If you want to know how to be a political candidate and run for office in a local election, then part of planning a great campaign is choosing the race that you are most likely to win.
It’s not surprising, though, that most potential candidates who are interested in public service don’t even know all of the different election positions that they could run for in a local political campaign. Keeping track of the many different local elected offices can be confusing, even for people who have been involved in campaigning for years.
In this post, I’m going to attempt to list all of the local election offices that candidates can run for in a political campaign, from State Senate and State Representative (I’m considering those local races for the sake of this article) all the way down to School Board and Precinct Committeeman. I don’t know of anywhere else where these different local elected offices are listed in one place, so I hope it helps anyone who is thinking of starting a career in politics.
There are public elected offices that I am NOT listing here, including Governor, Lieutenant Governor, State Treasurer, State Attorney General, State Auditor, Secretary of State, and Congressional races (Federal Senator and U.S. House of Representatives). It’s difficult to consider any of these local elections.
Also, keep in mind that many of the elected positions that I list here might not exist in your state, county, city or town, or they may exist but have different names. I live in the State of Ohio, and these are the offices you can run for here. You’ll probably find that the local political campaign offices in your state generally fall along the same lines, even if they have different titles and duties.
The Big List of Local Elected Offices for Political Campaign Candidates
State Senator: The State Senate consists of representatives who are elected in districts that usually span several cities and counties. State Senators are usually more high-profile political campaign candidates, and their terms last longer than those of State Representatives or State Assemblymen.
State Representative/State Assembly Person: The State House of Representatives, or State Assembly as it is called in some states, generally consists of members who are elected in from districts for terms of two years. Like State Senate, they are among the highest-profile local political campaigns. The position of State Assemblywoman/State Representative is usually considered part-time, and require weekly visits to the Statehouse for voting and government business.
Democrat/Republican State Central Committee: In Ohio,voters in a particular political party elect a State Central Committeewoman and Committeeman during the primary election every two years. A Committeeman and a Committeewoman for each party–Democrat and Republican–are elected in each State Senate district. These State Central Committee members meet at the state capitol a few times a year and make decisions about party matters, such as electing party leadership and Chairperson.
Board of County Commissioners: The position of County Commissioner is usually a full-time position with a term of four years. There are most often three commissioners on a board, and usually everyone in the county can vote in the election. Some counties, though, may have more than three commissioners, and they may be elected in different districts within a county.
County Executive: Some counties have an elected County Executive in addition to, or instead of, County Commissioners. The County Executive, if elected, is voted upon by the entire county.
County Auditor: This position is appointed in some counties, but is a elected office in most with a four-year term. It is usually held by someone with accounting and auditing experience, but most counties allow anyone to run for the full-time office.
County Engineer: Many states only allow certified engineers to run for this position, which handles building, construction and road projects in the county. It usually carries a full-time, four-year term.
County Treasurer: The County Treasurer usually caries an elected, four-year term, but isn’t as much of a high-profile county race as Commissioner or Prosecutor.
County Prosecuting Attorney: The County Prosecutor is among the most powerful and influential elected positions you can run for on the county level, but not everyone can qualify for the seat: you need to be an attorney to run. It is usually a full-time, four-year term.
County Coroner: Surprisingly, this is actually an elected position in many counties, and to run for it you usually need to have your medical license or degree. During their full-time, four-year term, County Coroners are in charge of investigating deaths in the county.
County Recorder: This is another four-year elected county office which, like County Treasurer, is a bit more low-profile. In some counties, this position is appointed, not elected.
Common Pleas Court Judge: This is another elected office that has requirements to run: in order to be a candidate, you need to have your law degree or license, and most candidates are practicing attorneys. The Court of Common Pleas in a given county usually has a General Division, Domestic Relations Division, Juvenile Division, and Probate Divison. One unique thing about running in a local political campaign for Common Pleas Judge: you are not allowed to run a partisan race, and cannot list on the ballot whether you are a Democrat or Republican.
Clerk of Court: You do not generally have to have a law degree to run for Clerk of Courts, but most candidates who run a political campaign for the office are attorneys. Clerk of Courts usually carries a four-year, full-time term.
Mayor: This is usually a full-time, four-year elected position, although the Mayor can also be part-time in smaller cities, villages, towns and townships. Mayor is generally considered the most powerful local elected position in a city.
City Manager: In some cities, a City Manager is elected–or appointed by City Council–instead of a Mayor. Generally, City Managers have experience in urban planning and related fields. If the position is appointed, then City Council usually launches a recruitment campaign and interviews candidates from around the state or country for the job.
City Treasurer: The City Treasurer keeps track of municipal bank accounts, income, taxes and other money matters. It is usually a four-year term, but is not considered full-time.
City Auditor: The Auditor for a given city is also usually a four-year, part-time elected position. In most cases, successful City Auditor candidates also have similar careers and educational backgrounds.
City Law Director: This is another local elected office that usually carries the requirement of having a law degree or license. The four-year, part-time position is in many cases held by a practicing attorney.
President of City Council: Council President is usually in charge of setting agendas, committee assignments and chairing city council meetings. Many City Council Presidents hold office for two-year, part-time terms and are elected by the entire city.
City Ward Councilman/Alderman: City Council is in many cases made up of councilpersons who are elected in individual city wards, as well as at-large council members who are elected by the entire city. A ward councilman or councilwoman–also called Alderman and Alderwoman in some cities–only run a political campaign for office within their own ward, and hold two-year, part-time terms in many cases.
At-Large Councilman: A Councilman/Councilwoman At-Large has the same duties as a ward councilperson, but they are elected by voters across the entire city instead of voters only in a specific ward.
Township/Village Trustee/Town Council: The legislative body of smaller villages, towns and townships are usually made up of trustees, which perform duties similar to that of city councilpersons and hold two-year, part-time terms.
School Board Member/School Board President: Candidates for School Board run for elected office in the school districts where they reside, and are in charge of voting on school issues. It is usually a two-year, part-time, paid position.
Precinct Committeeman, Committeewoman: Each political party in a given county–Democrats and Republicans–is usually made up of elected precinct committee members, and they vote on county party issues like leadership and appointments to vacant offices. Precinct committee members are usually elected during presidential primary elections, and you can only run for precinct committeeman or committeewoman in your own precinct and for the party in which you are registered.