Political Fundraising
January 4, 2005 2:04 PM   Subscribe

Have any MeFites run for local public office? How did you raise funds? [+]

I am thinking about challenging some of the local Republicans incumbents who always run unopposed (Westchester, NY). Thing is, I have no cash. Me: educated and in debt, not yet connected politically. Aside from "don't do it," are any tips from campaign vets out there in MeFi land?
posted by mds35 to Law & Government (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: *checks spellcheck/grammar settings*
posted by mds35 at 2:10 PM on January 4, 2005

Promise favors to local contractors in exchange for campaign contributions - not.

Really, just get in touch with the local Democratic party and tell them you want to run. I am sure they will be glad to help.
posted by caddis at 2:22 PM on January 4, 2005

Response by poster: caddis, I suppose that is step one. BTW, I saw your Boonton comments in another thread. So, the cyber stalker in me Googled your zip code and the first result was your zip code's profile on this site. Already I am building a mailing list! Neat, huh?
posted by mds35 at 2:31 PM on January 4, 2005

Response by poster: Crap. That didn't play well. This is the page I meant to show off.
posted by mds35 at 2:33 PM on January 4, 2005

Do you intend to run for a party or as an independent?
posted by loquax at 2:52 PM on January 4, 2005

Best answer: At minimum, find out what the legal requirements are for getting a recognized party (presumably Democratic) to nominate you. As long as you have no visible negatives (e.g., unemployed, criminal history, visible crank), there isn't any reason (it seems to me) why they would object to at least having a name on a ballot. Ask.

With a nomination comes the opportunity to (a) get a statement published in the official election brochure (find out if there is a cost to this); and (b) to be interviewed by the local press when it considers its endorsements.

See if there are any hot-button issues where your opponent has a different position then a majority of the people he/she represents. Or (for a local candidate) where he/she isn't doing his/her job adequately. Finding this out is going to take some work. If you can't identify (m)any (significant) reasons why you (and others) should dislike your opponent (other than because of his/her party), then rethink whether you should run against that person. The issues that you identify are important because:

* These go into your ballot statement.
* These are the points you make whenever you're interviewed, and the points you make when you ask someone to vote for you.
* These may lead to funding IF you can identify a group that really cares about an issue.

You're almost definitely going to lose the first time out. But you'll have the chance to (a) raise important issues that may otherwise be neglected; (b) push your opponent to reconsider some of his/her positions and actions; (c) build your credibility; and (d) start building a base for future campaigns (if people feel like your efforts were worthwhile, even though you lost).

Good luck!
posted by WestCoaster at 3:28 PM on January 4, 2005

Best answer: My husband ran for office last November.

The way to get money is to ask for it. Seriously. But let me back up...you need to start way before the prospective election season. One thing you can do is get involved in your local political party on the precinct level. What that does is get people familiar with you. And that is crucial.

But the real truth is you aren't getting any real money if you aren't an incumbent, at least until you prove what you can do in a race-in other words, don't even be concerned with PAC money and such. So instead go where you can meet people. The above suggestions are correct-go to county commissioner meetings, write letters to the editor, and make friends with other people who have run for office successfully. A lot of it really is in who you know.

My husband raised more money than any other challenger in his party statewide, and it was still way pitiful compared to his challenger. BUT he got over 40 percent of the vote his first time out of the gate. This first run laid the groundwork for his next run. That's how it works.
posted by konolia at 3:52 PM on January 4, 2005

Uh, My husband raised more money than any other challenger for the particular office he ran for.
posted by konolia at 3:53 PM on January 4, 2005

I work for a municipality and have noticed that all of our elected officials have some kind of volunteer base to do some leg work. One commissioner is a member of the Women's Club, one coaches in a baseball league, one is connected to every teen group thanks to a handful of their own kids, and another runs a local theater. So I guess I'm suggesting you find some group of core people that you can draft to hand out stuff, spread the word, work events, etc...

About the money - our State Representative, who has an office here in my building, says he just went door to door and visited every business in the area he could find. He just asked them how they were doing, what they thought, etc... A few days later he sent them a nice letter saying how nice it was to meet them and repeated back something they had told him. Enclosed was a donation envelope. He says it worked really well.
posted by stevis at 3:55 PM on January 4, 2005

yhbc did, and won, I believe. He's since disappeared from MeFi, though, which is a shame.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:24 PM on January 4, 2005

I have.

You have to be comfortable asking friends and family for money. When you're running for local office, as a first-timer, that's where your money will come from. You can either get $5k from one great friend (depending on state campaign finance laws, of course) or $5 from 1,000 friends. In my race (Charlottesville City Council; came 3 votes shy), I raised ~$5,800 from ~70 people, by far the best fundraising record of anybody in the race.
posted by waldo at 4:26 PM on January 4, 2005

Best answer: This won't help with the debt, but it's the most informative and concise book I've ever read relating to local elections:

How to Win a Local Election
by Judge Lawrence Gray

As for fundraising: in my experience, the quickest way to do it without outright asking for it in direct mail/phone calls/visits is to find a local restaraunt owner sympathetic to your cause and see if they'll help you host a beef and beer at cost. Charge $40 a plate, and you've got seed money and a good kickoff party. If Democrat, find a place that sports some union paraphernalia, they're usually the most receptive to things of this nature.
posted by The White Hat at 8:21 PM on January 4, 2005

Best answer: Democracy For America

A big part of the post-Dean action has been to get local folks who might not have otherwise run to run for office.

"DFA is rebuilding the Democratic Party from the bottom-up by focusing on down ballot races and building a quality talent pool of potential candidates for the future. We sponsor activist trainings, recruit and endorse quality candidates and build a network of volunteers that will be actively engaged in supporting candidates who share our values."
posted by anastasiav at 9:45 PM on January 4, 2005

Excellent question. No advice myself, but I want to follow this.
posted by absalom at 8:19 AM on January 5, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks for the tips, everyone! I especially like the tale stevis told. And I snagged the Lawrence Grey book from eBay this morning.

To answer the question above, yes I am a Democrat.

This will be a long-term project, no doubt. I am currently trying to get my debt under control. I will make contact with the local party and attend a DFA meetup finally ('been meaning to for a while now). I'll keep MeFi posted when things get rolling, if I can do so without self-posting.

Any more advice you all may have will be appreciated.
posted by mds35 at 9:19 AM on January 5, 2005

Our small town just removed any limits on single contributors to campaigns. They tried to argue that this gives the little guy a chance to run for office because he can be funded by abusive developers.

Right now the city council is stocked with developer/contractor toady-boys.

posted by mecran01 at 1:33 PM on January 5, 2005

There's a reason why business men and lawyers get office, and its not just their connections. People see them as the successful and "smart" types who should run this country. Russ Feingolds are the exceptions, not the rule.

I know it is OT, but Feingold was a successful lawyer before he ran for office.
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 6:54 PM on January 5, 2005

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