Choosing the Right Political Office to Run for -

You already know that running for office is the best way to make a difference in your community. Making the decision to roll up your sleeves and put yourself out there as a candidate is the first step! You’ve already asked yourself, “Should I run for office?”. But now you begin the process of choosing an office to run for. Which office is right for you, and why that one in particular? 

Align Your “Why” with the “What”

The elected office you run for serves your passion, skillset, and experience all at the same time. Each candidate starts at their “Why” statement and ends at identifying which political office they should run for. Checking the responsibilities and seeing where in the governmental system that position lies will be key in your selection process. Will you have the ability to enact the specific changes you want to see in your community?

Running for office embarks upon a long, and oftentimes, exhausting campaign journey. At a certain point, you will have walked tens, if not hundreds, of miles around the neighborhoods in your community. Your campaign will have asked thousands of people for their support through their vote, time, or donation. When your feet hurt and you’ve been told “no” five times in a row, stay centered in your mission. Remembering why you’re running for office and what you’re hoping to accomplish when you do win is the best way to get through difficult moments.

Your “why” should be at the forefront of your decision. It’s the fire in your belly that keeps you moving. So, run for a position that allows you to work tirelessly on the issues that matter to you. Through your work, you’re developing a stronger, healthier community for you and your loved ones. It’ll make those early mornings and late nights worth it. 

Find Your Key Issue

At any given time, politicians at multiple levels are working on the same issue to affect change through specific policies under their purview. For example, if you’re motivated to increase the budget size of your local public school district, you might be better suited to run for city council versus state legislature. We know there’s impactful work to be done at the local level, so don’t count out those down ballot seats. Those offices can be just as powerful, so research all of your options.

Articulating your campaign’s core message connects you, as the candidate, directly to the issues. Dive deeper with our course, Crafting Your Message. There you’ll learn how to stay on message, tell compelling stories, and communicate effectively with virtually any audience. Using your personal story to guide your campaign crystallizes who you are as a leader. It also clearly conveys why you are the right candidate to run for that office in particular. 

Compare Offices

Now that you’ve identified the issue that gets you on the edge of your seat, pinpoint what elected office addresses the problem. What are the policies mandating how a certain issue is handled, and who develops those for your city, county, or state? 

Through research, you may find that some elected officials took stances on issues or helped enforce policies that hindered progress. If you, at any point, question or do not approve of those actions, run for office and replace them. 

Keep doing your research and find out:

  • When is that position up for election next?
  • Are you eligible to run for it?
  • Is the incumbent running again, or will it be an open seat?
  • Will you be battling another Democrat (the incumbent or others already eyeing the seat) in a primary, or are you likely to be the only Democrat in the race?

We have some resources to help you with this part of the process. One of which is our chart below! Another resource from Nation Builder allows you to enter your address to see a list of offices in your area. (Note: This may not be an exhaustive list, so we recommend doing your own research alongside offices in your area!) 

Flowchart describing the different offices at the different levels of US Government.

Remember, no chart answers which political office you should run for. These serve as merely a guide in your decision-making. And, don’t fret. It may take you a few weeks to decide. Know that an endeavor as big as this deserves a lot of thought behind it. 

Consider Constraints

Chances are you aren’t a career politician with unlimited time and money to spend on your campaign and position. Most people who run for office have plenty of other important commitments like their family and jobs. It’s important to consider your constraints—both time and financial—in your decision of which political office to run for. Some of the largest considerations come in the form of:

  • Time Commitments. How much time can you all dedicate to the campaign and if you’re elected?
  • Geography. Will this position require a lot of traveling, how will that affect your life and family?  
  • Finances. Will this campaign and/or position negatively affect your income, and how will you make up this income?
  • Public Access. Are you and your family willing to be the subject of public attention?
  • Family Dynamic. Are your loved ones willing to get involved with your race and how will your family respond to the pressures of running?

Remember, we’re only human. Recognizing these limits is never a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of proactive, responsible planning on your part. This also by no means indicates that busy people can’t run for office. 

Every office comes with its own unique set of commitments. So, you should consider what you’re willing and able to give to a position. Therefore, if you have limited time, you probably don’t want to launch a Congressional campaign—nearly a full-time job. As U.S. Senator Dick Durbin once highlighted, running for a part-time office can often be the best option for you, 

 “For some people, it’s the right thing to do because you can do it part-time—run locally for school board, city council… and still keep your business going, keep your obligations to your family secure.” – Dick Durbin

 

Even if the answers to some of those questions are difficult, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t run for that office. Look at Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the 28-year-old Democrat who beat and unseated the fourth-ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives in New York’s 2018 primary election. It can be done.

The Time Is Now

Maybe you’re passionate about education. Your local School Board would be a perfect office for you to consider. Perhaps you’re motivated by local, municipal issues. Your City Council or county commission would be a great place to affect change. What matters is that you’re ready, willing, and capable of making the change you want to see. 

Public service is all about motivated individuals who choose to use their skills and passions to enact change in their communities. You are one of those individuals. So run for a position where you can pursue your passion, strengthen our democracy, and build stronger, healthier, and progressive communities! 
RUN FOR OFFICE

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