10 Tips for Those Fed-up Enough to Run for Office

My Lord I still love Ann.

Campaign finance report finally complete! Still have six and a half hours to sleep before football, even. :/ (Come join our weekly festivities at PJ’s and Cecil’s on W. Gray if you can, it’s a good time.)

After the Molly Ivins documentary last night, there was a Q&A with a fabulous woman (whose name escapes me right now, my brain is so very tired) who knew the Ivins family and was heavily involved with the film. I asked her what advice she thought Molly might give me as an outlier running for local office, and she said “Whether you win or you lose, have fun with it, and do all the good you can.”

I loved that, and I’ve been thinking about what I’ve learned, and what my own advice would be to someone choosing to run:

1) Don’t.

2) Nope, never mind, go ahead and go for it. The people you meet on the campaign trail are going to make it all worth it and remind you why you got yourself into this foolishness in the first place.

3) Do your due diligence. I started out aiming for an At-Large candidacy but switched right over to a massive playing field because you have to go with what you know. Spend 20% of your time talking, 50% listening and participating, and another 30% really thinking about what the people you’ve met have to say. Allow their experiences to change and refine your own ideas and platform. Keep that open mind, and know what and whom you’re fightin’ for.

4) Oh my goodness do not try to do it all yourself. If you have great ideas and your heart’s true and focused, let people help you along the way. Appreciate them dearly, in whatever way you are able.

5) Get really good at Microsoft Excel. Even if you’re like me and save every dang receipt along the way, these campaign finance reports are some mind-numbing work. Also, write down every expense on paper too, because you never know when the screen on your laptop is gonna break while you’re visiting your mama for the weekend.

6) You can’t make every event or even complete every questionnaire. You can choose what’s really important to you. I’d encourage you to not miss things like the League of Women Voters’ guide or Ballotpedia or all that, though, even if you’re up until 4 am making sure it all gets done.

7) Don’t try to co-found your own business at the same time you’re running for office. You are looking at a world of hurt, just trust me on this one.

8) Keep the people who are closest to you and most supportive of you right next to your heart. Take time, even if it’s just an hour a week, to enjoy their company. They’re the ones who will do things like make sure you’re fed after another 20-hour day. Election Day will come and go, but the people who love you will be there for life. Make sure they know that they’re loved and valued. Communicate with them – they keep you grounded, too.

9) This may be the most important. There will be times when you’ll be exhausted and want to throw in the towel. The infighting and the backstabbing and the paperwork and the constant events and obligations and the mailings and phone calls from people who want your money are gonna wear you down. So, when you feel that way, remember these three things:

a: Get to know and love your “competitors.” Some may want to see your head on a pike, but not all of them. In fact, many may become friends because you want the same things. Love them and do good things with them after the election, no matter who wins what.

b: Don’t lose the reason you ran in the first place. Mark Twain, one of my lifelong favorite authors, once said “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.” Be honest. Be authentic. You might stammer your way through a speech because you’re running on 36 hours with no sleep, but people can feel your heart. They can also smell a phony from a mile away, so… don’t be one.

c: Read. Read until your eyes want to fall right out of your head, and you’ll end up needing bifocals by the end of the campaign. Your daily and nightly homework is going to consist of pages and pages of news, commentary, budgets, legal documents, community newsletters, you name it. The more you know, the more you can help, and the more confident you’ll be about being able to help.

10) Above all, in the words that Molly Ivins might’ve said to me as well: Whether you win or you lose, have fun with it, and do all the good you can.


P.S. If you’ve hung in there for this long, you may be a reader, and we need readers these days. You can follow my blog (and donate to my campaign – since I’m starting to get good at these Excel spreadsheets – or contact me about volunteer opportunities at wolfehearsyou.com).

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