The 2017 elections are barely over – in fact in some states the campaign filings from the recent elections aren’t even due yet! But local candidates all across the country already have their sights set on 2018, no matter whether their races are in March, May, August or November.
Is 2018 your year?
I’m guessing that you have at least mild interest, or you wouldn’t be on this page. With that assumption, let me give you a few reasons why getting started early can benefit your efforts when Election Day does roll around.
You Can’t Have Enough Name Recognition
Local candidates who have the benefit of polling (most don’t) often are shocked by a simple truth early in their campaigns: no one has any idea who they are.
You may be the president of the little league, head of the PTA and on the board of trustees for Our Lady of Perpetual Help, but chances are when you kick off your campaign, unless you’re in a very small community, your name recognition is going to be between 10-15%. Since you have an interest in politics, it’s a safe bet to assume that you realize 10-15% is not enough to win an election, so your first priority is trying to get as many people in your village/town/city to know who you are.
Getting started early on your campaign can help big time!
Even if you don’t formally announce, getting out into your community early and talking with voters individually or at community events will pay dividends, even if your election is still a year away.
You’ll Have to Raise Money for Your Campaign Anyway
It stands to reason that the more time you spend working on fundraising, the better you’ll do.
That makes it sound easier than it is, but fundraising for political campaigns is like a snowball – the more momentum you have, the bigger your campaign account gets. Remember that, for many different reasons, people want to back a winner. It’s a lot easier to raise funds when your fundraising effort is already successfully in motion.
You need cash in the bank!
Local races are getting more and more expensive, and if you’re in-it-to-win-it, you have to be aggressive in your fundraising.
Name recognition and political fundraising go hand-in-hand when it comes your local race. If you think it’s a lot of work to get people who don’t know you to vote for you, try convincing them to give you money. Letting the community know, either informally or formally, that you’re seeking office will open the door to conversations that you wouldn’t otherwise have access to.
Wouldn’t It Be Nice to Elbow Other Candidates Out of the Way?
Every time you watch Olympic gymnastics or figure skating or any other judged event, the announcers talk about the disadvantage of being the first to go, and not wanting to have everyone else’s scores based off of yours. In local politics, the opposite is true, especially if you’re able to come out of the gate with some success and, as a result, momentum.
For an open seat, or even a primary within your own party, when you’re the first candidate working toward Election Day, anyone else considering a run gets an immediate understanding that you’re the one they have to contend with. They will evaluate your name recognition, your ability to fundraise, your work ethic and everything else about you before making the decision to even run. A strong showing is an advantage that may chase away opponents before they even have a chance to seriously look at the race. In these cases, we always encourage our candidates to throw a big fundraiser early on, and put great effort into making it a success. It sends a message.
If you’re running against an incumbent, you’re already facing an uphill battle, so any additional time you give yourself will benefit you. Incumbents have the advantage of weekly public meetings, the ability to speak on his or her record, and often coverage in local news. Telling voters you’re a better person for the job is much, much harder than telling voters you’re the right person for the job. Get on it early!
A word of caution: If you’re path to election goes through a local party, it’s wise to engage them in the conversation if you plan to announce early. Sometimes a rogue candidate, even with the best of intentions, can come across as presumptuous and can ruffle feathers, causing roadblocks to be built. That’s not to say that kind of reaction is a deal-killer, but by having the conversation, at least you know whether you can enjoy the party’s backing early, or if you’re on your own, at least for the time being.
For the 2016 presidential elections, Republican Ted Cruz announced his candidacy on March 23, 2015 – that was 596 before the election would actually take place. While local campaigns haven’t gotten to that level yet, we’re hearing of people announcing their candidacies more than a year before Election Day, and the likelihood is it will only continue to get more competitive. If 2018 is your year – and I hope it is, because I love active participation in local politics! – it won’t hurt you to get a jump on the campaign as soon as possible.
The other advantage of starting early is that when you purchase The Campaign Coach’s Complete Campaign Kit, you are automatically enrolled in my Membership Program (normally $97/month). By signing up early, you maximize your benefit in the program. Check it out today!