How To Run For Office

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Information on running for office: state, county, local, what have you...

Contents

Candidate

Running for office is something everyone can do; yet unexplored by many. The breakdown of Candidate requirements is usually Age and nationality. The Constitution, Article I specifically sets precedence for federal elections as follows:

President: Natural-born U.S. citizen, age 35 or older, and you must have lived in the country for at least 14 years.

Senate: Must be at least 30, have at least nine years of U.S. citizenship and be an inhabitant of the state they represent at the time of the election.

Congress: No person shall be a Representative who shall not have attained to the age of twenty five years, and been seven years a citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an inhabitant of that state in which he shall be chosen.

The Campaign

The Basic elements of a campaign are:

  • Candidate: Person running for Office/Position.
  • Treasurer: Manager of Campaign finances and responsible for FEC reporting.
  • Campaign Manager: Overall management of campaign, candidate and activities.
  • Campaign Plan: Your "Plan of Attack" that defines your message, your campaign and your goals.

It isn't uncommon to have a core campaign manager and a committee of people who help manage activities and ideas.

Netroots: Using the internet networking and community building to build an online presence of campaign supporters. No geographical importance necessary.

Grassroots: A focus on person to person networking focused on efforts based around individuals and participation of constituents in campaign. Usually geographically local to candidate or election. During large elections it isn’t uncommon for supporters & volunteers of grassroots organizations to be bussed around to the areas in need of support.

“Roots” based campaigning is truly gathering of the community spirit and support to help your efforts.

Strategy

Key elements to any campaign are to develop a strategy that connects you with the voters on what is important to you and your bid for office. Many times candidates focus entirely on the issues as they think others view them and are such labeled as "flip floppers" or "opportunists".

Campaign Plan

Writing a plan is one of the most important parts of a successful campaign. "Unless it is in your plan, it doesn't exist". Campaign plans are a living document, but do be concerned with a solid document that is the foundation of your campaign.

The core elements of a Campaign plan are:

  • Budget
  • Fundraising
  • Message Development
  • Research
  • Targeting
  • Paid Media
  • Earned Media
  • Scheduling
  • Direct contact with public
  • Volunteer Organization
  • Visibility
  • GOTV
  • Structure & Responsibilities
  • Timeline
  • Campaign toolkit

Don't over-stretch yourself or your plan. Be sure to focus on your audience, focus on your message and be consistent.


Speeches:

Let's face it, you are putting yourself into the limelight as a candidate and will undoubtedly need to make speeches. Often times this can create a sense of anxiety or fear for many but with a little help, practice and experiences you can give speeches that will win people over.

A good speech and way to speak your message will contain the following elements:

Characters & Conflict - Describe characters, the conflict(s) they must deal with and triumph as related to your message.
Obstacle - Show how the characters approached whatever obstacle they were facing in an effort to overcome it.
Resolution - Tell your listeners how it turns out.
Ending - Tie the resolution back to the main point, idea of objective of your message.
Be Quotable - Help the media get your message out. Many voters will only hear brief sound bites the media take from your speeches. Give them a good one. Somewhere in your speech, sum up your message in brief - 3 points covered in 27 words in 9 seconds. Experienced media people will easily find this and pick it out of your speech.

Remember these elements as "CORE".

This concept translates well from Business to Pleasure and all the way through politics and stump speeches. You get your message across by being sincere, telling the story,the WHOLE story and how everything turns out. You give your speeches with the idea you represent something that has a relationship to those you speak to. Win people over with some sincerity and relevance to the office you are running for by telling stories and speeches with these CORE elements.

Other Speech Tips:

  • Relate personal stories to your message.
  • Learn to flow with the listeners. Be creative, funny and witty within constraints of being yourself.
  • Be yourself!

Toastmasters is a non-profit organization with over 11,000 clubs in 92 countries. Most meet once a week for an hour and a half. It's dues are very low and it is an excellent place to learn and improve your speaking, listening, and leadership skills. Visit several clubs before choosing one; look for one with a wide cross-section of participants (not a realtors or other "themed" club).


Fundraising

The hardest thing for any candidate to do is to ask for money. Don't let this scare you away from running for office. In all honesty there are a lot of people who are more than willing to contribute, even money they don't have, to your campaign if they believe in the message that you are sending.

Campaign fundraising limits:

contriblimits.jpg

Tips & Ideas

While there are as many methods and strategies for running as there are candidates, here are some external sources that can help. Check with your local chamber of commerce, they have many candidate programs.

