So You Want To Run for Office
Whether you are running to win or just make a point, running outside the two main parties is one of the more hopeful things a citizen can do. Third Parties have made significant differences throughout U.S. history. See Third Parties Have Long History of Shaping, Reshaping American Politics Based upon my experience here is a list of the minimum you should commit to. It does not take a lot of money, but it does take a willingness to communicate.
We need to get people to run for office at many levels in a serious manner. As Chris Hedges pointed out, the time for discussion (and petition signing) is long gone. We need to run for national offices, especially the US HOR because it influences big questions and is not impossible to get elected. See Politics Today.
Running for office should not be just an exercise to pad a resume. It can be a way to make a better future. Good luck and let the New Progressive Alliance know what you are doing. We support candidates and organizations based upon their support of the Unified Platform.
What does this take? You do not need a lot of money or consultants. Those that say you do also usually say you should pay them. Even if you are just running to make a point and get an alternate point of view out, I believe the below items are the minimum candidates should have. I speak from the experience of trying to contact candidates to give them NPA support. Third party candidates following all the items on this short list are rare.
- Have contact information. I would consider having email, mailing, and a phone number. At the very least have email and a mailing address. Have a real email address, don’t limit communication to a website portal. Of course, you should answer all correspondence within a few days. If you are not willing to respond to those who have questions or want to help you, then you are not serious and should not run.
- Have a platform of items you passionately believe in. A good example is the Unified Platform. Be able to give details justifying your platform. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel. For many examples see Make Your Case.
- Keep track of the ever changing never ending battle for ballot access at your Secretary of State and Ballot Access News.
- Beware of having your campaign manager or other critical person be a relative (“Uncle Joe”) or a close friend who is not dedicated to what you are trying to do. The question is not loyalty to you. The question is loyalty to your cause.
- Look to allies such as the New Progressive Alliance or Green Party even if they are not in your area. Remember, we are trying to grow connections and make a path for future growth. See Elections and Candidates Who Support the Unified Platform.
- Have a one page handout that can be easily copied and widely distributed. See Printable Flyers
- Having cards with contact information can be very handy.
- Answer anybody with questions or offering to help. If you fail to do that, then you are not even serious about running to make a point.
- If you are running under a party make sure the county, state, and National Party knows about you so people can find you. You may have to remind them several times to get on their internet site.
- Go to as many candidate or church events as you can. They are free or should be.
- Any office above that of a small town should have a website with contact info, your platform, a way to give you money, a calender of events, and a way to change the website as events come up.
- Beware of “friends” that will set a website up for you but don’t have time to run it. They will leave you high and dry and unable to communicate critical information. I have seen more than once candidates desperately checking their staff to see if anybody knew how to operate a website with an obscure operating system.
- Many talk about a “professional” website. Know the difference between professional and fancy. You do need to communicate to the public and your campaign and be able to change as circumstances demand it. You do not need people to say, “Oh gee, what a pretty website!”
- Websites are inexpensive or free to get, ask me for details or google it yourself. For a free Green Party website see http://www.newmenu.org/. (Even if you are not a member of the Green Party, if there are no Greens running against you and you support the 10 Green Party values, they will consider giving you a free website. Be prepared with campaign details as described above.) My personal opinion is that if you do not have a website with at least these items, then you are not a serious candidate.
- A good checklist is at So you’re running for office. How do you launch a political campaign online?
Craig Seeman on Facebook also had this excellent advice on public affairs and the media.
“The problem is most Greens or other independent candidates don’t seem to have a plan on how to “get the word out” for a congressional district (around 700,000 people) when they have very little money. It certainly can be done but one must have an executable media plan. In NY, Ursula Rozum (now Hawkins campaign manager) got 8% in a closely contested race because she had a good media plan (Hawkins was her manager). NY Green congressional candidate Matt Funiciello also polled at 10% because of his well executed media plan.
If one endeavors to turn for congress on a low budget to “get the word out,” it is IMPERATIVE to have a plan to get media to cover you. I’d have my own recommendations.
Always notify the media in advance for all campaign events with the public whether a “meet and great,” talk, press conference. Make personal phone calls to reporters before such events. Personal relationships are important. Even hostile press may respect you for making the effort to make direct personal contact.
Record and post short videos. Send the links directly to the media as VNRs (Video News Releases). Have a strong viral distribution network to send releases to Facebook, Twitter, e-lists, your website. Remember posting online is NOT distribution. Having people SHARE, TWEET, EMAIL links is DISTRIBUTION. Keep in mind that reporters may not go to your events but if you send them video they may use it.
Live Stream Press Conferences and Special Events. Again, often reporters may not show but you will make it convenient for them to watch along with the public.
Sometimes Skype can work for interviews when you can’t travel to meet. Make it easy for reporters to get interviews. This cuts travel time for both you and them.
Do a courtesy follow up after they publish an interview. They may even say it’s not necessary but do it anyway. The more you’re a person to them the more likely they’ll cover you.
Center events around hot button issues that the press may already be covering. Press may be there to cover the issue and/or they may interested in your alternative approach (even if they disagree with it). The press doesn’t cover a laundry list. They cover activity relevant to issues of interest. In other words you must PERSONIFY YOUR PLATFORM.
Understand the press has NO OBLIGATION to cover you. They are general FOR PROFIT and weigh public interest (ratings). Even Non for Profit weigh potential donor interest.”
Scott McLarty – Media Coordinator for the Green Party of the United States – added:
- While it’s often difficult to get media coverage of your campaign, don’t assume the media are hostile either. Running for office as a Green doesn’t by itself make you newsworthy. If you want news coverage, do things that will make reporters and editors pay attention.
- If you can’t get coverage from major media, there are many minor news sources, niche publications, etc. online and on paper that are always looking for stories to fill up space. Don’t ignore them.
- Don’t hide your campaign under a bushel. Reach out to your local media.
- Place your candidate’s photo (professional-quality jpg) and contact info on your campaign home page. Make it easy for reporters to cover your campaign.
- Produce a video of your candidate. Post it on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, your campaign site, and other web sites. Paste the link into announcements, press releases, and campaign lit.
- For more information about media outreach, see “Media Tips for Green Candidates.”