Political campaign season is in high gear. This year Mississippi voters will elect candidates for statewide, county and certain district offices. Although the deadline has passed to qualify to run for those positions it is an appropriate time to broach the subject of running for political office in a future election cycle. In this column, I offer eight reasons for you to think about running for political office in the future. These are based on my own experience running for a local office quite a few years ago.
Reason 1 – You will meet movers and shakers, and they will meet you. They are not just political influencers, they are the leaders in the community. They are the ones whom people ask, “Who is ________ supporting?” They also contribute to candidates whom they feel can make a difference. For a first-time candidate it can be intimidating to seek an appointment and the sit across from a desk and explain why you are running for office and why the influencer should support you. In my case, they had seen many aspiring candidates before, so they knew what to ask. After a few of these meetings I had my response ready. In my case, I was running for a local county office instead of a statewide office so I had to make a case for support from local influencers.
Reason 2 – You will appreciate public officials more. It’s easy to think that being a public official is easy. However, the average person doesn’t know about the phone calls, the pressure and even the threats of opposition. You must be willing to listen to all sides and then act or vote your conscience. By the way, you do know that everyone who has an opinion is right, don’t you? That is, “right” from their perspective.
Reason 3 – You will learn a lot about the political process. You think you know a lot now. Just wait. There are are forms, ethics reports, deadlines. You will be expected to know about the registration deadlines, the maximum contribution amounts and much more.
You will learn that public officials in Mississippi must file a Statement of Economic Interest with the Mississippi Ethics Commission within 15 days from the time you qualify to run for office and every years thereafter by May 1. Failure to do so can result in a fine of up to $10,000. Be sure to study the Ethics Commission and the Secretary of State websites for more details about elections and public officials reporting requirements.
Reason 4 –You will connect and reconnect with supporters and friends. One of the more positive things about running for office is that you will hear from friends and acquaintances with whom you have lost touch with who want to support your campaign. Indeed, you will be humbled by those who will work for your campaign, make financial contributions and tell others about you.
Reason 5 – You will make a difference even if you lose. In my case, I ran for Chancery Clerk on an issue that I believed in. At the time, chancery clerks in Mississippi got to keep what they collected after paying for the operation of their office. Several chancery clerks were taking home hundreds of thousand of dollars. I thought that was something that needed changing. My issue was that chancery clerks pay should be no more than that of the governor. In case you’re wondering, I came in second in the party primary of several candidates.
Reason 6 – You will lose weight. Running (pun intended) for political office takes physical stamina. You will need to go door-to-door to ask for votes. You will need to attend countless political events. The Neshoba County Fair alone is good for five pounds of weight loss. You will not have time for your usual meal schedule.
Reason 7 – You will learn more about communication with the media, speaking in public and face-to-face with individuals. Your words, and how you say them, have more meaning than ever. You will be questioned about what you meant when you said a certain thing. In the end, you will become an expert in communication.
Reason 8 – Finally, the best reason to consider running for public office. Your community needs and deserves good candidates in every race. These days, many people consider it unthinkable to run for public office. They think about the toll on their families, the mudslinging, the microscope that will get put on their lives. All of that is true to some extent. At the national level, it is unfathomable. But in the lower races, the ones at the community level, things are different. More people know you personally and know your strengths and weaknesses.
Although I lost my race, in the end I came out ahead. Because I had met those influencers, and they had a chance to get to know me, I had several job offers after the campaign.
Next year, it will be election season for municipal races. At that level, elected officials make the most difference in the lives of the everyday person. So if you’ve toyed with the idea of running for public office, consider these reasons. Your community will thank you for considering them and offering yourself for public service.
» PHIL HARDWICK is a regular Mississippi Business Journal columnist. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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