Thinking of Running? Start Local by Dottie LeMieux

By at February 22, 2017 | 11:05 am | Print

Thinking of Running? Start Local by Dottie LeMieux

Anyone thinking of running for a State or National office (Assembly, State Senate, Congress) needs to think what seats will likely be opening up in their district in the next few years. If you’ve never run for office before, starting with a higher office can be daunting unless you’ve got some experience under your belt. So start small. Think of Barbara Boxer, first a local school board activist, then a County Supervisor, next on to Congress and then U.S. Senator. She got some chops under her belt on the local level before making that big leap.

And along the way came the skills and the contacts necessary for running a major campaign. Of course, we all know stories of people who come out of nowhere and have a big upset in a congressional or Senate race. But those are the exceptions rather than the rule. A corrupt incumbent, a very disgruntled voter base and, more often than not, a candidate who’s already developed connections and savvy that can be translated into a political campaign.

Think Al Franken, well known comedian and on air personality, won with no political experience for U.S. Senate; or Ro Khanna in California, young entrepreneur beat a long time Democratic incumbent in the Primary, on his second try. (And don’t get me started on Donald Trump!)

For most of us, the road is longer and harder. Got an opening on a local school board or City Council? Think about going for that one. If you don’t win the first time, consider running again. You will have gained a base and made contacts that will help you the next time, if they believe you are serious, hardworking and represent their values.

Consider applying for a position on a Commission or Board in your town or County. There are often openings and these help pave the way for a political run. Again, it’s all about making connections, as well as having knowledge and passion, to get the job done.

And here’s the best tip of all, start early. For whatever seat you are running for, get started well before the filing deadline by gathering friends and colleagues to help and make monetary pledges to the campaign. Ask others who’ve run for their advice. Check financial filing reports (which should all be online with your local elections office or the Secretary of State), to see how much people typically spend running for the seat you are interested in.

Do your homework, whether it’s getting up to speed on the issues (attending lots of meets of the board you want to join is a must!), raising money, and just knowing how the political game is played, will put you in a good position to make a strong showing in your race.

Dotty E. LeMieux runs GreenDog Campaigns, a full service consulting firm in northern California.  Dotty’s advice has taken women and first time candidates to victory in tough elections.   She also gives training seminars to candidates and their staffs and is available for consultations with groups and campaign teams. Dotty has taught a course in Practical Politics at the College of Marin and trained activists for groups such as The Sierra Club, Democratic Party, National Women’s Political Caucus, Emerge California and others.  She has been called a “grassroots maven” by Christine Pelosi, author of Campaign Boot Camp and Campaign Boot Camp 2.0 and is quoted extensively in those popular “how to” campaign books.


See her new blog for recipes for success on the campaign trail!  The Campaign Cookbook


Green Dog Campaigns           8 Willow Street         San Rafael, CA 94901



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