View Full Version : How To Run For Local Office

01-19-2009, 11:23 AM
I received this book from Amazon the other day, and so far, it is great.

I think this will be a great guide for those of us entering into politics.

Here is a brief rundown of what I have learned so far:
Things you should ask yourself:
Why do you want to run?
Are you running based on one issue?
Are you running because you don't like the other candidates?
Are you running for the money?

If you come to the conclusion you are going to run you should:
go to all the council meetings, budget sessions, and special study sessions
learn who all the players are
watch how citizens react to the different issues going on
don't make the mistake that your issues will be the issues of the majority

Things you need to consider:
campaigning will consume most of your time
the unemployed or retired that are running will have an advantage of the working
during the campaign, you will miss most dinners with your family
during the campaign, you will miss most events with your children
you have to ask people for money
you and your family need to be prepared for shabby treatment
people will say terrible things about you
you must be able to handle the negative things people will do to you
you can't buy an election, but you can definitely buy votes.
you can loan your campaign money from your own account and pay it back from donations

All this is just in the first two chapters!

I've just started chapter three, which details where to go to get the necessary paperwork to fill out, how to fill out the paperwork, how to get signatures, etc.

btw, I am running for county commissioner in 2010 and I have already started some of the things listed in this book. I have joined the local republican party and will be a member of the republican executive committee soon.

Here is a link to the book at amazon:

01-22-2009, 09:30 AM
OK, I'm through to Chapter 5. Here's an outline of the past three chapters:

Chp 3: Get Organized
Make your first stop the Clerk's office. Get all the information you need for running for office. There will be a good deal of paperwork to fill out.
If you need to fill out petitions as a qualification to run, get at least 10 to 15 percent more than required. Some will be disqualified, so you need this buffer.
When you fill out a statement of organization, you can put yourself down as all the positions in the beginning and file an amendment at a later time.
When you name your organization, keep the name simple. If you last name is Jones, make your organization name 'Citizens for Jones'. That way it will be easy to remember and can easily fit on a check.
Create a bank account for your organization.
Get a credit card/charge card tied to this account for your records. You will need them when you file your campaign reports.
Make friends with someone at the Clerk's office. This will make your life much easier.
You need an 'inner circle' that you can trust. You and your 'inner circle' will know everything about your campaign.
Once you select the message for your campaign, stick with it.
Don't change anything about yourself or your message. This means don't get new glasses, a new hair style, new hair color, or change your message in any way.

Chapter 4: The database
For those of you that were precinct leaders, this will be familiar.
Go to the Clerk's office and get a list of voters. You want to identify the 'good voters'.

Good voters are those that are most likely to vote for the office that you're running for.
Only about 65% of voters are good voters.
Knowing where the good voters are will help you target them when you do your door-to-door campaigning.
At the Clerk's office, also ask for a voter history. You need to know which elections your good voters voted in. You can also identify which of your good voters vote in the primaries as well. There are a hefty number of good voters that don't bother voting in the primary.
Do not include newly registered voters in your database.
Knowing who the good voters are will save your campaign time and money. Since none of us are in office, this is critical.
When making your walking list for your door-to-door campaigning, organize it by streets. Sort the order by street name - odd numbers, then street name - even numbers. That way those that are helping you campaign can walk up the street on one side and then return down the other side.
Go to the post office and find out how to utilize bulk mail. If you know your good voters, you can cut mailing costs of your material by having zip code + 4 and you can cut them even further by bar coding the mail. This takes more time invested but you save money over sending your material first class.

Chapter 5: Walking door to door
Use your walking list
Door to door campaigning is the most effective and cheapest method of getting support
If you're pressed for time, go to houses that have multiple good voters
Going door to door when its raining lightly (a drizzle) is very effective. Doing it while it is pouring is worse than not going door to door at all.
Make sure those helping you go door to door stick with your message. If they don't have the answer to a question, let them know that they aren't supposed to wing it. They can simply tell the person they don't know and can have YOU go there yourself to explain your position.

Thats about as far into chp 5 I've gotten.

