it work this cycle, don’t worry. Run next cycle and start working up to success right now. And if you decide you can—that’s great!
#22 – Do the hard—but vitally important—work of understanding compliance.
Read the laws with your treasurer. Understand them. If you don’t understand them, ask your local elections officials to explain them to you. Did we say this is important? It is really important.
“Compliance” usually means not taking contributions in excess of the legal limit and not using campaign funds for personal expenses. It always means having the proper “disclaimers” on your campaign materials showing who paid for them (your campaign). It usually means not coordinating with outside groups. And as far as we know, every candidate in America must regularly file disclosure papers with their local elections officials saying how much they raised and spent. This is NOT a complete list. Get the list from your local elections official and memorize it (please) and put all the key dates down. You will thank us later.
#32 – Do some political mapping
Who are the people and organizations that matter in your race? Unions, local elected officials at all levels, party leaders, community leaders, church leaders, business leaders and others. This might be a little daunting for a first-time candidate. But do some research. Who did other candidates list as their endorsers in the past? That’s a great way to start—go through the websites of local candidates and look at who like-minded candidates list as their endorsers. That should be a pretty good initial guide.
#39 – Having trouble asking people for money?
Okay, simple: don’t run unless you are rich. But even then it might be a problem. Self-funders frequently don’t do very well. Why? Because when you ask people to give to your cause, you are creating a list of supporters who are invested personally in your success. These donors help recruit other donors, they spread the word about you on social media, they invite you to community events they know about and introduce you to friends and colleagues.
It’s also important to keep in mind the people you’re asking for money aren’t just giving to you as an individual, they are giving to the platform and policies that you are advocating for. A lot of people want their kids to have smaller class sizes, but not a lot of people have the courage to do what you’re doing by running for office. You have shared values, and for those values to succeed, it takes teamwork. Some people run, some people donate—now, go ask them for it.
"Why I Chose HSG Campaigns"
"I know firsthand the high-quality work HSG Campaigns has done in Los Angeles and across California. Eric Hogensen and his team have a talent for creative communications, strategic targeting, and innovative campaign practices. A Democrat running for office in California should definitely consider them for their campaign."
- Eric C. Bauman, Chair, Democratic Party of California
What We're Reading
This week Dave is recommending Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari.
"This time last year I recommended Harari's first book, Sapiens, which explores the meta-historical story of human beings. In the more philosophical Homo Deus, Harari explores the ways that the accelerating advances in science and technology could either transform our species into super-humans, or make us much less important to the world. Harari makes some futuristic predictions, but more importantly, he asks us to start thinking about what's next for the human race."
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- Eric and Dave