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Home Topics in Depth Activism How can you run for office when you barely have time to survive?

  • yurbud (102 posts)
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    How can you run for office when you barely have time to survive?

    I would like to run for office at some level, but have kind of a chicken and egg problem:

    Between work, commuting, and taking care of my family, I have little to no free time to campaign to get into office, and definitely not enough extra money to quit working  and coast on savings until I got elected (or lost).

    How exactly can middle class people run for office without going bankrupt or defaulting on their student loans?

    Pastiche, bbgrunt, Bearian and 7 othersRocco, 7wo7rees, daleanime, jwirr, Fuddnik, A little weird, Marym625 like this

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12 replies
  • Marym625 (28368 posts)
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    1. Excellent question

    And exactly the reason we have to get money out of politics.

    I’m moving this to the Activism forum. Sorry, but this isn’t LBN.

    Take Action #StopFCC https://www.battleforthenet.com/breaktheinternet/ "Once the decision was made to go into Iraq as an invader and occupier,  it’s like our nation lost its conscience. And it has not yet gotten that conscience back." Madfloridian  
    • yurbud (102 posts)
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      5. thanks! I thought I had posted in GD.

      • Marym625 (28368 posts)
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        6. I can move it there if you like

        I forgot to call @sandersdem He’s run for office before and he plans to again.

        Take Action #StopFCC https://www.battleforthenet.com/breaktheinternet/ "Once the decision was made to go into Iraq as an invader and occupier,  it’s like our nation lost its conscience. And it has not yet gotten that conscience back." Madfloridian  
  • A little weird (707 posts)
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    2. I've wondered that before

    It seems like the deck is stacked against normal people running for office.  I’m sure that’s by design.

  • jwirr (4135 posts)
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    3. This is a question that should be addressed to Bernie's group and others who are

    working on getting progressives elected. It is vital to our success in changing the system from the ground up.

  • daleanime (2633 posts)
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    4. I would definitely submit yourself….

    to the Justice Democrats that Young Turks, Secular Talk and others are starting up.   Nothing to lose, right?

    When the going gets tough, the tough take care of each other
  • SandersDem (778 posts)
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    7. So….

    Here in AZ, I was fortunate enough to do a couple of things.  First, I worked full time until the day I won the primary race here, then I left my job.  That was a royal leap of faith, but as the Primary and the General were only a few months apart, I figured I would be fine.  Well, I lost the General and facing unemployment, I simply began to hustle picking up side work for nearly a year before I found my previous job which I remained in for 13 years.

    I can tell you this, having run for public office helped me down the road further my career.  No I am not a lobbyist, but I am in a job that requires an outgoing nature and the example of myself running for office demonstrated that, so it was a win. (I simply avoid talking politics at work unless someone brings it up).

    I also had an advantage that we have Clean Elections here, so raising money was possible, but not easy.  I actually struggled with the time available as well, so it was a TON of evenings (not at dinner hour) and every single weekend for a year or more walking precincts.  Your family time does suffer, so make sure you get that buy in.  It’s very, very important.

    It does depend on what you intend to run for, but you do need to get involved with your local Legislative District if you are a Dem.  Go to those meetings, they are one evening once a month.  Some districts crave candidates, others, there is competition, that is where you can find out.  Start there meeting people and building some friendships, I met one of the 2 candidates at my first LD meeting. (I ran for an office with 2 open seats).

    Running is going to take time, there simply is zero way around it, you just have to work smart, not hard and a lot of it depends on the office you seek.  One of the first things you will do is open a campaign committee (exploratory if your State allows it).  Once you file, anticipate your mailbox filling up with survey after survey. ONLY RESPOND to those you feel you have an opportunity to get an endorsement.  I made the mistake of expressing my views to a right to life survey, and while I was probably going to be on their hit list anyway, I really didn’t need to make it easy for them!

    Conversely, here in AZ I was the first straight married with kids middle aged white guy that 100% advocated for LGBTQ rights and openly supported full on Gay Marriage at a time everybody was trying to ride the fence by supporting Civil Unions. That actually got me a “slingshot” vote recommendation from the HRF which said to their members, ONLY vote for this guy.  I was very honored by that and am still proud of their support to this day even though I lost in the general, so yeah you can get some satisfaction even losing.

    So to your problem, use your network. Volunteers are so huge and you can get them readily depending upon who will endorse.  Let me say this to you, teachers and firefighters WALK and KNOCK, bless them.  To get them active for you, you will have to get their respective union endorsements.  You can also coordinate walks when running by joining other candidates, carry their literature as well, and their volunteers will carry yours barring any major philosophy differences.  I carried and my volunteers carried literature for Corp Commissioner, A Congressional Candidate, the last elected Democratic Governor in AZ as well as some local candidates.  You can support each other and save a lot of time and maximize canvassing.

    Between the Primary and the General, I did my own phone banking, even though a huge time saver would have been using an auto-dialer.

    Direct mail works as well, I was fortunate enough to have the Party do a coordinated campaign mailer for three open Legislative seats. This is only legal under certain circumstances and the Party knows those laws, but this can also save you time.

    Bottom line is, you can find ways to campaign on some limited time, but you will need to work smart, engage volunteers, rely on the Party and other candidates (as long as you can pull a fair load too, volunteers like to walk on Saturdays, especially if the candidate is there at the beginning!) and you will need money.  Money comes mostly from PACs who respond positively to your completed surveys if you are running “traditional” vs. Clean (public funding, which is in very few States).

    So, don’t quit your day job.  You also should understand fully what the elected position pays (if anything). State Rep here in AZ pays $24K/yr with a per diem that might get you to $36K, but a good chunk of that is spent on the job.  Horrible.  Had I actually won, I am not sure my family budget could have taken that hit.

    Now one final thing.  Like you, I had ZERO political experience. I was just some middle class-ish guy who wanted to make a difference. Newspapers LOVED that fact, if a news organization surveys you, ANSWER.  If you are invited to the Editorial Review Board, GO!  By doing that, I received a few critical endorsements and that can save you time also!


    • FanBoy (7983 posts)
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      9. much better and more positive advice than my cynical post, thank you for

      the cheer.

    • yurbud (102 posts)
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      10. Wow! Thanks for the thoughtful, detailed response

      I have been an activist in my union at the state level, so I have an inkling what’s involved.

      Since I teach college, in addition to my commute, I spend a lot of time grading papers, so it would be tough.

      I might have to wait until I retire.

      • SandersDem (778 posts)
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        12. Encouraging You

        not to wait, find the time.  You can do it.  Since you are a teacher and an activist, then you KNOW you would have tremendous support.

        Go for it!

  • FanBoy (7983 posts)
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    8. when you find the answer, let me know. i think they can't unless they

    have wealthy backers (in which case they’re already compromised) or are willing to risk their bankroll

    I imagine the big boys make it that way on purpose, ya think?

    • SandersDem (778 posts)
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      11. Fan

      You are mostly correct, but it really isn’t primarily wealthy individuals, its wealthy lobbyist groups.  That is why the fight for public funding of political campaigns is important. Public funding makes it possible for someone who wants to step up and run while pledging NOT to accept PAC money.  While it is supposed to remove lobbying influence, it doesn’t completely because let’s face it many of these groups represent large voting blocs.

      What it does do, is help give voters a choice even in a heavily gerrymandered district. Choices like yurbud.