So you're thinking about running for political office and you're about to go down and officially throw your hat in the ring. Congratulations!
But wait... not so fast. Before you pay the filing fee and turn in all of the paperwork to list your name on the ballot, here are a few questions we suggest asking yourself...
Should I Run For Political Office?
It might seem obvious, but this really is a question you should ask yourself before anything else. Make a list of pros and cons, draw up a flow chart or think about the answers to the following questions to help you reach a realistic answer. Running for political office is a huge commitment, it isn't easy, it's often stressful, and you shouldn't do it without really knowing if it's right for you.
What Office Will You Run For?
Again, maybe another obvious question, but stop and think about it. If you want to run for city council: do you run for a seat that represents only your section of the community or do you run at-large to represent the entire community? If you want to run for judge: which court is right for you? If you want to keep your community safe: do you run for Constable or Sheriff? If you want to serve in education: do you run for a position on your local School Board, your local Community College Board or the State Board of Education? Do your research ahead of time to determine what position is the best match for you.
Why Do You Want to Run for Political Office?
Having folks tell you, "Hey, you should run for office!" doesn't necessaritly mean that it's the right thing for you to do. Before you agree to run, spend some really serious time thinking about all of the reasons why you would be a good candidate and why running for this public position is right for you. What would you do if you are elected? What actions would you take? What would you like to change? Why is it important to you?
When Is Your Election?
Knowing the date of Election Day for your race is obviously important, but there are other dates to consider as well. When (and where) is Early Voting? When can folks who are senior citizens or unable to physically appear at the polls vote by mail? When will those folks be receiving mail ballots? When is it okay to put out signs? And how early should you be reaching out to folks and attending events? There's a reason why they call it an "election cycle"; running for office will keep you busy for months prior to the actual election day. Knowing this up front will keep you from being out of town at critical times during your election and help you balance your daily, weekly and monthly tasks so you can get everything done.
Who Are You?
This is a question that will be at the heart of your campaign. If you want folks to vote for you, they will need to know who you are and why you are qualified to represent them. Make a detailed list of your strengths and weaknesses as they pertain to the office you will be running for. Be honest with yourself on this list so that you will be prepared to promote your strengths and respond to your weaknesses effectively during the course of your campaign. Think about your education, work history, community service, military service and personal life.
Where Are Your Constituents?
You would be surprised by how many folks sign up to run for public office without really understanding where their constituents live. They will spend all of their time and energy promoting themselves to a piece of the population who can vote for or against them, while ignoring (whether purposely or not) another whole section of voters. Knowing the area represented by your potential office before you run will give you a sense of how much time, energy and money it might take to reach all of the potential voters in your race. Believe it or not, an election can come down to one or two votes, so it's important to connect with everyone you can.
Think About the Why Not?
You've thought about why you SHOULD run for office, but don't forget to give serious consideration to the "why not?". Do you really have enough time to spend on a good campaign? Do you really have the energy to run for office on top of everything else that you are already doing? Is now really a good time to do this? Is there a better time in the future? Are you ready personally, professionally, educationally, mentally and emotionally? Can you be fully committed to the campaign right now and to the office if you win?
Does Your Family Support This Decision?
Running for political office takes an immense amount of time, attention, commitment, energy and, yes, often money. Before you make the commitment and file your paperwork, talk it over seriously with your partner, your kids, and anyone else who you spend a significant amount of time with and is important in your life. Your family needs to be supportive of the time that you will need to be focused on your campaign, attending events, block walking. And they need to be okay with the budget that will be invested from your personal finances. If your family doesn't support your desire to run for office right now, it's probably best to wait for another day.
How Will You Accomplish Your Election Goals?
It's important to have a plan when running for office. Your campaign strategy can (and will) change and adjust throughout the course of the election cycle, but you need to draw out at least a basic plan before you sign up to officially run. Where and how will you find voters? How will you communicate with them? What will be your message? Why is that different from what other candidates might be doing? How many other candidates do you expect to face in the election? Will you be able to out work them? Will you build a team to help with your campaign? Who might be on your team and what tasks will you ask them to help with? Here's where setting up a basic timeline and flow chart can help you brainstorm important deadlines you might face.
How Much Do You Expect Your Campaign to Cost?
Now that you've thought a bit about your beginning strategy, it's time to put together a realistic budget. Again, this is an important area to really be honest with yourself about. Go to your list of ways that you want to connect with voters and make some phone calls to find out what type of money will be necessary for the different channels you would like to use. Alot of these numbers will be based on how many voters you are trying to reach, so you'll want to have a realistic estimate of folks who will likely vote in your election. Enter the information you collect in a spreadsheet, ledger or in a notebook... whatever works for you, but it's important to keep good notes so you will have a good estimate of expenses before you decide to move forward. As you are putting together your campaign budget, if the numbers begin to look too big for your own finances to cover, think about who you might speak to about donating to your campaign. If you aren't comfortable asking for donations, then you'll probably need to adjust your campaign strategy to include only those actions that you can personally afford.
Which Companies Will You Work With During Your Campaign?
As you are calling companies to build your campaign budget, be sure to keep notes about the conversations you have with each of those companies. What services can they provide? What are the costs? What type of lead time do they need or how quickly can they work? Are they a local company? Do they live in your district? Do they know anything about your voting base? Have they worked with political candidates before? What type of reputation do they have? It's important to begin building this list early so that you will be organized and ready to hit the ground running when your campaign kicks off!
Here at Right On The Money, we have been working with political candidates since 2005. We specialize in direct mail services including political red tag mail, postcards, senior mail ballot requests and oversized flat mail. Our voter lists come directly from our local counties: Harris, Fort Bend, Brazoria, Waller, Montgomery and Galveston. We can provide voter mailing lists based on previous election history, precincts, and districts. We can also provide custom walk lists so that you can meet your voters personally and speak with them face-to-face. Our other services for political candidates include signs, graphic design, printing, stickers and t-shirts. We have worked with candidates running for state representative, judge, sheriff, constable, mayor, city council, district attorney, county attorney, district clerk, county clerk, and school board. We also run a series of voter information guides: HarrisVoterInfo.com, FortBendVoterInfo.com, BrazoriaVoterInfo.com, MontgomeryVoterInfo.com, GalvestonVoterInfo.com, DallasVoterInfo.com, TarrantVoterInfo.com, CollinVoterInfo.com, DentonVoterInfo.com, BexarVoterInfo.com, TravisVoterInfo.com and ElPasoVoterInfo.com.
Feel free to take a look at our Political Mail Marketing page for more information about the services that we provide to candidates, and give us a call at 713.569.1369 if we can assist you. Best of luck in your campaign!