Running for Office with the National Democratic Training Committee

Running for office is no small feat. It takes time, energy, and determination. The duty of a public servant is to represent and serve the people. But, before holding office, they have to run as a candidate. 

Many contemplate running for office, but few take the necessary steps to start. If you’ve volunteered for local nonprofits or advocated for community-based issues, you might be a great contender for public office.

The National Democratic Training Committee’s (NDTC) mission is to serve those who want to change in their community, but lack the strategy and resources. Many think running for office is beyond reach. They think you need expensive consultants to win races. The truth is, anyone can run for office and be competitive in an election with our tools. 

Like anything else, running an effective campaign is a skill, and skills can be taught. Qualifying to run is the first step. A prospective candidate needs to meet the board of elections’ requirements for the specific seat. After this, they can begin the decision-making process—asking questions, identifying their values, talking to family, friends, employers, etc. Most candidates must juggle families and careers while making the bid. Once the decision is made, the fun begins: building the campaign core message, raising funds, and securing votes.

2020 brought an unprecedented amount of diverse representation across the nation. Democrat Sarah McBride is set to serve as the nation’s first transgender state senator. Iman Jodeh was elected to become Colorado’s first-ever Muslim lawmaker. And, Cori Bush is the first Black Congresswoman elected in Missouri’s history. 

NDTC trained 365 candidates who won races in the 2020 Election. Considering the wins from first-time candidates and candidates who broke glass ceilings, the question shouldn’t be “Why me?” Instead ask, “Why not, me?” 

Ask Questions

Ask yourself the right questions and research running for office.  Knowing who you are and what you bring to the table is key in strengthening your viability as a candidate. 

Ask questions of the community. Addressing issues that concern constituents will chart a path to victory. 

While running for office is challenging, the reward lies in serving the people. 

Identify Your Values 

A candidate’s core message consists of their values and the issues that directly affect the community’s quality of life. Health care, education, minimum wage are just a few issues candidates can address in their run for office. 

The candidate’s vision outlines what a candidate wants to do and the plan to achieve those goals once elected. The campaign’s role is to get voters to believe in the candidate. If voters believe in campaign promises, they will turn out on election day. 

It all starts with values.

Research State, County, and Local Offices

It’s important to ask, “What office do I want to win?” And, “What office can I run for?” The board of elections in each state, county, and local office has requirements candidates must meet. 

Find the local election office website and make sure you check all the boxes.

What’s the story? 

Once a candidate’s name is on the ticket, their background becomes open to the public. Community involvement, level of education, past jobs and experiences are all applicable to  political office. 

These things matter because voters want to see themselves in their leaders. Looking at past elections, the character of a candidate is central to the political conversation.  

Spend time crafting a story of self. What do the headlines say once the bid is announced? Make sure to account for everything you bring to the table. The candidate will represent the entire community. This means, to earn votes, constituents must be able to connect with the candidate. But, don’t try to be all things to all people. That’s disingenuous. Remain authentic and tell your story.

Get Started with NDTC

Take Our Course

Start with the course So You Think You Want to Run. Founder and CEO Kelly Dietrich walks  through the decision-making process and fundamentals in running for office. Stories from elected officials describe in detail what it’s like to run. Kelly also gives advice on talking to family and loved ones, as their lives will be affected. 

Watch “Do You Want To Run For Office” VLT

NDTC periodically hosts virtual live trainings (VLT) on running for office. Through these interactive, online events, Democratic leaders can prepare for their upcoming bids. Listen to first-hand perspective from our trainers on what running for office is like. This VLT recording features trainer Sammi Brown—politician and public affairs strategist from West Virginia. 

Take the 30-Day Challenge  

Challenge yourself to run for office. If you’re thinking about it, there must be a need. Communities across the country benefit from having more Democratic leaders. And, the field of Democrats welcomes fresh ideas. 

We know a thing or two about running for office and leading effective campaigns. We even have more resources for you, if this article wasn’t enough. 

Each year, we do a 30-Day challenge to help Democrats decide if running for office is right for them. Sign up here to build a roadmap that leads to success on Election Day! 

Take The 30-Day Challenge

In addition, we have written about running for office before! Take a look at our past articles below to dive deeper into the election discussion. We’re here to help realize your potential as a candidate and win your upcoming race. 

Need motivation? We got you covered. Be like Obama. 

Be like Obama: Run For Office (2 Min Read)

Dig in to the decision-making process with these important factors to consider. 

How to Decide Which Office to Run For? (5 Min Read)
Urban vs. Suburban vs. Rural (4 Min Read)
Family Matters (3 Min Read)

Here are fundamentals to get you up to speed quickly.

Get The Training You Need (3 Min Read)
The Political Dictionary (9 Min Read)

Ready to build a plan and check some boxes? 

Requirement to Run for Public Office as a Democrat (2 Min Read)
Your Campaign Timeline (2 Min Read)

Let’s craft a story of self. 

What’s Your Message? (2 Min Read)
Keep Your Message Local (2 Min Read)

Every campaign needs a team.
Building Your Kitchen Cabinet (4 Min Read)
Keepers of the Keys to the Democratic Party (4 Min Read)

Next Live Training

NDTC Virtual Live Training

January 25, 2021

1:00pm - 2:00pm (ET)

Online Academy

The training and tools you need, when you need them. Courses are available 24/7. Are you a candidate, campaign staffer or volunteer, at the beginning stages of your campaign or in the home stretch? We have the courses to address your specific needs and arm you with the knowledge to win.

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Not sure where to start? Take a short quiz to help you determine the best place for you to get started.

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