How to Run for Public Office

by Contributor

Whether you're seeking a seat on the local school board or a term as U.S. president, running for office is a challenging endeavor. Being successful requires careful attention to detail, a rigorous schedule and a lot of volunteers who believe in you.

Choose the office you want to run for. While the idea of being president may be tempting, it's always best to start on a local or state level.

Check the qualifications for the office. At a minimum, this usually means that you must be a registered voter in the geographical area in which you are running; there may also be age, residency or experience qualifications.

Commission a public opinion poll. The purpose of the poll is to find out how many voters know and are willing to vote for you, and what issues the voting public is most concerned about. The results of the poll will help you plan your strategy for the campaign.

Find someone to manage your campaign. This person will help you coordinate all aspects of your campaign, from raising funds to defining issues to organizing volunteers. The more politically savvy this person is, the better.

Decide the issues on which you'll base your campaign. These should be decided in accordance with the aforementioned poll and on the basis of your strengths and commitment.

Raise money. While your campaign manager and other staff can help with this, you will need to spend a lot of time contacting people to request their monetary support.

Start a Web site. Include biographical information, your stand on the issues and information about how to make contributions to your campaign.

File the required papers to get yourself on the ballot. Procedures for doing this vary by city, county and state. A filing fee may also be required.

Get as many volunteers as you can to work for your campaign. They can walk precincts, make phone calls, distribute signs and stuff envelopes.

Order campaign items such as bumper stickers, yard signs, lapel buttons, posters, rally signs and magnets. Also order literature to be mailed.

Use the press, posters, brochures, rallies and personal gatherings to get the word out about your qualifications, your stand on the issues and your integrity. All of these activities should be coordinated by your campaign manager and done with the help of volunteers.

Items you will need

  • Newspaper Subscriptions
  • Political Magazines

Tips

  • Almost all of the above can be done by a political consulting firm that will manage campaigns, raise funds, carry out public opinion polls and otherwise advise and direct your efforts. Cost varies according to what you want done, but these companies can be invaluable if you can afford them.
  • Concentrate on getting the vote out in the last days before the election.
  • Here is an example of specific qualifications for an office: A candidate for California state senator must be at least 30 years old, a U.S. citizen for nine years, and a resident of California.

Warnings

  • There are no guarantees in politics. Even if you handle everything perfectly, you still stand the chance of losing.
  • Keep in mind that when you run for office, personal matters can become fodder for pundits, opponents and the public at large.

Photo Credits

  • Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images