Help me help my friend into politics
October 19, 2008 8:07 PM   Subscribe

Late last year, I convinced a friend to run for public office in my hometown. He did! How can I help make sure he has a bright political future?

I convinced a childhood friend to run for office in the East Bay, California city were both raised in. Then I lost my job and returned to Washington, DC, where I am currently employed.

He was of course interested in politics when I talked him into putting his name on the ballot, but I convinced him to set his sights on a good post on a small, but political incisive board that deals with rental property rights. He is already an appointed member of the garbage board in my hometown and has been a major force there for transparency in the contracting process.

Out of the blue, a longtime city councilor passed away after a long illness. Friend called and asked for advice and again I told him to keep going for the board seat. I even wrote a letter to our hometown paper endorsing him for the seat. However, unknown to me, Friend filed to run for the vacant council seat pitting himself as a young, independent facing a large, well-oiled and nepotist political machine (my hometown has been essentially run for 25 years by a husband and wife duo: one was mayor while her husband was state assemblyman, then they switched places).

Although I think he is being naive to think that he can win the council seat, I don't want him to leave behind the idea of a career in politics. Friend is a natural leader with strong interests in community building, ending homelessness, crime prevention through business investment, youth empowerment, and working with troubled young adults.

It's too late for Camp Wellstone, but after the election if he does not win I want try to get him some real exposure to the local and California state political process. I am looking for something involving networking, bill-writing, and organizing. Who should I approach? What groups should I look into? Any stories you would like to share about similar experiences?
posted by parmanparman to Law & Government (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I am not sure why you expect him to lose the race, but often a new politician will run even if she expects to lose in order to gain experience. Getting an election under your belt is a big deal. Having to knock on doors, ask for money and generally brag about yourself is not easy to do the first time. I think he is doing the right thing by running, win or lose.

I applaud your goal of helping him. I am sorry I have no specific suggestions for California. He is going to need even more support if he actually wins. He should work with his party to hook up with people who can help him.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:58 PM on October 19, 2008

Best answer: I'm not sure what you can "do" for him from afar besides occasional advice.

First, he may well win, if he has the natural leadership abilities you believe he has. It's amazing how many people go into politics without even basic people skills.

Second, yes, chances are in his first run he may lose, but the experience gained will be invaluable next time around. So will the contacts he makes.

Your friend will best be able to judge where he can contribute after a loss, but it's likely to be something like getting visibility with a local organization, or wrangling an appointment to a board (zoning, arts, etc.). These will be springboards to more august office after his name is more familiar.

I do think he will do best to do something that he loves to do and do it well, rather than think in a careerist mode. He'll be more successful and happy. Ultimately, if you're not running because you believe your community needs you in some fashion, you probably shouldn't be running at all.
posted by dhartung at 12:03 AM on October 20, 2008

If your friend does win s/he needs to have a cracker jack staff or method to handle constituent services. I can always tell when a politician has hit the crapper by how their office responds to constituent issues and requests. Politics is always local and the more your friend can show that he gets things done, the better his chances for re-election. You can have good intentions and good ideas but the voter wants to see results of some sort.
posted by jadepearl at 7:06 AM on October 20, 2008

Best answer: Help your friend get elected for the seat!

City council elections are often decided by only 100s of votes. A lot of people just don't vote for local offices, so there's a lot you can do to convince people that this election is worth voting in. The most important thing you can do is get his name out there everywhere you possibly can.

Make a facebook group like "____ for city council" and invite all of your mutual friends. Get other mutual friends to invite people, too.

Talk to everyone you know in the neighborhood and encourage them to get out and vote for him.

Give him some money.

Help make campaign materials. Logos, signs, pamphlets, whatever.

Phone bank! You can do that from far away and you'll hopefully be able to be convincing because you know him well. There are public records available of likely voters (check your city government's webpage), and if he's running his campaign decently he should already have those lists handy. If not, encourage him to get them and start recruiting volunteers to door knock (can start with friends, relatives, etc). Meeting people is key.

Write another letter to the editor, this time with the correct position.

He's decided to run. The best thing you can do right now is help him win. Like others said, even if he doesn't win, getting his name out there will only help his political aspirations in the future.
posted by lunit at 7:26 AM on October 20, 2008

Also, going to a local neighborhood group and really listening to their concerns can be incredibly effective both for a campaign and for a future political springboard.
posted by lunit at 7:28 AM on October 20, 2008

Seconding Lunit's suggestion. I've worked on campaigns before and worked at my state's capitol as a staffer. The best thing you can do for your friend is give him money and volunteer for his campaign. If you happen to have any sort of connections that will give him money, volunteer for him, or in any way increase his visibility, use them.
posted by Nattie at 3:45 PM on October 20, 2008

« Older natural solutions for ADD and depression   |   Murphy strikes! SSH proxying is broken just as... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.