Running for office is not for the faint of heart.
Political campaigns have a pace, energy, and momentum that is unmatched by nearly any other professional activity. In politics, you have the good fortune of engaging with an entire cross-section of your community - from CEOs of major companies to the single parent and working family. You are in the know and will have your pulse on everything happening in your broader world.
On the other hand, campaigns require lots of work. Like any superhero, a candidate’s day is just beginning when the workday ends. As a candidate, you will give up your free time and will spend much less time with friends, family, and loved ones. There will be nights you lay awake anxiously thinking about the next day, and there will be rumors in your community about you, sometimes good and sometimes bad, said by people you don’t know or may never meet.
While running for office takes courage and commitment, for those willing to dive in and do the work, it will be one of the most rewarding and exciting times in your life. It's why many of us who have been around politics call it the campaign bug.
So if you are thinking about running for office, here are a few questions you should ask yourself before jumping in.
Is your family, partner, and spouse on board?
Campaigns are often hardest on your spouse. You will spend lots of nights and weekends, especially in the fall, away from your family. Your spouse will carry your weight around the house, ranging from the household chores to raising your kids. As the campaign gets public, he or she will feel like they are in the spotlight, whether they want to be or not. Making sure your loved ones on board and will both support your efforts and give you the emotional support you are going to need to succeed.
Are you willing to ask for money?
Campaigns require money, and candidates need to fundraise to be successful. Additionally, while you may receive some donations from typical political donors, the reality is most of your money will come from your friends, family, and personal network. To be successful in your campaign, you need to be comfortable calling, sitting down with, and directly asking your friends and family for money.
Do you have the time to run for office?
Running for office takes a lot of time, and the candidate’s time is generally unpaid. Your nights and weekends will be filled with talking to voters, attending community events, and raising money. You’ll need to squeeze in time during the day to work with vendors, meet with potential donors, review advertising materials, attend forums, etc. Make sure your job and personal life can handle those additional commitments.
Am I ok being in the public eye?
As a candidate, your Facebook and social media posts will be scrutinized. Comments you have made and personal posts are likely to become public, so be ready to stand by them. While less likely in local elections, depending on how competitive your seat is you should be prepared for any public financial or court to become broadly known by your community. If there is anything you might be embarrassed by, if your neighbor or church congregation knew, you might want to hold off running for office.
Why am I running for office?
This seems like it should be the simplest, but quite often candidates at all levels struggle to articulate why they are running for office. When you tell people you are running, it is inevitable the first question they ask, so make sure you have a good answer. To help you with this, check out FundHero’s previous post about drafting your campaign’s personal statement here.
You can also learn more about running for office here.