While U.S. House candidates are particularly well aware of the benefits of running a continuous campaign for reelection, local political candidates and office holders could stand to do a bit more off-year campaigning themselves.
You deserve a little rest after winning a hard-fought local political race, but don’t take the whole time-off-your-feet thing too seriously. Being a good public official and defending your seat against any future challengers means making sure the you hit the campaign trail even if it isn’t an election year.
I’ve known a few city councilpersons, mayors and other local elected officials who do door-to-door work even during years when their name isn’t on the ballot. It’s a great way to hear what your constituents are thinking, to keep yourself visible in the community, and to make sure your campaigning abilities stay fresh.
Another thing these candidates who all campaigned in off-years had in common? They always won reelection.
By no means should you wage a full-scale grassroots and media campaign every year. But making a point of dropping literature to houses in your district during the more temperate months in non-election years is a tactic that your opponents aren’t likely to emulate.
Doing literature drops and canvassing neighborhoods in your district during off-years is immeasurably easier if you’re already an elected official, since you have a legitimate reason to visit residents at their homes. Most constituents are used to politicians who completely ignore them until election years, so your efforts will often be met with encouragement.
There’s also another benefit to walking neighborhoods in your district on the weekends or after work: it keeps you in good shape. After walking door-to-door for several months in my first city council campaign, I quickly got sluggish after winning on election day.
Getting out and meeting the constituents in your district even during years when you aren’t appearing on the ballot is one of the most effective political campaign techniques you can use. It’s also a great way talk directly with the people who hired you for the job, and get feedback on how you’re performing in office.