Want to Run for Office? Here’s Where to Start
Running for office is a form of “second service” that many veterans decide to serve after completing their time in the armed forces. While the decision to run for political office is not one to take lightly, we encourage veterans to consider pursuing this path as there is always a need for more veteran representation in office.
Why do veteran voices matter in office? Many reasons! One primary factor that voters tend to favor is that veterans have unique worldviews and perspectives. These veterans often have first-hand experience with the implementation effects of foreign policy changes and military spending, among other things. This perspective is needed in office, and numbers of veterans in office have dwindled since the Vietnam War era.
With that in mind, we’ve created a series of resources for veterans who have an interest in running for office. We’ll start with the basics and work from there. If you’re considering running for office, here are some early considerations:
Find your platform
Every politician has a platform on which they base all of their campaign assets. The platform a candidate is on can determine which voters they target and what issues they highlight as major opportunities for reform. Therefore, deciding on the right platform is imperative to having success and organization in your campaign.
But you shouldn’t decide on your platform all on your own. You need to get a sense of what your voter base wants. Whether you’re running for city council or state office, it’s important to know what matters to those who will vote for you. Spend time talking to voters, researching past voting records, and examining fellow candidates’ platforms to get a sense of where you should stand.
Fill out necessary paperwork
Depending on what office you plan to run for, there will be some necessary paperwork and administrative steps to take before you can be considered. Be sure to find the proper resources for the district, county, or other office/jurisdiction.
It’s quite ill-advised to run for office on your own. It takes a full support crew to make a campaign successful, and for good reason! Particularly for those who are new to the scene, having some expertise on the team to help navigate the path can be invaluable. And don’t forget: everyone has a different skill set.
By enlisting the help of trusted advisors and others who may be able to contribute in areas such as public relations or financial management can help set even the most inexperienced candidate up for success. Don’t have a huge budget? That’s okay! Many campaigns are assisted and staffed by dedicated volunteers, so don’t be afraid to seek these individuals out for additional support.
An important step in creating a winning platform for a campaign is to set a precedent for branding. Yes, this matters! A campaign that has a consistent appearance across platforms is more memorable, and good branding lends more credibility to the candidate. They say appearances don’t matter — but branding certainly does!
Branding doesn’t have to entail a lot of fancy graphic design, either. Branding can be as simple as a style of dress, a slogan, or an aesthetic on social media. All of these elements combine to create a visual appeal that both fits a candidate’s personality and platform as well as encourages voters to connect.
While veterans have increased their numbers in places such as Congress in recent election cycles — the current Congress class has 96 veterans represented — the numbers are still low. Veteran voices are of paramount importance in Congress, particularly when it comes to matters of foreign policy. So is the upcoming election cycle the prime time to run, as a veteran? Find out here.