Which Office Should I Run For?
Well, I’m not even considering running for office, but quite a few other people are right now. I’m also guessing that many of them have their mind made up as to what seat to try to win. Some will decide to run for a seat in the General Assembly as they’re either tired of the performance of their legislator or they’re tired of seeing their legislator run unopposed. Both are perfectly valid reasons to run. But I’m also unhappy with the Red Sox’ performance this year, but that doesn’t mean I can just head to Fenway, suit up and help out. I’d be out of my league, literally.
Unfortunately, that is also the case for some that will run for a seat in the General Assembly. When you run against an incumbent General Assembly member, they have a huge advantage. They often have more money, they have some number of experienced people willing to help and they have name recognition.
Let’s take a minute to analyze the options here. Plus, let me say again that I think it’s great any time someone gets involved and is willing to put their name on the line to run for office. That takes a great deal of time, money and effort. But it’s also a matter of whether you’ve chosen the right office to run for. If you live in a district where the vast majority of voters are affiliated Democrats and you plan to run as a Republican or Moderate, you better have some incredible plans or at least some photos of your opponent hanging out with OJ Simpson or Jerry Sandusky. It’s going to be a big uphill climb. Plus, there’s the money. Some will say that to be competitive for a General Assembly seat, you must have at least $5,000 ready to spend and maybe even upwards of $15,000. Lastly, when you head out to the local Dave’s Marketplace or the CVS, do people say hi to you by name? Are you recognized in the neighborhood? In all likelihood, your incumbent opponent is.
So what’s the alternative? You want to get involved, you’re sick of what’s going on in politics and you’re ready to do something. Here’s an idea. Start local. There’s no shame at all in running for your local town council. We do need smart and conscientious people running the town. Very often in some towns, those seats go unopposed. Basically, one person signed their name on the line and that got them the seat. Plus in many towns, you’re one of seven making big decisions for your own community. In the General Assembly, you’re one of 75 in the House or one of 38 in the Senate. Additionally, many local councils are non-partisan. So that straight ticket voting isn’t going to affect you as badly if you don’t choose to run as a Democrat. Running for a council seat still isn’t cheap, but often it needs less funding than a General Assembly run.
Another area to consider is that in many towns around the state, the largest part of the town’s money goes to the schools. In my own town, a little under 80% of the entire budget funds the schools. Are you upset about the way your town taxes you or how it spends the money? Maybe consider a run for your local School Committee.
A seat on your local Council or School Committee isn’t the “junior varsity”. It’s not a step down from the General Assembly. If you really want to affect change in your town, often serving on one of these committees will be able to do more than going to Smith Hill. Plus, if you really do have your sights set on getting to the General Assembly some day, but you see it as a long shot this year due to some of the things I mentioned, then why not start local? Work hard, walk your district, knock on doors, meet people and get them to know you and what you believe in. Then over time, you’ll have the same advantages as the incumbents in Providence. You’ll get the name recognition among the voters, you’ll have the groups of people to support you and you’ll have a database of people that you can call on for fundraising.
I think what I’m saying is too often, people see themselves as a sacrificial lamb one year, thinking that this will be the practice run, you’ll get your name on the ballot and people will remember you in two years when you’re really ready to make a run at it. If that’s the case, you can get all the same benefits by staying local, and like I said, you can often even do much more locally, than you can at the State House.
Whichever way you decide, best of luck to you, do what’s best for the people in your district, get a good campaign treasurer and don’t miss any deadlines. The deadline for declaring with the Secretary of State is next week.