By Janet Cook
Prospective candidates, there are many things to consider and work on before you file your “intent to run” papers with the state. The exploration phase is the perfect time to become a student of your district. Learn about its economy, culture, traditions and people. Take time to connect with the community and ask yourself: Can I represent these people and interests with enthusiasm? Do I share their values and aspirations?
Here are 10 questions to answer before you file your intention to be a candidate:
- What are the demographics in your district? Ethnic breakdowns? Poverty levels? Educational levels? Is there a shift or a new trend in local demographics?
- Who are the voters? How many are Democrats? Republicans? “No party preference”? Ask: How have people voted on issues I care about: School bonds? Open space preservation? Immigration, etc?
- Know your neighbors. Who are the 50 most influential people in your district? Do you know them? Have you talked to them? Do they know you? Would some of them support your run for office?
- What distinguishes your district? Who are the top 5 major employers? What cultural institutions are located there? Sports teams? Is agriculture a big employer? Is yours a bedroom community and is transportation a big deal? Is tourism important? Does your district include significant parkland? What are the educational institutions in your district and do people identify with them? What industries are unique to your district? Are your industries clean or toxic?
- Who are the current and past elected officials? Have you sought advice from them? Has a woman held this office in the past? Have you asked for her support?
- Have you talked to local thought leaders? Heads of environmental and social justice non-profits? The Democratic and Green Party Committee chairs? Foundation heads, business leaders or local newspaper editors and bloggers? Does labor play a big role in your district? Which unions are most active? Connect with their leadership and learn their endorsement process. Here’s a list of labor councils throughout CA.
- What are the hot button issues? Access to health care? Environment? Education? Transportation? Immigration? What are the organizations and who are the leaders on each side of these issues? Have you formed an opinion? Could you argue your side of the argument?
- Do you know how to get a your Party endorsement? Are there active Party clubs in your area, and, if so, have you visited them? Get to know their members and especially those who serve as delegates.
- From whom are you going to raise your first $50,000? Make a list, broken down into $250 and $500 checks. Then do it again for the next $50,000.
- Why do you want to run? Develop a 75-second “elevator” speech on why you should be the next legislator and what you will do for people. This is your first and best opportunity to make an impression on a prospective supporter. Be thoughtful, take your time and be authentic.
P.S. Check out our candidate resources page for information on candidate trainings, political consultants, fundraisers and PACs.