HAVE A COMPELLING REASON TO RUN FOR OFFICE
The One Question You MUST Be Able to Answer – Even In Your Sleep!
It’s 2 am. You’re sleeping soundly and your cell phone suddenly rings. Your best friend is calling. Uh oh. Must be an emergency if he’s calling at 2am. You groggily answer the phone,
“Hey, Joe. Is everything alright?”
“Yeah, everything’s ok,” Joe replies, “but I’ve been thinking about what you told me about your plan to run for elected office. I just couldn’t sleep.”
“I think I know why,” Joe said, “but can you tell me exactly why you are running for the Statehouse?”
“C’mon, Joe. It’s 2am…”
Can you answer this question with clarity and passion?
OK. Maybe the example is a little extreme, but hear me out. Prior to my running for office, I was in a campaign school at the Leadership Institute and I remember the instructor saying (like it was yesterday) you should know why you’re running for office and be able to so clearly and passionately articulate your reasons for running that if someone called you at 2 am, you could quickly, calmly and rationally explain your reasons for running for public office.
‘Why are you running’ is a question you will get asked repeatedly in your campaign and it forms the entire rationale for your campaign so it’s important that you think this through and have a good answer.
Maybe you’ve never considered the question deeply. You may know the reasons in your gut, but you’ve never articulated it. Voters need to attach a rationale to your candidacy. If they perceive the campaign is just an exercise in stroking your massive ego, they will shy away from your candidacy. If they see a candidate with legitimate experience and a drive to make a difference on some issue, it becomes easier for them to get excited about and jump on the bandwagon for your campaign.
Three things for you to consider as you develop your answer to “the question.”
#1: Your story is the foundation – Many times your life’s experiences and insights lead you to consider running for public office.
- What have you done in your career that gives you a competitive advantage in a campaign?
- Are you a business owner that knows how to create jobs? Do you have experience with tax accounting and want to lend your expertise to the tax-writing committee?
- Do you have children that are suffering through a poor educational experience at local schools and you want to fight for improvements?
- Have you been involved in your community or local chamber and you understand the issues that need to be addressed in the campaign?
Whatever your experiences , remember that you have a personal story to tell. That is an important part of answering the question of why you are running for office.
#2: Big issues in the campaign – Many times, candidates emerge because of a burning issue in the community. Are local property taxes going up – again? Maybe jobs are leaving the community or state because of some ill-conceived fiscal policy. Are there issues of public corruption or low ethics? As a candidate, you need to understand the issues on two levels.
- “Public domain” issues. They’re mentioned in the papers and on the nightly news. Talk radio shows rant about them every morning and evening. Like it or not, these issues will be part of your campaign.
- “Under the radar” issues. As you have conversations with voters all over your district – on doorsteps and at events – you will start picking up on issues that drive voter’s opinions and attitudes. They may not make the nightly news, but make sure you take note of these issues so you can understand them and address them effectively.
Whether they are “public domain” or “under-the-radar” issues, you need to know the issues and have an informed opinion on them. The relevant issues that voters care about should be a major part of your rationale for running.
#3: Is there a void to be filled? Is the incumbent for the office you’re seeking running for higher office? Maybe the incumbent has been in office too long and has grown distant to the voters who placed him/her in office. Maybe there are ethical challenges.
Voters understand the need for someone to run for an open seat. Even if you’re challenging the incumbent, voters often enthusiastically support candidates who step up and challenge the status quo. Understand the nuances of your situation because it likely plays into the rationale for your candidacy.
IT’S YOUR TURN
Why are you running for office? Write a 3-point synopsis of your reasons for running and commit it to memory. Use this to develop a 3-minute elevator speech as well as a 15-20 minute stump speech.
What are some key success principles for you? Let us know what you think by posting your comments below in the comments section.