If you are a first-time candidate considering running for council, it is important to consider the kinds of experiences and knowledge that will help you in your run for local office. While there are no cookie-cutter perfect qualifications, there are a number of specific areas of experience and knowledge you may wish to consider in order to help ensure your electoral success. Below are several questions you may want to consider prior to the launch of your campaign:
• Do you understand how your local council works?
• Do you have a strong grasp of the issues facing your community?
• How involved are you in your community?
• Are you comfortable in social situations?
• Have you ever worked on other political campaigns?
Experience with Council and Knowledge of Local Issues
This probably goes without saying, but having some degree of knowledge as to how your local council functions, as well as on the highest profile issues facing your community is important for your run.
As a candidate going door to door, you may be faced with questions from your future constituents about specific bylaws, or hot topics facing your community. The last thing you want, as someone seeking election, is to appear as though you don’t have a firm grasp on local issues.
If you haven’t already, you should consider attending a few of your local council meetings to see first-hand what current issues you might expect your constituents to ask about at the door. Most councils also post their meeting minutes online; if you are interested in learning more, you can go back and skim through old minutes to get a feel for what’s on past and current council agendas.
Many candidates run on a platform of change – but if you aren’t familiar with how your town is currently being run, it will be difficult for you to suggest improvements or give your take on the town’s direction to constituents at the door!
Quite possibly the best experience you could have prior to a run for local council is involvement within your community. Whether it is participation in a ratepayers association, sitting on a community committee, or even participating in your own neighbourhood watch – such experiences help ensure that you are known as someone who cares about your community. Additionally, participating in community organizations will help you to build important relationships with other active community members; people that could potentially be big assets in support of your campaign.
Comfort in Social Situations
As a candidate running for local office, it will be important that you have some level of comfort in social situations. During your campaign, especially if you are facing an incumbent who already has some level of recognition within the community, you should try to ‘work’ every room you enter. While you need not necessarily be an extrovert to win, taking the necessary time to shake hands and introduce yourself to the voters in your area is important. You can’t expect the majority of voters in your election to vote for you if you don’t take the time to promote your own candidacy at every opportunity.
Experience on Other Political Campaigns
While certainly not a necessity, if you have ever participated in a political campaign before, no matter the role, you will have gained an appreciation and understanding for the many aspects that go into running a successful election. This will help you maintain perspective on your run, as well as helping you to appreciate your hard-working volunteers. Additionally, if you aren’t able to generate a large team of volunteers – any previous experience will be invaluable to you, as you may have to take on some of the essential campaign roles yourself.
If you have never participated in any sort of political campaign, it might be wise to seek out advice from those who have. If these experienced individuals are willing to offer advice, they may also be willing to volunteer for you – it never hurts to ask!
Finally, if you have not participated on a campaign before, and do not know of anyone personally who has such experience – do not despair; you have our campaign 101 guides to help you along! Although running a campaign without prior political involvement may not be easy, with focus, a willingness to learn, and a positive attitude, you can certainly gain the experience you need as you go!