Campaigns are won by candidates — not lawn signs, algorithms, secret plans or Svengali-like consultants. All things being equal (and by things we mean money), the best candidate usually wins. Your candidacy is defined by how prepared you are, how focused you are and how you conduct yourself over the course of your campaign.
Be honest with yourself about whether or not you’re prepared to meet the level of commitment that will be needed for your campaign to be successful.
Make sure your family (and your boss) is with you.
If your spouse or partner hates the idea of a run for office, please don’t make yourselves miserable. If your kids are really young and you, and only you, can take care of them, it is okay to wait a few years. If your boss isn’t going to give you a little leeway and you need your job, get a new job or wait awhile. The point here is running is already hard; don’t make it impossible because you can’t give it the time it takes to run a successful campaign.
Consider joining some appropriate organizations.
We are not recommending a resume hustle here — people will see through that. But if you are a female candidate, you probably do want to become a member of EMILY’s List. If you want to get the Sierra Club endorsement, you should be a member. Don’t go overboard — but selectively joining the right five or six organizations as soon as possible will help.
If you are still some time away from your own race, volunteer on another campaign of a like-minded candidate.
You will get a sense of what to do (and probably what not to do). To the extent you can, walk your own precinct and neighborhood — it is a great way to introduce yourself to your own neighbors and build your own “base.” The more you practice, the better you will be.
Give your campaign enough time to succeed.
The story you might have heard about the person who decided to run at the last minute and overcame the “powers that be” is a nice story, but it almost never works out that way. It is a whole lot better to have six months to get your message out than 90 days. It is even better to have a whole year. In other words, within reason, earlier is almost always better. Give yourself time to win by launching your campaign as early as possible, particularly if you are a first-time candidate.
PRO TIP: If you’re not sure if you want to run for office, become a “super volunteer” on a campaign. Work your way up from walking precincts to running phone banks to helping with fundraising. See how it feels from the inside before you leap in yourself.
Think you’re ready to run? Want to learn more? Download our Campaign Playbook to help you build a winning political campaign from the ground up and be on the lookout for more from our Pathway to Victory series.