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Running for Office? Thinking About It . . .


April 3, 2019 by Linda Gallagher
Category: Administrative and Elected Officials

Running for Office? Thinking About It . . .

Public service, especially as an elected public official, is vitally important to good government and our communities. Running for office is a big decision and one not to be made lightly. Whether you would be a first-time candidate or are already an elected official, the decision to run for election or reelection involves many factors.

Here are some suggestions and resources about becoming a candidate for public office. Ready, Set, Go!

Ready

Are you ready? Begin with exploration and information gathering. Conduct an inventory of your commitment, eligibility, and qualifications. Evaluate the skills, expertise, and experience you would bring. Consult with others.

Explore the commitment required for the position by attending public meetings, researching online, and consulting with others, including those who hold or have held the elective offices that interest you.

Learn about the office and its requirements. A candidate typically needs to be a resident of the jurisdiction and a registered voter. Additional residency requirements may apply. For example, RCW 35A.12.030 requires candidates in code cities to be registered to vote within the city and to have been a city resident for at least one year. For cities with district-based voting, candidates must reside within the district for the position sought.

What about timing? Many people are interested in running for office – or for current elected officials, a different office – in the future, but not yet. Others cannot imagine ever being in the public eye as a candidate or an elected official. Often colleagues, friends, and family encourage a candidate to step into a race sooner than initially planned. Only you know what will work best; however, sometimes “too soon” turns out to be the right timing after all.  

What will the election process bring? Expect and plan for a great deal of learning, opportunities for debate, politics (even with nonpartisan positions), apprehension about the unknown, doubts, surprises, fear of failure and, perhaps, fear of success. Cultivate courage. Being brave is being afraid of something but doing it anyway.

Set

Prepare, prepare, prepare. Do your homework. Understand the issues that are important to you and to your community. Gather a team to help you. It is hard to be a team of one. You will want your strongest supporters on your team. This may include your partner or spouse, parents, siblings, friends, professional colleagues, mentors, current and former elected officials, and others. Why are you running? Have a strong, solid, and concise answer.

The Washington State Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) is an important resource in helping candidates learn about and comply with campaign laws. For example, candidates are responsible for making financial disclosures, including Personal Financial Affairs Statement forms (called F-1 statements), reporting campaign contributions, and more. Here is a link to the PDC’s webpage for Filer Tips and Updates.

Plan carefully for how and when to begin your candidacy. Under state law, saying publicly that you are running for an office is one of five ways a candidacy begins: In fact, by doing any one of the actions listed below, you have become a candidate:

  1. Accept a contribution or spend money for your campaign,
  2. Reserve space or purchase advertising to promote your candidacy,
  3. Authorize someone else to do any of these activities for you,
  4. State publicly that you are seeking office, or
  5. File a declaration of candidacy.

This is one reason why we sometimes hear that someone is “thinking about running” for office. After becoming a candidate there are only two weeks to comply with PDC requirements, including submitting an F-1 statement, so it is important to be prepared.  

Understand the prohibition on use of public facilities in RCW 42.17A.555. In addition, if you are in public employment, campaign activities need to be kept entirely separate from your work. RCW 42.17A.575 prohibits participation in public service announcements during an election year.

Go!

If you decide to run, then go for it. Here are some important dates to remember.     

Date Activity
Monday, May 13 - 17 Filing week: submit your declaration of candidacy
Friday, May 24 Deadline for materials (photo, statement, and resume) for the voters’ pamphlets
Monday, May 20 Last day to withdraw a candidacy filing
Tuesday, August 6 Primary election
Thursday, November 7 General election

In addition to many learning experiences during a campaign, you will likely get more advice than you request or may want. Here is mine: Make sure your mind and heart are in it. Stay consistent and on message. Be your authentic self. Keep careful records and schedules. Listen. Keep your promises. Do the right thing.

Resources

Here are some resources other than the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission that current candidates and future candidates might find helpful.

From MRSC

From the Association of Washington Cities (AWC)

From the Washington Secretary of State

Comments? Questions?

If you have comments about this blog post or other topics you would like me to write about, please email me. If you have questions about other local government issues, please use our Ask MRSC form or call us at (206) 625-1300 or (800) 933-6772

About Linda Gallagher

Linda Gallagher joined MRSC in 2017. She previously served as a Senior Deputy Prosecuting Attorney for King County and as an Assistant Attorney General.

Linda’s municipal law experience includes risk management, torts, civil rights, transit, employment, workers compensation, eminent domain, vehicle licensing, law enforcement, corrections, and public health.

She graduated from the University of Washington School of Law.

VIEW ALL POSTS BY Linda Gallagher

Comments

"Thank you Linda! Great article."

Susan Conniry on Apr 3, 2019 9:30 AM

1 comment on Running for Office? Thinking About It . . .

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