One of the first questions I get asked by people who are thinking about running for political office is, “When should I start my campaign?”

This is a tricky question.  Generally, the answer is: you should start your campaign early… as early as possible.   As a rule, modern political campaigns are starting earlier and earlier.  The larger the office you are running for, the earlier you should start.

The best way to figure out that date by which you absolutely have to start your campaign is to ask some people in your area who are involved in the political process, and also to take a look at when the campaign of the current incumbent of the office you are seeking started last time out… then start two months earlier.  Of course, if old political hands are telling you that you need to start even earlier than that, by all means do so.

It really is never too early to start your efforts.  You probably want to wait until this year’s Election Day has passed before announcing that you are running for office next year (meaning that you don’t publicly announce that you are running for office in November, 2018 until after Election Day, 2017)… but just because you can’t do a public announcement does not mean that you have to wait to start your campaign efforts.  There are several things that you should be doing… now… to prepare to run for office, even if your election campaign is years away:

Go to Meetings – Be sure to go to all the meetings that you can within your district.  The goal of attending these meetings is to get up to speed on the issues facing your community, and to meet those people who are most involved in political and civic issues in your area.  Consider meetings such as local and county government meetings, service organizations, issues groups and civic association meetings.

Sit Down with Decision Makers – Motivational speaker Harvey Mackay says the best time to dig a well is before you’re thirsty.  In other words, lay the foundation you’ll need to run before you need it.  Sit down with local decision makers, elected and political party officials, and people who write checks to local political campaigns in your area to discuss the issues, let them know that you’re thinking of running, and begin a dialogue that can continue through Election Day.

Research – For each of the issues that are important in your area, create a binder with news clippings, magazine articles, notes from books you’ve read and meetings you’ve attended.  Start to get a handle on the statistics and key players for each issue.

Practice Your People Skills – Running for office take a lot of smiling, speech-making, phone calls and listening.  Start practicing now.  Make a few speeches to groups in your area.  Call some local opinion leaders just to listen.  Learn to smile and be an active listener when people are sharing their grassroots concerns with you.

It’s really never to early to start your campaign efforts.  Even if you are a year or more away from announcing your candidacy, once you know you want to run you can begin working to make that dream a reality.

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