Again, this is a good book. This combined with the training material you may already have (as a former Precinct Captain) or what is given at the C4L can take out the 'mystery' of how to get into office.

01-27-2009, 10:23 PM
Good useful information. Thanks for posting.

01-27-2009, 11:15 PM
Thanks for the post, keep the book report going...

Captain Bryan
01-28-2009, 01:31 AM
I bought "How to Win a Local Election"
Pretty good deal at $2.50.:D

01-28-2009, 01:10 PM
Thank you for the synopsis, I'll be looking forward to your next update.

01-28-2009, 01:29 PM
Thank you for the synopsis, I'll be looking forward to your next update.

+1, and Welcome :)

01-29-2009, 12:34 PM
I recommend "Running to Win" by Charles Canady. This book is great and trumps anything else out there.

01-29-2009, 01:11 PM

01-30-2009, 02:06 PM
Chp 5 continued:
You'll need introductory literature to take with you when going door to door
use 60 or 80 pound card stock for these

Put personal info on this card: age, where you grew up, where you work, organizations you belong to, married, children, etc. Put some of the big issues you're promoting for your campaign. Make sure you ask for their vote in big bold letters so it can't be missed.

Do not put down election dates on the card. Use a stamp to do this if you wish. You can reuse these in the general election (if you have any left). Can't do that if you had the primary election date printed on the card

Have some 'sorry I missed you' cards when you do your walk. Something that can hang on door knobs.

Make sure your literature has your campaign committee on it, i.e. 'Citizens for Smith' (in case the person wants to write you a check at a later time)

When you start walking door to door the first time, you may be greated with several "NOs". Dont let that discourage you.

Keep each visit to 5 mins or less

Avoid being invited inside the house or in the back for a drink. That person may be for your opponant and wants to keep you busy NOT campaigning.

Do not pass up houses on your list that has a sign for your opponant. The 'good voter' there may have simply let a neighbor put that sign up and doesn't really support your opposition.

Once you're going door to door for a while, you may be invited to a 'coffee hour' that consists of a group of neighbors at someone's house. Try to avoid going to these. You can spend more time walking door to door and cover more voters. Remember, this is a numbers game. Only go to one of these if the endorsement of the person there would REALLY make a difference in the number of votes you may get.

01-30-2009, 03:20 PM
Chapter 6: Campaign Literature
go to the post office and fill out paperwork for a bulk mail permit. There is an application fee, but you can save up to 30% on your mailing costs.

Put your bulk mailing permit number on your literature, except on your 'sorry I missed you' literature.

Use large, bold letters on your literature.
Do not get too wordy.
The lifespan of most literature is from the mailbox to the trash can.

When writing out what is going on your literature, write it once and then keep condensing it until it can be digested in a couple minutes of reading.

If you don't have much money, you can hand drop your literature to the 'good voters'. Do not put it in the mailbox. Put it at the door, if possible.

Another way to save money is to only send your literature to the good voters that always vote in the primary. The suggestion: mail 3 pieces of literature to all the primary 'good voters' or two piecs to the primary 'good voters' and one to all the 'good voters'.

Do not put your literature in envelopes. It will never been seen.

On households with multiple good voters, write hand written letters and mail them a hand written envelope with a first class stamp. You can do this while you're watching TV on commercial break. Use the people's first names in your letter for that personal touch. Address the letter to ALL the good voters in the household. Chances are all the voters will show it to all those to whom the letter was addressed.

Important: make sure you do one seperate mailing to the 'permanent absentee' voters.

The "Support card" piece of literature: "I support _______ for the office of _________ and I hope you will, too". Give these to family and friends to give to their neighbors, friends, etc. Your family and friends can fill in the blanks for that personal touch. Have these pre-stamped so they can simply fill out their neighbor's or friend's address and stick it in the mailbox.

What's good and what's bad in advertising your campaign:
bumper stickers - bad. hard to remove. unsightly.
billboards - bad. expensive.
movie theater - great. Ad plays before each movie for all theaters.
newspaper - bad. expensive. not effective.
campaign pins - nice, but money could be used more effectively elsewhere. Buy enough for volunteers and friends, thats it.
hats/shirts - bad. same as campaign pins.

