How to win a seat in the House of Reps?
March 21, 2006 7:13 AM   Subscribe

What is involved in running for a seat in the House? Right now there is an uncontested seat in my district, (AR-03) Arkansas, going to Boozman (R). He has a lot of financial backing and and a solid religious support base but he is also batshit insane. I am a 32 year old network/computer specialist that works for the university with no previous political experience, I am pretty good organizer and a fair public speaker and would do well on web activism. but I am not sure if this would even make a difference in a real congressional race as I have no $$$, if there was another candidate I would support them, but this guy is running unopposed so somebody should do something!
posted by los pijamas del gato to Law & Government (24 answers total)
DailyKos has been posting updates about a 50 State Project, which has the goal of ensuring that every congressional district in the country has someone on the Democratic ticket. That link won't give you the details of what you need to know, but it could get you plugged into a good support network and lead you to the right info.
posted by alms at 7:24 AM on March 21, 2006

this might be a place to start. You might want to sign up for daily kos and post a diary there with the same question.
posted by delmoi at 7:24 AM on March 21, 2006

los pijamas del gato posted "that works for the university"

A public university?

Any state Hatch Act that would prevent you from running and keeping the job? If not, expect that the University will get state funding for, and decide to outsource its IT about ten minutes after you file as a candidate.

And likely the same would happen if it's a private university unless it's got a major private endowment. Even private unis rely heavily on government funding.
posted by orthogonality at 7:30 AM on March 21, 2006

Best answer: In Arkansas, the state filing deadline for elective office is April 4 (the filing period begins today). This first step is relatively easy. You'll effectively have to pay fees and sign forms. After that, the hard part begins -- and this is still just hoops to jump through. You'll need to gather signatures on a nominating petition. Haven't bothered to look how many folks voted in your district in 2002, but you'll need 3% of them wanting you on the ballot.

Then you need money. That's the trick. I'll post more on this later, if you'll want... For starters, read the Arkansas Candidate Handbook.
posted by piro at 7:53 AM on March 21, 2006

Take a long hard look at your past. Anything in there that might look bad if some talking head on Fox News started shouting about it? Pics of you at that kegger last summer? Girlfriend have an abortion? Dad drink too much? Donate to any causes that the wingnuts would consider "unpatriotic"?
Honest. Once you file to be a candidate, your entire life becomes fair game and an open book. And you know they will use and spin whatever they can dig up, no matter how vacuous. I'm not trying to talk you out of it...I just think you need to understand how bad it might get.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:04 AM on March 21, 2006

March seems pretty late to get in the game - to say nothing of beginning to consider a run, but mass kudos for being willing to even consider a step like that. A lot of people wouldn't. At the very least, you could give it the college try, or maybe look ahead to for 2006, I'd imagine the deadline for entering partisan races is approaching pretty quickly.

Democracy for America is one organization that's been working at improving grassroots campaigns, and holds campaign training sessions year-round, all over the country. There's one coming to Memphis this weekend, if you can make it. I can't speak to their quality or efficacy, but the agenda sounds interesting (btw, there's a $60 registration fee):
Local and national experts on campaign management, field organizing, communications, and grassroots advocacy, and organization building will be on-hand to instruct and work with you one-on-one to develop the skills needed to take our country back.

At any rate, that's one organization, and there may be others. DFA is pretty closely aligned with Howard Dean's 2004 run (the Democracy for America PAC is in fact Dean for America with a new name and mission statement), so that's something you may want to keep in mind, in case that would affect your decision.
posted by duffell at 8:07 AM on March 21, 2006

If you are seriously considering this and are running as a Democrat, there are plenty of Wesley Clark 2004 people in Arkansas who could probably help your campaign.

Arkansas is a pretty Republican state, so fundraising as a Dem could be pretty difficult.
posted by camworld at 8:15 AM on March 21, 2006

I second piro's suggestion of the Arkansas "How to Run for Office" handbook, and I will throw my two cents in: Do it. Don't think about doing it, because you will then think of a thousand reasons not to do it. Just go ahead and enter, and then run as hard as you can, and see what happens. Once you are an official candidate, I promise to contribute $50 to your campaign. So there you go, you already have a major campaign contributor. You're halfway there. Good luck. Let us know when you're in, and where I can send my check.
posted by ND¢ at 8:28 AM on March 21, 2006

Orthogonality, can you provide any linkage backing up your claim that employment by the state disqualifies one from running for office. It's certainly true that you can't campaign while at work and you can't use state resources to help your campaign. But that's different from outright barring people.
posted by alms at 8:35 AM on March 21, 2006

This may help explain orthogonality's comment, alms......Also, his comment about outsourcing is probably also right on the mark.
posted by Pressed Rat at 8:43 AM on March 21, 2006

Well, I think a fundamental question would be what party you are planning to run under? That will determine quite a bit - who your initial contacts would be, how you would construct your election image, potential financiers, public speaking opportunities, etc.
posted by mrmojoflying at 8:43 AM on March 21, 2006

Although note that state university employees appear exempt....
posted by Pressed Rat at 8:45 AM on March 21, 2006

Peter Buckley did what you want to do, on the state level. While working in a completely different field, he discovered that the Republican incumbent in his district was running unopposed, and he began a campaign not so much expecting to win as hoping to raise awareness and to give the local Democrats a worthy, if somewhat inexperienced, candidate. He lost the election, but gained 26 percent of district's vote and was truly bit by the political bug. Now he's Assistant Democratic Leader in the Oregon State House of Representatives.
posted by hsoltz at 8:48 AM on March 21, 2006

There's a gubernatorial election in AR this fall. Although your run is unlikely to be very successful (hopefully I'm wrong), you might be able to get some backing from the state party by reminding them that a few more Dems turning out in your district could tilt the statewide election.

