Millennials, like many other generations, are responding to the 2016 elections by re-committing their engagement with politics, both local and national. And while some pledge to volunteer with organizations that align with their values and others commit donations to worthy organizations, others see another avenue for change: running for local office.
Holding an elected position can be one of the strongest ways to create change within our individual communities and inspire others, but not many Millennials hold office. In fact, the average age of Senators at the start of the current Congress was 61, and the average age for members of the House of Representatives was 57. In 2016, one in three Millennials didn’t feel like candidates were talking about the issues that mattered to them. Getting more Millennials in local office could change that.
Though running for public office can seem daunting, there are various resources that can assist potential candidates, which range from basic checklists to organizations that want to support emerging leaders. No matter what you need, we’ve got the information you’re looking for below.
Decide Which Position is Right for You
The first step in running for local office is deciding which local office you want to run for. State and local elections are often overlooked in this process, but they play a major role in the day-to-day lives of American citizens. Through state and local policy, you can impact health services, criminal justice and education within your community, whereas federal policy offers broader proposals for the nation. Therefore, focusing on local elections can result in rapid, cohesive solutions for major issues that affect relatively large populations.
While each state has slightly different positions (and responsibilities for those positions), the list below includes a basic overview of the elected and appointed offices available to you. Potential candidates can also check out their state election office website or local election offices for specific rules and regulations regarding their campaigns.
- State Senator: Become a member of the State Senate and work to draft and implement legislation for your state. The State Senate has the exclusive power of confirming appointments made by the Governor.
- State Representative/State Assembly Person: Become a member of the State House of Representatives. This is the larger of the two chambers within the state legislature, as members represent smaller portions of the state. Along with general legislative powers, the State House usually has the exclusive power to initiate taxing legislation.
- Democrat/Republican State Central Committee: Run for one of the positions on your state’s branch of a political party to organize elections, mobilize voters, and represent your party.
- Common Pleas Court Judge: Become a Judge for the state court system’s general trial court.
- Clerk of Court: Maintain the records of the court and administer oaths to jurors, among other responsibilities.
- Board of County Commissioners: Represent your district on this board to establish policies and oversee the operations of the county.
- County Executive: Act as the head of the county’s executive government, oversee all departments, and manage the county budget.
- County Auditor: Oversee the county’s finances and prepare fiscal reports for the local government.
- County Engineer: Advise the local government on the county’s transportation and supervise the public works department.
- County Treasurer: Collect county-mandated taxes and disseminate funds based on the county budget.
- County Prosecuting Attorney: Represent the county in all cases of misdemeanors and felonies under state law, along with other civil cases.
- County Coroner: Confirm the death of individuals within the county and conduct any necessary investigations into the death.
- County Recorder: Record and maintain a public permanent record for the county and handle voter registration lists.
- Mayor: As head of the municipal government, oversee all city services, enforce city laws, and approve/veto city legislation.
- City Manager: Manage day-to-day operations of the city and oversee the city budget.
- City Treasurer: Closely handle the allocation of the city budget and the collection of city taxes.
- City Auditor: Oversee the city’s finances and prepare fiscal reports for the city.
- City Law Director: Represent the city in civil and criminal cases and offer legal advice for the city government.
- President of City Council: Act as the head of the City Council, which is the primary legislative body of the city.
- City Ward Councilman, Councilwoman/Alderman, Alderwoman: Represent your district as a member of the City Council to draft and implement legislation.
- At-Large Councilman, Councilwoman: Represent the entire city as a member of the City Council, rather than just your district.
- Township/Village Trustee/Town Council: Be a spokesperson for the town in state government issues.
- School Board Member/School Board President: Supervise the education system for the city and create policies to improve schools.
- Precinct Committeeman, Committeewoman: Work as a liaison between your community and a political party and have a voice in the organization of the party in your city.
Navigating The Process
Various organizations are dedicated to assisting individuals who want to run for local, state, or federal elections. Many of these are targeted towards getting minorities in elected positions to increase their representation in government. They often include leadership seminars, access to experienced politicians for advice, and checklists describing the necessary requirements for running a campaign.
These are just a few organizations dedicated to this mission:
- League of Women Voters: Dedicated to helping women get involved in the election process, LWV offers resources that explain how to run for local office. This includes step by step instructions that applies to multiple states.
- Latino Center for Leadership Development: This organization focused on lifting up Latinos who are interested in getting involved in leadership positions. The center holds leadership courses and seminars that can help any potential elected official.
- Victory Fund: Primarily focusing on LGBTQ+ advocates, the Victory Fund informs voters on these issues and supports those who want to run for office.
- She Should Run: Much like LWV, She Should Run also focuses on involving women in the political process. However, its specific target is having women elected into office on local, state and federal levels.
- Vote Run Lead: This organization also offers support for women running for elections. It has special training sessions and events to teach members about leadership.
- Off the Sidelines: Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has created this organization to encourage women and girls to make their voices heard. It includes multiple resources for women who want to run for office.
Potential candidates for local elections can also reach out to their political party within their state. Most parties offer instructions on how to manage a successful campaign, and some may also offer financial assistance.