Lots of people think about running for office. Lots of people have great ideas about how their local, county, state, or national government should be run. Lots of people are passionate about certain issues or causes, and want to make a real difference by serving in government.
Sadly, very few who think about running for political office actually throw their hat into the ring and run. I’d guess that less than 1% of people who think about running actually do. Why is that? During my time in politics, I’ve identified three major roadblocks that keep people from running. Here they are… along with my best advice on how to overcome them:
1. I Have No Idea How to Get Started
Most people who think about running for office have never run before. They have never gotten on a ballot, never recruited volunteers, never built a campaign organization. In short, most people have no idea how to start.
Like everything worth doing, running for office is hard work… and there’s a learning curve. But it can be done — you can figure this out, and you can start a real, competitive campaign. The best ways to learn how to get your campaign started are to talk to people who have done it before, get involved in some campaigns as a volunteer, and read a guide like Local Victory’s Complete Guide to Getting Your Campaign off the Ground.
2. I Don’t Want to Fundraise
I know… nobody does. But fundraising is a fact of life. If you’re running for office because you want to make a positive difference… if your campaign is important… if you believe in what you are doing… then you have to get out there and raise money. No matter how small or local the office you are running for, it’s going to take money to get your campaign message out.
The best way to get started with your fundraising is by approaching those who know you best… your family, friends, colleagues, everyone on your holiday card list. Tell them why you are running, why your campaign is important, why you think you can win… and how much money you’ll need to do so. Then ask them to make a donation to help you win. This is the single best way to raise the seed money you need to start your run for office.
3. I don’t like the “Dirty” Side of Politics
Overcoming this one depends on what you mean by “dirty.” If you mean you don’t want to get involved with lies, corruption, and shady backroom deals, well then… you definitely should run, and stick to that commitment.
The truth is though that, despite the popular lore, most politicians are not involved in corruption, lies, and shadiness. Most politicians are in it for the right reasons. When most people say they don’t want to get involved in the “dirty” side of politics, what they really mean is that they don’t want to argue, tell people they are wrong, be partisan, and be “negative” by saying why their opponent shouldn’t be elected.
I’ve got news for you… people in politics deal with big, important issues. Life and death, war and peace, financial stability and national bankruptcy, educating our children and keeping our streets safe. And politicians have honest, real, deeply held convictions on these issues… and these convictions lead them to disagree with one another.
If you think a war is worth fighting and another elected official thinks it is not… shouldn’t you “argue” about that? Isn’t your position worth vigorously defending?
If you think the kids in your neighborhood aren’t safe because there aren’t enough cops… or after school programs… or crossing guards… but the town council thinks things are fine as they are, shouldn’t you stand up and say, “No!”?
Arguing about policy, telling why your opponent’s views (on policy) are wrong, telling people why your positions are better, and comparing your solutions to your opponent’s ideas… these things aren’t “dirty.” They’re what make the political process work. If your ideas are important, then get out there, throw your hat in the ring, and fight for them by running for office.