02-02-2009, 07:04 PM
Chapter 7: Campaign Signs
Keep your signs simple! They have to be read by people passing in a car at 35mph or more.

If you're an encumbant, a simple "Reelect Mayor Smith" will do. Even better, "Smith" in the largest possible size that will fit on the sign, with "Mayor" at the bottom in whatever space is left.

You need sign crews. You need to train them on how to and how NOT to place signs.

Sign crews are volunteers, so if they want to pair up, let them. Keep them happy.

Assign one person as your Sign Crew Leader. His job will be to coordinate the sign crew members, assign areas to put up signs, makes sure everyone is putting up signs the right way, remove signs that have been placed illegally and place them elsewhere and repair and replace signs. He will also have to retrain your sign crew a number of times, as sign crews tend to put signs in places they shouldn't.

If you're running for City Council, simply have "Council" on your sign. If you're running for Township Trustee, simply have "Trustee" on your sign. SIMPLE.

A good sign has "Elect" at the top (or nothing at the top at all), your last name in the middle, and the position you're running for at the bottom. Your last name being the largest word on the sign. Those with short last names = bonus.

In a small community, you may only need 50 to 100 signs; in a large one, 500 to 3,000 signs.

If money is tight, literature takes precedence over signs.

2 by 4 and 4 by 8 signs are not recommended, unless you're running for office in a large city.

Check with local orginances before placing signs. You don't want to give you opponent any ammunition to use against you. "Smith won't even follow our most basic ordinances!"

Many candidates put signs up in empty lots without permission from the land owner (because it is generally difficult to get ahold of the owner) and will simply remove the sign if asked.

Your first priority is to put signs in people's yards. Dont put them near the sidewalk...it would be an easy target for a bored teen.

Use the smallest sign you can that fits your needs. Smaller = cheaper = more signs.

Make a sign list on your computer. You can print out lists to give to your sign crews or to hand over to your sign crew leader. Keep this list confidential. Do not give the full list to your sign crew members. Lists tend to get 'lost'.

When a crew member goes to a house that has requested a sign and the home owner is not home, have the crew member put up the sign and then put a "the care and feeding of your lawn sign" hanger note on the front doorknob.

"The care and feeding of your lawn sign" flyer will let the home owner know what to do and who to call if their sign is damaged or stolen.

Don't put signs out early and don't put them out right away.

Start putting signs out 8 weeks before the primary, 8 to 10 weeks if there is only a general election.

As the election gets closer, put more and more signs up.

People that support your opponent will steal your signs. It is inevitable. Instruct your people not to retaliate. If they get caught, it will make the paper.

A trick you opponent may use is get to 20 to 30 of his supporters to call and ask for a sign, and then ask for another a few days later becaus the first one "mysteriously disappeared". Try to keep this to a minimum. You don't want to be out of signs 2 weeks before the election while hundreds of your signs are in your opponent's supporter's garages.

Hide a few signs at your house for the last week before the election. Tell noone you have them. This is your backup supply.

Count on losing 10% to 30% of your signs.

If your opponent keeps accusing you and your supports are stealing his signs in the press, try this tactic: Offer to pay for replacement of 25 signs at $3 each. The press loves stories like this (it sells papers), your opponent won't take up on the offer, and he will stop the accusations. This is great PR for a mere $75, too.

Space your signs out in the neighborhoods.

You can save money by assembling the signs yourself. You can have a sign making party.

When you order your signs, have the printer cut some of them into single posters. Some businesses would like a sign for in their window.

After the primary, you will need to decide on whether or not to pick up your signs and reuse them in the general election.

Author suggests subscribing to "Campaigns and Elections": http://politicsmagazine.com/

02-02-2009, 07:48 PM
Chapter 8: Raising Campaign Money
You'll have to ask complete strangers for money. If you can't do this, don't plan on winning.

The incumbent will generally have more money. This is why you will need to cut corners, i.e. spend more time on your campaign.

