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Candidate Information Resources for Local Government Elective Offices

This page provides information and resources for individuals who are thinking of running for local elected office or applying to fill a vacancy in local elected office in Washington State.

It is part of MRSC's series on Local Elections.


The resources gathered on this page are useful for persons who are considering filing for office, those who are candidates and have filed, and those who may be considering applying for a vacancy in an elective office.

There are a host of issues that will require your attention in the upcoming months as you begin your campaign and, if you are elected, as you prepare to assume the duties of your office. We hope you will find these resources to be helpful. Good luck in your campaign!

Elective Offices

RCW 29A.52.231 requires all city, town, and special purpose district elective offices be nonpartisan.

For elective offices of counties, cities, towns, and special purpose districts other than school districts where the ownership of property is not a prerequisite of voting, the term of an incumbent ends December 31st following the election of a qualified successor. The term for the successor begins December 31st following the election in which they were elected. See exceptions 2(a) and 2(b) and provisions for oath of office in RCW 29A.60.280.

General Qualifications for Office

For a detailed discussion of qualifications for office for each type of jurisdiction, see our Getting Into Office publication, which covers general qualifications as well as common disqualifying factors such as incompatible offices, felony convictions, or candidate conflicts of interest.

Becoming a Candidate

In order to become a candidate, an individual can do any of the following:

  • accept a contribution or spend money for their campaign;
  • reserve space or purchase advertising to promote their candidacy;
  • authorize another person to do any of these activities for them;
  • state publicly that they are seeking office; or
  • file a declaration of candidacy.

Within two weeks of the date an individual becomes a candidate, they may be required to file a Personal Financial Affairs Statement and a Candidate Registration with the Public Disclosure Commission (PDC). The personal financial affairs statement is meant to disclose potential conflicts of interest. All forms must be filed online once the candidate has established a Secure Access Washington (SAW) account. 

The PDC maintains information related to key dates for candidates to be aware of and hosts helpful events and training for candidates and local government elections staff.

See our Local Elections Administration webpage for information on the primary and special elections processes.

Election Campaign Guidelines and Requirements

The Secretary of State (SOS) and the PDC websites offer information on elections and voting, various forms, compliance manuals, and other resources for candidates. See links compiled below.

Below are MRSC webpages, publications, and other materials that may be of interest to candidates:

Specific to city and town elected officials and candidates, the Association of Washington Cities (AWC) offers:

Governing Tools

Some basic tools have been assembled to familiarize candidates with resources available on the functioning of local government. 

Legal Framework Statutes

These are the basic laws that govern the various forms of government in Washington State.

There is no single statute covering special purpose districts. For links to statutes related to special purpose districts, see Types of Special Purpose Districts in Washington State.

Where to Find Local Government Regulations

Legislation for cities, towns, and counties is generally accomplished in the form of ordinances and resolutions. Some special purpose districts only use resolutions. Note that, depending on the subject, state law may specify whether an ordinance or resolution should be used for certain local laws. Some special purpose districts only use resolutions.

Many jurisdictions post ordinances and resolutions on their websites. A number of local governments have codified their local laws into code books, and MRSC maintains two webpages that link to individuals code books:

  • Washington City Codes — Codified ordinances adopted by Washington cities and town legislative bodies; not all jurisdictions have code books.
  • Washington County Codes — Codified ordinances and resolutions adopted by Washington county legislative bodies.

Quick Reference Guides from MRSC

The guides below cover some basic concepts local government officials should know, such as appearance of fairness, open government, public records, and other legal information.

General Resources for Candidates and Elected Officials

The handbooks listed below are for elected officials and candidates for office.

For cities and towns:

  • AWC
    • Small City Resource Manual (2020) — Provides a brief overview of key topics, outlining the most important considerations, as well as comprehensive resources. Can be used to orient new elected officials or staff, or as a reference when questions arise.
    • Cities 101 Videos — Provides brief overviews of selected local government topics, including sewers, revenues and expenses, population growth, transportation, and property taxes.
  • AWC and MRSC: Mayor and Councilmember Handbook (Updated 2021) — Covers everything from presiding over meetings, resolving/preventing conflict, budget basics, statutes, parliamentary procedures, roles and responsibilities, open public meetings act, appearance of fairness, and citizen participation.
  • MRSC: Code City Handbook (2009) — Provides essential information for code city officials on their powers, duties, and alternatives that are available under the applicable forms of municipal government.

For counties:

For hospital districts:

Roles of Elected Officials - Resources

It is essential for effective local government that elected officials understand the roles of their respective offices and their interrelationships with other officials and staff. Below are several resources that clarify these important issues.

For cities and towns:

For counties:

Policymaking Resources from MRSC

One of your primary responsibilities as an elected official will be to discuss, develop, and adopt local laws and policies by drafting and adopting ordinances and resolutions through your a governing body. Some local ordinances, however, are adopted or reviewed directly by the public through the initiative and referendum process. Resources from MRSC can help to clarify these processes: 

Open Government Resources

Openness and accountability are critical to the health of our democratic system of government. MRSC offers several resources dealing with the OPMA and PRA disclosure laws and offers strategies for connecting residents with their local governments.

Local Government Finance/Budgeting Resources

Paying for government is always a challenging issue. The resources below are intended to help local government staff and elected officials understand the budgeting process. 

For cities and towns:

For counties:

  • MRSC: Revenue Guide for Washington Counties (Updated 2022) — Intended primarily to assist county policymakers and administrators in understanding the array of revenue sources available for the various programs and services they provide.

General resources from MRSC:

  • Budgeting in Washington State — Offers an overview of all MRSC's resources related to budgeting, including our popular annual Budget Suggestions publication.
  • Finance — Offers an overview of all MRSC's webpages related to local government finance.

Training for Newly Elected Officials

Last Modified: February 23, 2024