In general, if I were giving advice, I'd reccommend running for city/county office and then the state leg. before taking a shot at Congress, but this run falls under the 'well, somebody's got to do it' exception.
posted by Octaviuz at 10:10 AM on March 21, 2006

Any state Hatch Act that would prevent you from running and keeping the job? If not, expect that the University will get state funding for, and decide to outsource its IT about ten minutes after you file as a candidate.

Wow, someone's paranoid.
posted by delmoi at 10:37 AM on March 21, 2006

We've discussed running in Arizona before. Most of the legal info, of course, is different, but it sounds like this thread has the Arkansas stuff well-covered. The other thread might have some useful tips about grassroots, campaigning, etc., though.

Best of luck!
posted by SuperNova at 10:39 AM on March 21, 2006

What is involved seems pretty simple:

(1) File paperwork and pay fees to enter the Democratic primary. The handbook has the information about doing that. It looks like you need some paperwork from the Democratic party to do so; just be nice and admit up front that you're going to be a token opponent, and point out that you on the ballot keeps crazies from hijacking the party label (see James Hart in TN).
(2) Presumably win the primary unopposed.
(3) Lose the general election.

You should keep your goals realistic. You will be what poli-sci types call a hopeless amateur. You are very, very, very unlikely to win the election unless Boozman is caught with a live boy or dead girl, as the saying goes, or dies immediately before the general election. You are not there to realistically win the election. You are there because you feel it is important for Boozman not to be unopposed, to force him into debates, to fly the party flag a little bit, and maybe to increase Democratic turnout in other races in your area.

This doesn't mean you shouldn't run. But it does mean that you would be wise to not treat your run as a serious bid for elective office, because it is not. Do not commit your savings to the race. Do not take out loans to finance the run. Do not take (much) vacation time or unpaid leave to try to get the fundraising that you're not going to be able to get. Treat this run as a serious hobby.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:42 AM on March 21, 2006

You should have started the process a year ago.

Get in touch with your county Democratic Party organization. You will need their backing. If they don't have a candidate running you may be surprised how much help they can be to you. Then get some volunteers (Young Democrats, maybe?) and start knocking on doors. I mean it.

(my husband has run for office before, so we know the drill.)

(And , full disclosure, we are Republican, but the process is the process. During our marriage we have actually been involved on both sides-we started out active in the Democrat party.)
posted by konolia at 11:31 AM on March 21, 2006

Response by poster: Well thanks for all the great info working on the candidate handbook now. I had thought of the conflict of interest thing with regards to working for a public institution, I am required to sign something that I must disclose money made through outside the university, ect. ect. I was checking up local elections in general just to get more informed for the year in politics and I came across this guy running for governor
and I found the unopposed house race. Also Arkansas isn't that Republican of a state just the rich folks in this district. That being said if the deadline is April 4th, that is not a lot of time to really come up with any sort of cohesive platform and campaign, other than the fact I am not Boozman who is indeed a douche, but this is a pretty weak stance overall. Oh, and I have donated to Moveon in the past so there is your dirt, other than that amazingly dirt free! We need a metafilter party line based on rational progressive politics moderated in forums! Well thanks for all the advice, knowledge is power and I wanna gut the political animal so I can see how it really works
posted by los pijamas del gato at 12:41 PM on March 21, 2006

los pijamas del gato writes "that is not a lot of time to really come up with any sort of cohesive platform and campaign, other than the fact I am not Boozman who is indeed a douche, but this is a pretty weak stance overall."

I know American politics are wildly different than Canadian politics but I wouldn't underestimate the "Not X who is a douche/crook/idiot" platform. Many a politician has got in on just that platform.
posted by Mitheral at 2:07 PM on March 21, 2006

LPDG, go for it. You don't need to have your whole gig worked out by the time you file. Filing just gets you into the race. There's plenty of time between now and the election. In any case, better to hold off on your message and get it right than to put your foot in your mouth by putting out material too early.
posted by alms at 8:47 PM on March 21, 2006

Contact your local Democratic Party. They may have someone who is planning to run, since the filing deadline is in the future. If not, you can certainly step in, but don't expect to win unless you make an all-out effort.

What you'll need to win is not a "cohesive platform" so much as money. It's OK to not have it yourself, but you'll need to raise it, lots of money, so that means cold calling all day every day, doing as many fundraisers as you can, getting celebrity politicians to come to your fundraisers, etc. etc. If you can raise enough money to put the seat in play, you and your opponent will get mucho funding from outside the district and then who knows what may happen.

I've known some elected politicians and it strikes me how hard they work at it. As anyone who has tried to sell stuff can tell you, cold calling is tough work, rather demoralising really. But some people have a knack for it, perhaps it's you.
posted by richg at 11:53 PM on March 21, 2006

I keep wondering if someone could run as a "Blogger Candidate", namely someone who has a reputation online already and uses that to generate press and coverage, which is sometimes more important that fundraising.

If I were not so disgusted with politics right now I would consider running; maybe I will in the future.
posted by camworld at 7:00 AM on March 22, 2006

For reference, your race in 2004 cost a total of $900k... 350 on the Dem side. That won him 38% of the vote. Email me at the address in my profile and I'll pass along other information on your CD that I've compiled in the course of my job.
posted by piro at 3:15 PM on March 23, 2006

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