To get an idea of how much money it will take you to run for whatever the position you're running for, go to the County Clerk's elections division and look up some of the campaign finance reports of people that have ran for the same office you're running for. Be sure to check incumbent and non-incumbent. Remember, the incumbent will spend more because he will have more to spend.

Save up some money to get you started on your campaign. Be sure to "loan" this money to your campaign so you can pay yourself back as the donations come in. You must do this legitimately. Be sure you do it correctly before loaning your campaign from your personal finances. If you do it wrong, you won't be able to pay yourself back.

If you're not an incumbent, you will need to start small with your fundraising campaign. The first campaign the author did was a hot dog rally where he charged $5 to all the people that came and they got to eat all the dogs and drink all the beer they desired. (This book is almost a decade old, so $10 would be more up to today's rate [[[[INFLATION]]]) For this initial rally, he invited all the people he knew and they invited all the people they knew.

Hot dog rallies are a great way to meet people and pick up volunteers.

You can throw a free hotdog rally, but if you do, be sure to only invite those on your 'good voter' list. Not suggested if you don't have loads of money.

Have a list at your fundraisers for people to sign up to have a sign put up in their yard, one for volunteers and one for making a direct donation.

Another good fund raiser is a cocktail reception. This is more expensive, but will attract those with more to donate. You can charge $20 - $30 ($30 - $40 in today's dollars) and those attending can have all the wine and cheese they want.

Other fund raising:
golf outings - not a great money maker

They are laws that govern the types of fund raising you can do and a process you have to follow. There is also a limit on the amount a single person can contribute. Remember, if you make a mistake, it will land on the front page of the newspaper.

When doing a fundraiser, try to talk to everyone there.

Use the "touching method". Arm on their shoulder, hand shake with left hand on their forearm or a hand on their elbow. This makes them feel like you care and that you're glad to see them there.

You rent can halls, like the VFW or a municipal building for your fundraisers.

Contact union groups for support financially. Do this as soon as you decide to run. The union may not like the incumbent and will throw money your way.

02-02-2009, 10:57 PM
since I've replaced one unhealthy addiction (drinking) with another (politics) and I' also very compulsive I just purchased a couple of these mentioned and a Few others. Man I love to read. And it will help me with my upcoming contest here in PA.

02-10-2009, 12:43 PM
Chapter 9: Endorsements
Get all endorsements in written form

If an endorsement comes with a political price, weigh the price of the endorsement against the usefulness of the endorsement.

Endorsements aren't as valuable as they were in the past. Today's voters have easy access to enough information to make up their own mind.

Statistically speaking, if you take 10 voters and let them know your endorsement, only 1.5 would actually change their vote due to the endorsement.

Endorsements can have the opposite effect. An endorsement from one group may alienate a different, and maybe larger, group.

If you decide to get endorsements, contact the employee groups that work for the community that you're running for office in.

Police and fire departments are the most influencial groups.

If you can't support a request from a group, don't lie to them. You need to support the reputation that you're a stand up individual.

After the unions, go after large employee groups in your community: factories, auto plants, etc.

If you're going for an endorsement from a union, you will probably have to attend one of their screen committees. These could possibly be tough. Be prepared. Prep a few dozen documents about yourself and your candidacy and hand them out.

Individual endorsements: ask residents to sign an endorsement sheet. Have a sheet with 20 - 30 lines with enough room for the person to sign and leave their address. You can send out letters to voters with a "the following people in your neighborhood have endorsed me" and list some of the people in the area.

The great thing about individual endorsements is that they generally don't come with a political price tag.

02-16-2009, 01:21 PM
Chapter 10: Appearances at Events
You and your inner circle will need to decide on which events to attend.

Don't attend every event. Pick and choose. Remember, this is a game of numbers. Set up some parameters to decide which events to attend.

Examples: If there is an annual senior dinner, go. Seniors vote. If there is a carnival full of people from several communities outside your voting area, don't go. If the carnival is attended by everyone from your community, go. If this is a craft fair thing at the mall, don't go. etc etc

If invited to speak at a church, go. You will be speaking before a large group of people at a time and on a day that is not good for door-to-door knocking anyway.

