You are having thoughts that you may do a better job than the person in office …
You have a specific cause you are passionate about ...
You believe in the idea of making meaningful changes and public service ...
You are considering a run for public office. But, in today’s world of heated partisan politics, 24-hour news cycles and high-cost elections, do you want to enter the fray? Here are some factors to think about before you head to the filing office.
FAMILY FIRST When a candidate begins a bid for any political post, whether it’s a local school board or the US Presidency, the entire family is affected. Sometimes, local offices can be even more personal as there are often close relationships to take into account. You will see people at your local grocery, at community events and on the stump—some may agree with you, some may not. Making sure your family understands this FIRST is essential.
Both you and your family will be in the public eye. Making sure you have answers for anything that may be considered a “skeleton in the closet” ahead of time will save you stress and aggravation. The candidate as well as the family members must be ready to answer questions that will come up around personal and financial decisions made in the past. Doing some online digging to see what surfaces will help you stay ahead of this.
YOUR WHY The question “What is your Why?” has been hot the past few years for businesses, thanks to "Start With Why" (and Ted Talk "How Great Leaders Inspire Action") by Simon Sinek. It raises a very valuable consideration in the political realm as well. Why are you considering a run for office? Is there a cause you are passionate about? Is there a segment of the population you think are not being represented? Do you think you could do better than the current person in that position? Take a few minutes to consider this—watch the Ted Talk by Sinek and make some notes.
I recently spoke to a state representative that commented to me “Remembering why I ran in the first place is what helps me every day.” In my own case study, the opportunity to bring value to the position was the overwhelming reason people stated they would run for office. To take part in this case study, follow this link. CHOOSE WHICH RACE TO RUN Once you know what your WHY is, what you are passionate about, now is the time to decide what position you’d like to run for. There are many factors that go into this decision. I speak more about this in Choose Your Race, but will highlight some major factors here.
Some things are obvious—I have no children, so I would not be a great, passionate candidate for the school board. However, if the quality of your child’s lunch is a concern of yours, this position would be more suited to you. If there is an incumbent that is very popular, it may be an uphill battle. Perhaps there is another position that someone is running unopposed or for the first time. Also, consider things like geographic boundaries, ethnic and political makeup of the district as well as how much candidates have spent in the past to win the seat.
CAN YOU AFFORD IT? Money, Money, Money—yes, a lot of politics is about money. Not only how much will this cost you, but how much of your own money do you have and are you allowed (legally) to spend on this race. Check with the Campaign Finance Board to ensure you are within the regulations for a particular seat. While the 2016 Presidential seat did not go the biggest spender, a lot of the House and Senate seats did. According to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission, an average winning Senate candidate had spent $10.4 million (!) through Oct. 19th, 2016.
Time, Time, Time—you are now considering one of the most time-consuming endeavors of your life! Is your current full-time career ready for this as well as your family? From day one you will be meeting and attempting to win over hundreds, if not thousands (if not tens of thousands), of potential voters. You will be raising money, attending meetings, making speeches, surviving attacks from your opponent while not tripping yourself up, all while gracefully handling the inevitable conflicts in your professional and personal life. For more about getting help with this, follow this link. Then, yes, you might win! What will your life look like after you win the seat? Are there time and money considerations involved? What might this position cost you personally and professionally? This is a great time to reach out to people that currently hold, or have just left, a similar position. Having these conversations during the decision-phase of your run will also solidify these mentors as allies—which you can never have enough of!
HOW THICK IS YOUR SKIN? While one of my goals with this blog, as well as my Political Leaders Coaching Package, is to help elevate the level of civil discorse in the political arena, it has always been considered a hostile environment.
People really don't care if politicians attack each other with untrue stories. They figure if you don't want to get hurt, you shouldn't have filed for office. They figure whatever happens to us, our lives will be better than theirs. BILL CLINTON, speech at Campus Progress National Student Conference, July 13, 2005
All jesting aside, when running for office you need to be ready for attacks on your character, integrity and decision-making. This is another aspect of the decision that requires the complete buy-in of your family, staff, team and volunteers. If you are not prepared for this, you should find another way to be of service to your community.
ASKING FOR MONEY – ALL THE TIME Finally, you need to wrap your head around the fact that you will be asking for money—regularly. As discussed above, campaigns are expensive. Survival is based on having enough money to stay in the game. From the first discovery meeting you hold in your living room, to your (victory) party the day of the election, you will be asking people to contribute. Get comfortable, get humble, and get on board!
In High Ground Coaching and Development’s Case Study, fundraising needs is in the top three of “Reasons I would not run for office.” Making the ask for financial support can be disarming, preparing ahead for this reality will assure your success and longevity within the campaign season.
If you can answer in the affirmative to all these things, then get ready for the ride of your life!
The only motive that can keep politics pure is the motive of doing good for one's country and its people. HENRY FORD, "Party Politics," Ford Ideals