Passionate about a cause?
You’ll be most compelling as a candidate if you’re zealous about fixing the performance of public schools or lowering property taxes. If you think you might run, meet with like-minded community activists to talk solutions, advises Jennifer Lawless, director of American University’s Women & Politics Institute. “You want them to know who you are—a passionate, qualified individual.”
A member of a political party?
You may not have to join a political party to run for office, but it’s helpful. “Party structure gives you an instant support base that will help you move forward,” says Siobhan Bennett, president and CEO of She Should Run, an organization dedicated to getting more women elected. Volunteer for the party and donate to other candidates; even $5 helps get you in the loop.
Registered to vote?
To state the obvious being unregistered is a “kiss of death for any candidate,” says Bennett, who strongly recommends registering in person at the Board of Elections, where you can also introduce yourself as a potential candidate and learn what you need to do in order to run. Most positions have age, citizenship and residency requirements, and candidates may need to file petitions signed by a certain number of qualified voters. Additional paperwork—such as financial disclosure statements and campaign expenditure reports—may also need to be filed.
Good at building at team?
A candidate has to do it all, but even the most accomplished person has her weak spots. Some women contemplating a run “worry about whether they’ll be able to handle a televised debate, whether they’ll fund raise well,” says New Hampshire governor Maggie Hassan. Skills can be learned, and in a pinch they can be borrowed or paid for. “Build a team that is a mix of people who have good campaign experience but also people who know you well, and make sure those two sets of people can work well together,” says Hassan.
Get Inspired! Read about The New Founding Mothers of New Hampshire: five women who made political history by winning all of their state’s top slots reveal the intimate, often surprising details of their varying paths to power
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