This past weekend I had the pleasure of participating in my Alma mater’s annual Campaign School. The UConn School of Social Work is unique in that it offers a degree in policy practice and an annual gathering for social work students from across the country to participate in two days of campaign training. This year, 8 states were represented. I attended last year as both a presenter and a participant because I was planning to run for office. This year, I had the privilege of sharing my experiences as a candidate for State Representative. I still took some great advice away from the training though! It also reminded me of the things I did to prepare to run.
A few of the key things that I did to prepare for my run for State Representatives are all things that can be done well before you announce your candidacy. The first is to compile a list of folks who you should speak with and share your interest to run. This might be someone or a few someone's in your party’s town committee, a person you served on a non-profit board with, a PTO parent, a religious leader, a business owner in your community, and friends and colleagues who have been urging you to run. After you pull together your list, ask these people to grab coffee and have a conversation with them about how you’re considering running. The insights and feedback you get from these meetings is key.
I was also reminded of another list I started compiling right after last year’s campaign school. This list is broken down by family and friends, colleagues, folks who align with me on social issues, and those who might not be too pleased with my opponent. Some of these people might be the same folks you invite out for coffee and some may end up being on your Kitchen Cabinet or volunteering for your campaign. This list will also help you plan your fundraising when the time comes to ask for a donation. Seeing as a lot of us communicate in a lot of different ways--text, calls, facebook message, instagram, email; compiling your list with contact information over time is helpful and can avoid unnecessary stress.
Finally, this past weekend’s campaign school reminded me of a feeling I had leaving the campaign school last year, the feeling that I wasn’t as ready to run as the people presenting about being a candidate. Now, as a candidate, I recognize that the feeling of being unsure doesn’t really go away. How could it? Running for office is an entirely new experience, one with all sorts of rules that are somewhat unclear and hard to come by. But, now that I am a candidate, I know that what makes that feeling subside is being surrounded by really great people who support you, encourage you, provide constructive feedback, and genuinely believe in you.
If you are thinking about running, I highly recommend attending a campaign school. There are many options of varying cost. Oh, and start typing up your lists today.Go for it! You've got this.