  • WriteInYourVote.com Free web space for US Candidates running at the Federal, State, and Local levels. Voter's welcome too! Pledging an equal opportunity for every US Candidate, and a voice for every voter!
  • RunForOffice.org provides a database of eligibility requirements for all 50 states, and resources for running.
  • New Organizing Institute wiki is filled with campaign resources
  • The Creative America Project is about inspiring and training artists and creative professionals to assume leadership positions in civic life, including running for local office.
  • How to Win a Local Election, a book by Lawrence Grey. A step-by-step guide, with checklists, calendars, and plenty of good information.

Local Elections

Local Elections can be anything from municipal, school board, county and state elections. These are considered the grass roots campaigns that set precedence for the groundwork of the Democratic platform.

Registration for local elections varies greatly upon your district, municipality and state laws. The Campaign Manager, Running and Winning Local Elections. (Third Edition) by Catherine Shaw. Excellent examples of campaign approaches and materials.

Federal Elections

Federal elections are held on even number years during the first Thursday of November.

How do I register as a candidate?

If you are running for the U.S. House, Senate or the Presidency, you must register with the FEC once you (or persons acting on your behalf) receive contributions or make expenditures in excess of $5,000. Within 15 days of reaching that $5,000 threshold, you must file a Statement of Candidacy FEC Form 2 authorizing a principal campaign committee to raise and spend funds on your behalf. Within 10 days of that filing, your principal campaign committee must submit a Statement of Organization FEC Form 1. Your campaign will thereafter report its receipts and disbursements on a regular basis. Campaigns should download the Campaign Guide for Congressional Candidates for more information on the laws that apply to them.

The Treasurer and Custodian of Records (which may be the same person) are the only legally required positions, and may be held by the candidate, however this is not advisable in order to keep the candidate focused. As a practical matter, it is likely a candidate will need to register with the FEC before reaching the $5,000 contribution limit, in order to comply with all regulations. The candidate or others may spend personal funds as in-kind contributions prior to this, however all contributions are required to be deposited to a campaign depository (a separate bank account belonging to the campaign) within 10 days of receipt therefore an account must exist. A business bank account will have to be opened. In order to comply with banking regulations, proof of incorporation of the business will be required to open the acccount (a tax number may also be required). For a campaign, acceptable proof is a copy of the committee's Statement of Organization stamped by the FEC. To obtain this, include a SASE when filing the form, and request a copy to be returned. To avoid delays in getting the campaign underway, it is advisable to begin this process early. When registering, remember that the committee's name will appear on all campaign materials, and is not changed easily later, so choose carefully. Rather than use bland names like Hillary Clinton for Senate, some choose more friendly or attractive names like Friends of Hillary, or Dean for America rather than Howard Dean for President. Registering as a candidate will also give the campaign access to FEC assistance, including printed copies of guides and regulations (which will be mailed to the campaign), a subscription to The Record, and access to FECFile, free software available from the FEC that may be used for record keeping and electronic filing of campaign finance reports (campaigns with contributions or expenditures exceeding $50,000 in a year, except Senate committees, must file electronically, others may do so voluntarily; if this is anticipated, it is better to begin maintaining records electronically from the beginning rather than undertake an accounting change mid-campaign). FECFile works well to meet campaign recordkeeping and reporting requirements, however campaigns with sufficient resources may wish to purchase another package (NGP Software is one commercially available package used by many Democratic campaigns) to provide additional functions like contributor, volunteer and voter contact information and mailing list preparation not required by the FEC and not available in FECFile, and ease recordkeeping by automatically recording online contribution information (this needs to be manually transcribed into FECFile). Absent this, a campaign with limited resources using FECFile may wish to use another system to maintain other information. One free example is Organizer's Database.

A campaign manager and other positions are not legally required, but as a practical matter are necessary, as are other assistants including a driver to allow the candidate to arrive at campaign events rested and refreshed.

FEC : Federal Election Commission - Campaign finance laws.

State Specific Elections

These guides are geared towards state issues and specific election laws. These will be moved to the individual state pages unless there is something that sets precedence across the board.

Alabama

Alaska

Arizona

Arkansas

California

Florida

Georgia: Running for Office

Illinois Offices

Iowa

New Hampshire

New York

Ohio: Running for Office

Pennsylvania: Running for Office

South Carolina Offices

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