As adults with strict budgets, bills to pay and families to take care of, most of us (I hope) take a close look at every major purchase to make sure it’s justifiable and necessary. Unfortunately, many new political candidates running in local elections don’t tend to do the same when it comes to campaign costs and spending.
When you’re running in your first election for local office, it’s easy to get so emotionally invested in your race that you end up overspending on campaign materials and advertising. You want so badly to win that you start to overlook costs if you think writing a check can make winning the election just a little bit more likely.
Don’t get me wrong: if you’ve done a great job at campaign fundraising, attracting contributors and raking in donations, then you deserve to–and should–spend your money in the most aggressive and intelligent ways that you can. But smaller, local elections just don’t attract the kind of big donors that larger races do, and you simply aren’t going to have the budget to purchase many of the things you would like for your campaign.
There are three things that political candidates can do about a shortage of campaign funds: 1) shrug their shoulders and do nothing, 2) put their own personal money into the campaign, or 3) roll up their sleeves and work even harder to get their message out to the voters the old-fashioned way.
There’s nothing wrong with putting your own money into your political campaign to help guarantee a victory. Candidates across the country do it every year, and donating your own personal cash is a great way to show the voters how dedicated you are to your campaign.
But if the money you are putting into your campaign would be better spent taking care of your family or fulfilling your other financial responsibilities, then don’t do it. I’ve said this before on Killer Campaigning: winning elected office isn’t as important as keeping your family safe and happy. If you’re on a limited budget, then gambling your own money on a political campaign isn’t a responsible thing to do.
If you find yourself lacking the funds to buy materials or advertising that you had budgeted for in your original political campaign plan, don’t think that you have to dip into your own bank account to make up the difference. While statewide and congressional races can become doomed to failure if the donor wells dry up, the same can’t be said for local races.
In districts with smaller numbers of registered voters, you really can make up for a deficit in money by working harder in the field. Spending an extra few hours every weekend knocking on doors can win you as many votes as an expensive bulk mailer. Dedicating an hour every night to personally calling voters can be more effective than buying an ad in the local paper. And filling out hand-written postcards to absentee voters asking them for their support can make you more memorable as a candidate than a few dozen extra yard signs.
So when it comes to political campaign costs and spending in local elections, don’t think that you need to spend an obscene amount of money to win your race. If you’re a candidate who isn’t afraid of working hard, then you already have most of the capital that you’ll need to be a winner on election night.