Running for political office — whether on a local, state, or federal level — is no light undertaking. Much work must be done before a candidate can even declare his or her intentions, and it’s beneficial to make sure that you’re ready for such a leap.
For veterans, running for office is often seen as a “second service”, a continuation of public servitude borne out of a sense of loyalty to the country and a desire to facilitate change.
Veterans have a unique sense of perspective gleaned from their time in the military, and this often transfers well into political office. For example, a veteran may have a sense of how foreign policy and military spending actually affects those in service, and may have more realistic ideas for ways to implement change and policies. This perspective is valuable, as it’s impossible to replicate without military service.
What veterans need to know before running for office
So, what does a veteran need to know before running for office? First, it’s important to determine whether running for office is a concept that fits in with one’s core values and personality.
Ask yourself the following questions:
What is important to me? What about my peers in the military? What are some things we would have changed if we had the authority?
Do I know about issues that are currently affecting my community? Do I want to help improve my community?
Should I be elected, will I be willing to fight for my community?
If your answers to these questions indicate a sense of caring for the community and a desire to help improve it, then running for office may just be the right fit for you.
Get involved at the local level
Now that you’ve decided to run for office, it’s time to get involved and be visible within your community. Most elected officials get their start at the local level, and have plenty of opportunities to get involved.
Attend town hall meetings or other meetings open to the public within your community. Take note of any policies or laws up for changing or enactment, and find ways to connect with members of your community to get a sense of what their needs and desires are.
A successful candidate must be able to connect with his or her audience and this is a skill that is typically learned, not one that comes 100% naturally. You will want to start by facilitating discussions about what could make your community even better, and be sure to spread your vision using channels such as social media and email.
Remember: a political campaign is just as much about marketing as it is about the election itself. How you present yourself, your platform, and your values to the public can make or break the success of your campaign.
Get to know your constituents and start crafting your platform
Another important aspect of designing any political campaign is education. How well-versed are you on the current political environment for the area you are running? How well do you know the policies that are important to your potential constituents and the positions you are championing? Additionally, how well do you know your potential constituents and what they want from their representatives? If you answered any of these questions with uncertainty, then your education is lacking and it’s time to get to work. Be sure to have a thorough, working knowledge of the political environment — failure to do so will significantly decrease your opportunity for success.
Build a great team
Last, but certainly not least, a campaign is only as successful as the team behind it. Even at the smallest level, no person can run for office on his or her own. Surrounding yourself with a strong and capable team will enhance your campaigns opportunity for success. Your team will likely be volunteers at the start but they should be aligned with the values that you’ve outlined for your campaign and should be able to present a unified front to the public.
It’s no secret that veterans in political office are great representatives for the public, especially at the local level where most lawmakers get their start. Whether your career goal is to one day reach the highest level political offices possible or to simply make your local community a better place, take the time now to lay the groundwork and educate yourself on how you can best succeed with your “second service”.
Are you a military veteran that’s considering running for office? Sign up for our candidate training program.