Should I Run For Office?

An FAQ.

Why Should I Run For Office?

Running for office is one of the best ways to fight against Trump. It varies from year to year, but anywhere from 1/3 to ½ of races are uncontested. Many of those races are local, but some are congressional or even Senate races. Without a good bench of Democrats, we can’t run people for those races.

 

Obama started as a State Senator, and Bernie Sanders as Mayor of Burlington. If you look at your own elected officials, the odds are good that they started at a local level as well.

My area is way too Republican, I’d never have a shot! Is it still worth running?

Absolutely. There are a few reasons for this. One is that politicians who are never challenged have no reason to be responsive to their constituents. If your Republican state rep never has a challenge, why would they listen when their offices get flooded with messages about an issue they are going to vote on? If you call your Rep in Washington about Obamacare, but they haven’t been contested in a decade, why would they listen to you instead of lobbists. Simply having another name on the ballot can make them more responsive and more likely to hold public events.

 

Sometimes the unexpected happens and a seat that was previously considered unwinnable suddenly is competitive. Scandal, a sudden resignation or illness, a surprise primary loss, or a “Macaca” moment can all turn a race around overnight. Sometimes it isn’t even your opponent who has to have a scandal to affect your race. In 2006 Republican Mark Foley was caught sending explicit texts to congressional pages, and overnight dozens more races across the country became competitive. But remember, you can’t vote someone out of office who has no opponent.

 

Another important thing to remember is that people vote less solidly partisan in local races. Most people can’t name their state rep or county commissioner. If you go to someone’s door and personally ask them for their vote, they may well give it to you, even if you aren’t of their party. It varies greatly by state, but often just a few thousand extra votes can win a local race.

 

A 2013 paper showed that all politicians, though especially conservatives, overestimated how conservative their districts were. I’ve personally canvassed a street where 3 people living on the same block told me they were the only Democrats in the neighborhood. You may have far more support than you think.

But isn’t the important stuff done at the Federal level?

You’d be surprised at what happens at the state level, often with no one watching. Medicaid expansion, abortion regulations, LGBT protections, unionizing rights, education funding, road construction, law enforcement policies, prisons, sex ed in schools, and all kinds of other issues are decided at the state or local level. In almost all states, the district maps are drawn by the state legislature, leading to massive Gerrymandering. We ignore local races at our peril, because the Republicans sure haven’t.

 

Legislative experiments are often run in individual states. Kansas recently tried trickle-down economics, cutting taxes for the wealthy, and nearly destroyed the state’s economy. On the other hand, California raised taxes on the rich and invested in their state, and the economy is booming. All of those decisions are made in State Houses, not Washington.

What is VAN?

VAN is a powerful but easy to use database that almost all progressive campaigns (except in California) and organizations use. It will keep track of information on voters, such as:

  • Conversations you have had with them

  • What they said,

  • Who did the talking

  • How they tend to vote

  • How often they vote

  • Where they live

  • Any information you want to mark them with

  • What issues they care about

It also keeps track of your volunteers, when you spoke with them, and when they are scheduled to come in.

 

VAN also comes with tools for making lists of people you want to talk to, splitting up those lists into chunks that can be done by one or two people at a time, printing lables, running a phone bank, and much much more.

 

While VAN is easy to use considering how powerful it is, it still has a learning curve. I can give you an interactive webinar that will teach you how to use VAN, which will make a field program much easier. With the permission of your state Data Manager, I can also help administer VAN for your candidacy.