Here’s a question we got recently from Susan, a fan who’s trying to figure out which office she should run for in her first political campaign election:
Hi, any ideas on what the easiest race to win might be for as first time political candidate. I have wanted to run for political office for a a while to serve the community, but I would like to start off in the easiest election possible, like maybe for city council or for school board, what do you think? Thanks keep up the good work and I appreciate the advice.
It’s a great question that shows Susan is thinking pragmatically about running for her first elected office. She makes it clear that she wants to serve her community, which is the most noble reason for running a political campaign, but she also realizes that she might not be successful if she overreaches.
First of all, let me start by pointing out that as an American citizen, you have the right to become a political candidate for any office that you qualify for in your district. That’s one of the things that the Founding Fathers intended to make this the greatest country in the world: that average citizens could run for office and play a role in local, state and federal governments.
If you have your mind set on running for a high office that you qualify for–and you have accepted the fact that you might not win the election–then I encourage you to go for it.
Having said that, though, it’s a fact that your political career will likely be much more successful and lengthy if you take a more analytical approach to what races you enter, much as Susan has. Starting with smaller, easier-to-win political campaigns and gradually moving up to larger offices is an great way to advance your political career and have more opportunities to affect positive results for people in your district.
Keep in mind that there are few careers in which a person can advance as quickly as they can in politics. There are plenty of examples of politicians who have been local elected officials one decade and members of Congress–or part of a Presidential ticket–the next decade. Starting off with the lowest, easiest elected office is a decision that many successful politicians made early in their careers.
There’s an old saying in politics that when you run for an office has more to do with winning than anything else, and there’s a lot of truth to it. While a first time candidate might not have a chance to win a congressional campaign one year, circumstances could be wildly different the next time the seat is up for election . . . and suddenly that new candidate’s particular resume, political philosophy and personality make her the perfect person for the job. Incumbents retire or become embroiled in scandal, the political leanings of voters in the district change, and many other things happen that can present great opportunities for new candidates to run for–and win–higher office.
Unfortunately, not everyone has the political prescience to define which higher offices are ripe for a new candidate to win, and most people who are new to political campaigns are better off starting with a less ambitious local run. School board, city council and other local races are all perfectly winnable for new candidates if you run your campaign intelligently.
And there’s another important reason why an aspiring politician might want to think about getting elected to local office first: learning how government works from the ground up simply makes you a better and more effective elected official.
Don’t be afraid to start your political career by running to become an elected precinct committee person in your city’s local Democrat or Republican party. The only people who can vote for this position are members of your political party who are located in your particular precinct (the structure might be different in your particular county or state, so be sure to check it out).
Running for precinct committeeman is a good start that will make you more familiar with how to run a local election, will get you involved in the decision-making of your local political party, and could be the first step you need to take on the road to higher office.