Group of volunteers
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So, you have read Part 1 of this series and running for office is something you think you want to do. Here are some more points to consider.

Running for Office — You have decided to toss your hat in the ring

If you have not been dissuaded from running for office, then maybe you have the fortitude. Or, perhaps you like David and Goliath battles.

Determination will be the key.

As the candidate, you will be responsible for everything. The initial step of filling out the application rests solely on your shoulders. This is a detailed job application, and a background check will be conducted.

This is your official request to be a representative of the people, and they want to know your history. They have a right to know.

Running For Office: Privacy is over

Journalists will request copies of all applications for office, and they can be relentless in their digging. Do not lie about anything on your application because you will get caught — and hopefully sooner rather than after you win. Your past and your life will be open to the public and fair game for the media. As a result, your right to privacy will be diminished significantly once you submit your paperwork. If you are married, good luck convincing your spouse to live in the public spotlight.

You are now, officially, a public figure. Get to work on making your skin much, much thicker. Expect a barrage of criticism.

Notwithstanding the application, the candidate is responsible for filing the appropriate reports to either the Federal Elections Commission (FEC), or state authority overseeing campaign finance regulations. Candidates are also required to gather signatures from eligible voters within their respective jurisdictions in order to qualify to get on the ballot. That number is determined by the number of registered voters in your district. The Secretary of State in your state is responsible for determining that number.

Get to work on this immediately because it is the cornerstone of your campaign effort.

Running for Office: Building your foundation

Needless to say, a candidate does not get on the ballot by filling out paperwork. The voters determine who is worthy to have their name on the ballot. This should be the first plan of action for any campaign.

For a congressional election, it is common to need a minimum of 2,000 signatures from eligible voters to enter the primary in your state. Local state elections typically require close to 1,500 signatures, since it is a smaller jurisdiction versus a federal election. In order to meet these requirements, campaigns have to have a buffer of several hundred extra names in case any are rejected or found to be ineligible.

You can hire organizations to canvass and get your signatures. Paying for this service relieves the burden of putting in the effort to get in front of voters. The downside is voters are equally relieved of the burden of meeting candidates. It serves as a disconnect between the candidate and the people they represent in order to get elected. It is also losing out on a prime opportunity to connect with constituents to raise funds.

Running for Office: Lead the way

When the candidate is leading the effort to get their name on the ballot, it shows a desire to serve the people. Getting out in the community and meeting the people you wish to support and endorse your campaign establishes that connection. There is more of a “grassroots” feeling about your campaign, a sense of genuineness. Someone shaking hands and talking to voters evokes an image of “rolling up their shirt sleeves.”

Gathering your own signatures requires time and effort. This begs the question, how will you campaign and meet the obligations a personal life demands? Unless you are financially independent, the bills at home need to be paid, and that requires an income. Will you be the candidate that has to work forty hours a week and still campaign?are you prepared to make that investment?

Running for Office: This is going to take teamwork

Obviously, a campaign is going to need help. For a candidate that has a desire to serve, but does not have any money, they will need an effective strategy. That strategy is can be summed up in one word.


I am not speaking only about the candidate, but the passion of the people. Within this cluster of frustrated, suppressed and abused citizen, the forgotten want a voice. They want to be heard.

Volunteers mean grassroots.  And grassroots means involving people in the district who are not empowered. This means reaching out to the non-voter because they have been ignore and under represented. They feel they do not matter, so why vote?

These are the people you must reach, connect with and invigorate. That is what great leaders do. Making relationships with these eligible voters is where victory lies. People who feel they have something to gain will engage in the process. Embrace them through the issues that are important to them.

Work demands  and daily life leave only so much time for campaigning. Having the right team in your campaign is crucial to getting everything accomplished. Your initial group of helpers will be the volunteers that canvass their neighborhoods to get signatures to place your name on the ballot. They stand in front of stores, attend community events and knock on a lot of doors. You should, too.

In my previous article in the series, I talked about timing. Catching that train is all about “when.” The earlier you start getting signatures on your petitions, the sooner you will become an official candidate running for office.

We will discuss who leads the charge of the campaign in Part 3.

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Gene Smith

Gene Smith is a Chief Campaign Strategist living in Arizona. He is a Juris Doctor, and host of the podcast "Hanging With Uncle"

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