Running for Office
October 9, 2004 10:14 PM   Subscribe

I had a wild idea today. I'm pondering several career moves, mulling over various choices. Suddenly I thought: hey, what about politics/civic office?

posted by scarabic to Law & Government (11 answers total)
I applaud your idea. More people should be involved in politics (beyond just complaining, I mean). I'm assuming here you're interested in running and serving, as opposed to being part of a candidate/officeholder's support network (i.e., speechwriter, advance person, press liaison, etc.)

Are you plugged in at all to any kind of local political network (party organization or pressure group)? My sense (as an observer) is that politics as a vocation is about networking, more than just about any other career. The ones who get elected are good at meeting new people, remembering faces and stories, and asking for favors.

Then there's the policy part - understanding the ins and outs of whatever it is your potential constituents want/need.

Then of course there's the small matter of being an effective officeholder. Can you stand up to your friends on matters of principle? Can you be pragmatic enough about those principles to sometimes put them aside for some greater good? Can you play rough (politics ain't beanbag)? Can you work extremely long hours for low pay?

And, through it all, do you enjoy raising money? Because that seems to be how most politicians spend about half their waking hours, unfortunately.
posted by luser at 1:01 AM on October 10, 2004

Awesome! What kinda platform are you considering?

The ones who get elected are good at meeting new people, remembering faces and stories, and asking for favors.

Scarabic in the nutshell. Especially the asking for favors part. :^D

Green party? Local school board? That congressy type dealy? Deets, holmes!
posted by squirrel at 4:15 AM on October 10, 2004

Get involved in your local party first. Make the connections that will enable you to be an effective fundraiser-trust me on this one.

My husband is running for office right now. Email me if you have specific questions.
posted by konolia at 4:25 AM on October 10, 2004

There are few states in which politics constitutes a career, if I may be U.S.-centric. Here in Virginia, for example, members of town or city council make between $0-$8k in all but the largest of cities. Our legislature is part-time, so they make something like $10k, IIRC. Some municipalities have elected full-time mayors, in lieu of city managers, but that necessitates significant experience in that field, ideally a graduate-level degree.

It's not that there aren't political jobs that can be your sole job, it's just that, in most of the country, it generally takes many years to get up to that level. Presumably, you know more about Berkeley than I do. :)
posted by waldo at 7:52 AM on October 10, 2004

There are few states in which politics constitutes a career

You are forgetting the graft, my friend. I've worked for a couple of city governments and have noted that, once elected, the private businesses owned by city council members will suddenly flourish. This is why some people will spend $10K for a job that only pays $5K.
posted by SPrintF at 7:57 AM on October 10, 2004

any skeletons in the closet?
posted by MzB at 8:09 AM on October 10, 2004


Why, none at all!
posted by squirrel at 8:15 AM on October 10, 2004

Scarabic? He's a smart cookie, you'll never find a skeleton in his closet.
posted by substrate at 12:31 PM on October 10, 2004

My father ran as a state representative in the 70s and lost -- why, I have no idea. My main memory of it is getting to chuck bubblegum at people from a convertible.

He did a *lot* of political activity before this and after, and I think he'd have a more successful run today if he were still interested, because his record of public service really shines. A partial list includes heavy work with charities, presiding over his county's mental health board, and very active membership in community service organizations like Lion's Club. This is all stuff he's continued to do long past his personal political ambitions, so it's been sincerely meant: he loves his town, and he's one of those people who calls no one a stranger. I think you need that kind of personality and time in the public service trenches before anyone will take you seriously as a candidate.

Most important to the politically ambitious, he's done extensive campaign organizing for just about every governor running his party's ticket, and more local organizing as well.

So, first: lots of volunteer work with the community issues most affecting your city. My own experience with this is if you do a competent job, and show obvious initiative and commitment, you will eventually be asked to serve as an officer of the organization you are working with. The more volunteering, the more boards, the more visible you are and the better rationale people have to vote for you. You also acquire a feel for the procedures of politics, the kind of day-to-day work involved in organizing and working with others on administrative decisions. If you hate that, you will hate being a politician.

Then, make some time for the political party of your choice by starting with the scut: stuffing envelopes, push-polling, the crap no one really wants to do. Once you've proved you're willing to do that, you will be entrusted with more and more responsibility. That's how someone I know became the Green Party treasurer in my state. As you get to know more and more well-connected people, you can start the fund-raising and staff-building, which as luser notes will occupy most of your time during election seasons. And, chances are, like waldo says, you'll be hanging on to that private sector employment just to make your personal ends meet.

Or, you could just make a bunch of really successful action movies and shtup a Kennedy. Whatever you do, best of luck.
posted by melissa may at 1:23 PM on October 10, 2004

substrate, that (thread) was my first thought!
posted by shoepal at 10:18 PM on October 10, 2004

That punk never even came back to his own thread. He probably posted it as part of a sleep-walking episode. Sometimes he orders webvan pizzas, other times he makes dates in chat rooms. His narcowebpersona is Claudio Gustavo. Watch out for him: he's hungry, horny, gassy, and full of momentary political aspirations.
posted by squirrel at 8:15 AM on October 11, 2004

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