Reminder: Don't trade going door to door during the prime hours of 5pm to 8pm to go talk to a group of maybe 10 people at a coffee shop.

Go to candidate forums.

Candidate forums info:
Be careful. It may be sponsored by a group that supports your opponent and they are setting you up for a fall.
There is usually light turnout.
If you go to a candidate forum, ask who will be involved in what, what are the rules of the forum (like time allotted for answers), whether or not there are rebuttals.
Research the group sponsoring the event.
If you don't like the rules or answers to your questions, request changes - IN WRITING.
If your requests are ignored, this is a good sign that you may be in trouble and should probably not attend.
Make sure friends, family and supporters attend the event.

Prep for forums:
Write a list of every possible question that may be posed about your candidacy.
Use someone's house to put on a mock debate. Set up tables for "each candidate", microphones (if you can), etc.
Get some people in your inner circle or your family to ask you questions like you're in a real debate.
Get someone to be your 'opponent'.
Have the 'audience' ask you what they want, or questions you came up with prior and handed out.
If your answers are not quick and correct, practice until they are. if you do this for a couple hours a few times, you will be adapt at answering questions quickly.
If you answer a question incorrectly, you can go over it with your inner circle to come up with the correct answer and you can practice giving that answer.
Also practice your rebuttals to your 'opponents'
Make a list of questions you think will be asked of your opponent, what you think his answer may be, and then come up with a rebuttal.
Create a 'fact book': large spiral notebook with stocky tabs. Write issues on the tabs and write questions, responses, and rebuttals on the pages

Remember, the most important thing about going to debates or forums is to be prepared.

03-01-2009, 03:39 PM
Chapter 11: Cable Television and Commercials

Using cable tv will be based upon how much money you have. If you have the money, use cable.

Contact the cable company for rates for political ads on the local channels in your area.

Author gives this example: In a city of 85k, where he lives, and has paid as little as $5 for a 30 second ad on channels like cnn, espn, and the family channel.

The biggest cost of putting a commercial or short program together is the use of studio time to put the commercial together. If you have someone that has the equipment to make your commercial 'studio ready', bonus.

Only use cable in the general. Don't bother during the primaries; too many candidates.

Commercials are great and get your name out there day and night.

You can get a 60 minute commercial on the air at 3am for very little money. Yes, there are people awake at this hour that are watching tv and they will watch candidates that are running in their community.

Political commercials are a great way to get some name recognition.

keep your message short and to the point in your commercial. Stick with your major issues that you have use throughout your campaign. Be sure to ask for support in your commercial.

If you can't afford commercials, you can make your own home video and distribute it throughout the community. Keep it under 15 minutes. People have a short attention span. You can also mail these tapes to the 'good voters'.

How to handle the media:
If you're in a large community, you will have some major news stations interviewing you.
Be careful of your responses to reporters. Their job is to catch you off-guard in your answers so you'll screw up. That sells newspapers and generates ratings, you know.
Be cautious when dealing with a local news reporter.
Make contact with someone at the local paper and give them a copy of the major issues of your campaign. Make sure they get a phone number of where to reach you because they will call you when your opponent makes a claim about you.
Do not expect to always see your reposonse word-for-word in the paper. It will not happen.
Give reporters short answers and be concise.
Never think that newspapers are not political. THEY ARE.
Newspapers have an opinion and they will favor one candidate over another.
Newspapers generally always endorse the encumbent. Don't lose any sleep over it.

03-01-2009, 06:39 PM
Use poll workers: volunteers who stand at the voting precincts and hand out a card with your picture on it and ask the voters who show up to vote in support of you.

Make sure your poll workers know the rules regarding what they can and can not do.

If your poll worker is at a poll and your opponant has noone there, tell your poll workers to relax, greet people, or go to another poll where you opponant has someone.

You will need 'coffee wagons': Volunteers with vans or trucks to drive around to the precincts and hand out hot coffee, soda, sandwiches, burgers, etc. Don't mess with getting fries. Just stick with burgers and sandwiches.

If allowed, put yard signs around the polling place. If there is an issue about this, always listen to the Clerk. He will know the rules better than someone at a polling place, like a school.

