5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Run for Office (in the 2022 Elections)
Updated: Apr 11, 2021
In 2018, I was recruited to run a long-shot, grassroots campaign for the United States Congress.
I had never run for office before, but I was disappointed with the direction of the country and thought I could make a difference. With a skeleton team and pretty paltry fundraising, we were able to put together a campaign that caught the eye of national media as well as local activists. It was a life-changing experience for which I have zero regrets.
Spoiler alert: I didn’t win my race.
I did learn so many lessons about what to do and - maybe more importantly - what not to do. I’ve used those lessons to train scores of candidates just like me - regular people who want to make a difference in our country.
During the 2020 election cycle, I led a national organization that recruited, trained, and supported Congressional and Senate candidates. We helped to get 4 people elected to the House of Representatives. Now, I’m the political director of another national group, helping to train candidates up and down the ballot, all across the country. Few things excite me as being able to help people make a difference in our democracy.
I’ve learned that there are 5 critical questions people need to ask themselves before they decide to throw their hat into the political ring. Take some time to carefully consider these questions. Be honest with yourself. It might not be the right time or the best situation for you to launch a campaign. But if it is, your answers to these questions will help to crystallize in your mind and heart the commitment it is going to take to run for office.
Do you really want to do this?
People run for office for all sorts of reasons. Some want to make the world a better place for their children. Some have gone through experiences in life that give them a unique perspective they can sense is needed. Some don’t feel represented by their current elected officials.
Unfortunately, some people run for office as a vanity project. They are trying to advance their own career or stroke their own ego. If this is you, I would urge you not to run. We already have enough politicians who put themselves ahead of their constituents. However, if you’re considering this for the right reasons, it’s imperative that you know your why.
A campaign is full of ups and downs. There will be days that you wonder if you’ve made the biggest mistake of your life. People will say unkind things to you and about you. Whenever this happens, you’ve got to come back to the motivation that led you to do this in the first place. If your reason for running is clear in your mind and heart, it will serve as a guiding force for you when things get difficult.
Is your family on board?
We all know the phrase “it takes a village.” It’s true in so many areas of life, and running a campaign is no exception. A campaign takes time, mental energy, and many other resources. You can’t do it alone.
The support of your partner, family, and close friends is absolutely critical.
Several months into my campaign, I was experiencing some real hardships in my life. My wife and I scheduled some time together to talk it all through. I told her that I wasn’t sure I could do this anymore and that I was willing to give it all up if that would make things easier for the people around me. She listened carefully to what I was saying and then replied, “You’ve got to keep doing this. Not just because it will make life better for our kids, but because you can help make things better for kids you’ll never meet, kids and families who have had no voice.”
Her words gave me the reason I needed to persevere. If she wasn’t 100% on board with my campaign, I wouldn’t have been able to make the sacrifices necessary to run. If you’re going to run for office, you need loved ones in your corner.
How will this impact your day job?
Few of us are independently wealthy. We can’t quit our jobs to run for office. We’ve got to keep paying the bills.
During my campaign, I lost my job twice. The first time, the company I was working for scaled back and I was out of work. The second time, I was forced to resign precisely because I was a candidate for office.
I recommend that candidates have an honest conversation with their boss before they publicly launch their campaigns. Nobody runs for office in secret. You want people to know about it. And you don’t want your boss to learn about when they see one of your signs in someone’s yard.
Schedule a time to talk with your supervisor. Anticipate the questions they will ask and be prepared with compelling answers. Your company may or may not be supportive of your campaign, but it’s far better to know that early on than before you’ve gone too far down the road.
Are you a good fit for your community?
Whether you’re thinking about running for Congress or your local school board, it’s imperative that you represent well the people who vote for you. Here are some things to consider:
Are people like you underrepresented by your current elected officials?
Do you have deep roots in your community?
Do the issues that matter to you matter to most of the people you’d represent?
Have you lived in your area long enough?
Will others rally around your campaign?
Do you have the experience and ideas necessary for the position you’re running for?
Don’t sugarcoat your answers to these questions. Your ability to recruit and retain campaign volunteers depends on your being a good fit for those you want to represent.
What’s holding you back?
You are an expert in some area of life, but you’re likely not an expert on how to run a political campaign. You might not know where to start. You’ve got to figure out how to get on the ballot, how to put together a campaign plan and budget, how to raise campaign funds, how to hire staff, and recruit volunteers.
I get it. I’ve been there.
This is why I’m putting together an online course that will walk you through, step-by-step, how to run for office. It is going to launch soon. When it does, you’ll want to be the first to know. All you have to do is sign up below.