Unless the first thing you did when you came to my web site was read my bio (unlikely), you may not know that The Campaign Coach is a fiction author, as well. I’ve published a few novels that, as you might imagine, are always influenced by politics in some way or another.
Recently, I started work on my next book, a political thriller, and wrote one of the early chapters in which the main character reveals to his wife that he’s interested in running for Mayor in his city. I’ve been around enough candidates over the past 20 years that I have a pretty good idea of how this conversation goes, and the motivations behind it. To bring that dialogue into the fiction world for me was incredibly relevant to what you might actually be going through right now.
So, what’s 2021 have in store for you?
As public as running for office is, your reason for doing so is a very personal matter. It’s easy to get lost in the numbers, because in the U.S. there are more than 80,000 jurisdictions that have local elections. Meaning that a lot of people run for office. But even with that volume, a campaign is, in many ways, a personal journey.
What’s Your Personal Motivation and Why Does it Matter?
That personal journey is exactly what we ask our candidates to start with when they say they want to run. Sure, there’s a lot to get to: fundraising and chicken barbecues and shaking hands and kissing babies. But none of that matters if your personal journey isn’t well-defined.
From our experience, people run for office for just a few possible reasons:
- They feel a calling – While the concept may get lost in today’s national and media political rhetoric, becoming a public servant is a very honorable thing to do. At the local level, for usually a pretty low stipend, you’re offering a lot of time, energy and probably aggravation in order to make your community a better place.
- They want to get something specific done – On The Campaign Coach Podcast, we’ve interviewed a bunch of candidates who ran for local office for the express purpose of accomplishing something in their community. How do we know this? It’s the first question we ask, because answering “why?” is the most important foundation for building your campaign. Want a great story? Check out former Java, NY Councilman Trace George’s interview.
- They’re frustrated with the status quo – Many times this is party driven, but sometimes the folks in office just aren’t doing a good job. “Change” is probably the most often-used buzzword in political campaigns, for good reason. It can be a powerful message if the community agrees with your point-of-view.
- They want to run for higher office – While I’ve worked on campaigns from U.S. Congress to village trustee, The Campaign Coach’s heart is in local government. This isn’t my favorite motivation for someone running for office, because it’s not the most compelling to voters (who are more astute than you think), but if you have your sights set on something bigger – hopefully for one of these other motivations that higher office will allow you to achieve – the best way to get there is to have a great message about how you’re going to impact your community in this office first, and then deliver results.
- They’re asked/cajoled/persuaded/dragged – Just because you’d make a great public servant doesn’t always mean you’re interested in the job. Some of the best candidates are the ones who the local political committee or some group of supporters requested to run. How could any political endeavor be more selfless? There’s a caveat here, though, for newbie candidates. Make sure that you understand why you’re being asked. If it’s because you’re the right candidate, and the group is going to put you in a position to actually win the election, that’s a great way to start. If you’re being asked to throw your name into an empty space on the ballot (possibly to help another candidate win something else), probably best to give this one a pass.
Yes, if you get more into the weeds, I’m sure you can find some other motivations that people have (Do people really run for office, say, to promote their private business? Sure they do!), but we’ve found these are the buckets that candidates fall into.
Getting Your Campaign Started on the Right Foot!
You may already have decided you’re moving forward with a campaign 2020, or you may be in the research and introspection phase. Either way, locking down why you’re running – what you hope to accomplish – and how you’re going to communicate it for the next however-many months, will pay dividends for you on Election Day.
The Campaign Coach can help you through that process, (and everything else from now through Election Day, too)! Get things started by grabbing my free e-book, “The 7 Campaign-Killing Mistakes that First-Time Candidates Make.”