As a candidate, go around to all the polling places. Stop at each polling place and talk to the voters coming in for a few minutes.

Keep your best poll workers at the polling station until it closes and to go inside for the reading of the machines. You can also get the numbers from the Clerk's office to get the reading of the numbers.

Create a 'voter board': A board with all the candidates names, in gridlike fashion, so you can write down the number of votes for each candidate in each precinct.

You need a place for the primary results party. Have beer, wine, soda, chips, pretzels, for all your friends and supporters.

Study the primary results. You will have the numbers from each precinct and how each candidate did in those precincts. This will help you form a strategy for the precincts that you did poorly in and you need to find out why you did so poorly.

Determine what happened in each precinct.

Have volunteers call voters in the precincts you lost badly in to find out why the voters voted the way they did.

You won't have to work as hard in the precincts where you did great.

If there are many candidates in the primary, be cautious in reading the primary results. The more people that were running will skew the results.

If you came in first in the primary, don't assume that you have the general in the bag.

03-01-2009, 06:40 PM
Chapter 13: Phone Banks and Surveys

(this is after the primary has taken place)

Get a small group of your supporters to do phone surveys. Use your inner circle if they aren't too busy.

Surveys can be done from their homes.

Only call 'good voters'

Ask why they voted the way they did, what problems that had with a particular candidate, if the person called voted for you ask them why

be courteous on the phone (duh)

Finish the conversation by asking the voter to at least listen to your positions (so you may win them over). voters like this attention; it makes them feel as if you really care about them and want them to be involved in the process.

03-01-2009, 06:43 PM
Chapter 14: On to the General Election

03-01-2009, 06:43 PM
Chapter 15: General Election Day
(last chapter, whew. This is where we take the Republican party back to it's roots!)

03-26-2009, 10:01 AM
chapter 16: how about this tip: go to toastmasters to improve on your speaking skills? http://www.toastmasters.org/ it's FREE ;)

03-26-2009, 12:22 PM
I am in toastmasters. It does cost money, though. At least, when you get the materials and attend local meetings.

But toastmasters isn't in the book that I'm posting about.

04-23-2009, 06:33 AM

07-27-2009, 11:26 PM
Awesome, thanks for sharing all that. I'd like to find a similar book that's more recent, so it'd have info about using the internet, a campaign website, etc.

01-22-2010, 02:32 PM
Great thread! I've been thinking recently what needs to be done and imho, it starts locally, get involved in the GOP at the local level, get others to join who share our views, run for local office even if it's for dog catcher, going from not ever running with no name recognition to running third party or even on a major ticket for Congress will only result in a loss 99% of the time.

03-30-2010, 12:26 PM
could I ask that you transcribe the couty assembly chapter? I went to my local library, and found a similar book, but this one doesn't have a section devoted to winning the county assembly.

This is the book I found that also has a lot of info:
How to win a local election : a complete step-by-step guide / Lawrence Grey

04-06-2010, 01:37 AM
No more chapter summaries?

04-07-2010, 06:26 AM
could I ask that you transcribe the couty assembly chapter? I went to my local library, and found a similar book, but this one doesn't have a section devoted to winning the county assembly.

This is the book I found that also has a lot of info:
How to win a local election : a complete step-by-step guide / Lawrence Grey

I'm not seeing a county assembly chapter...

06-19-2010, 01:50 AM
i just started reading The Campaign Manager: Running and Winning Local Elections by Catherine Shaw. So far it is a great book that lays out some interesting techniques from precinct analysis to campaign literature.

I am going to check out the other ones mentioned above though.

06-25-2012, 09:47 PM
How do we know what to run for? How do we campaign? How do we get votes? How do we know if we are qualified? And is 40 years of age to old for getting started?
Should I just in courage the younger people to do it? How do we make change? How can we become important to our leaders so they listen to us? How do we become
lobbyist? How do we make them fear us? I need to form a huge group one that is so large it will scare the crap out of everyone. We want our constitution back and we
want it followed.

06-25-2012, 10:01 PM
Commenting just so I can find this thread later.... Might need it, you never know.