WELL. The journey has begun – I am officially a candidate for State Representative. I sometimes find myself asking what I’ve done and questioning my ability to do this, but then I think about all of the folks across this district and across Texas that have been actively ignored by their Republican “representatives” in the 85th Texas legislature (and before, to be sure). The legislators aren’t listening back home, and most people can’t take the time to drive to Austin to register their opinions, speak directly to office staff, sit in the gallery to watch and listen… And then go back to legislators’ offices and complain about what just happened. But I can and so I do.
I’m going to keep doing it because it’s important to me, but with your help I can do it officially as your State Representative and hopefully make our words stronger, our message louder. I’m going to listen back home. I’m going to take what I hear from you to the Capitol and I’m going to do my best to share it with whoever will listen.
A major goal of this journey is to learn and experience in order to help others that want to run for office, so I’ll try to keep you updated on things I’m learning along the way. Here’s a quick breakdown of what I’ve learned so far about starting a campaign:
Are you qualified for the office you’re seeking?
Check the Texas Secretary of State website.
Once you know you’re qualified you’ll need a Campaign Treasurer. The Texas Ethics Commission has all of the information you need. Once you have a treasurer on file you’re a candidate. Getting on the ballot will be later on (starting in November) and there will be a fee involved.
Get that done? Congratulations, you’re a candidate!
Cost: You’ll need access to a computer and internet for the Ethics Commission website. You’ll need to print and fax or mail the treasurer forms. The filing fee will come later.
What do I need?
You’ll need to get a bank account for all of the donations you hope you’ll be accepting. You’ll need the letter the Ethics Commission sends you that confirms your treasurer is on file so that you can open a candidate banking account. Your treasurer will also need to fill out the account information so go to the bank together to avoid multiple trips.
You’ll also probably want a PO box to use for your banking account and official campaign address – they are probably more secure than your mailbox, your treasurer can access it for you, and it just generally helps to keep things separate.
You might prefer to have a separate phone number for your campaign rather than giving out your personal number. You can get online phone numbers with many sources: Google Voice, Skype, etc.
Cost: The amount will depend on the PO box size and length of rental time you choose, the bank account opening requirements, and how you decide to set up a campaign phone number.
How do I media?
Once your campaign infrastructure is established, it’s time to set up your website and social media. Why this order? You want your bank account and legal necessities in place because as soon as you mention that you’re running, as soon as you show someone a logo, as soon as someone gets wind of your website, someone is likely to try to hand you money. Having everything ready to go reduces the constant “can I do this yet?” questions.
If you’re not familiar with web hosting, design, and payment integration you’ll need to find some help. Before you start setting things up make sure that your campaign name is available across all platforms (website, email, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and anything else you’d like to use). Then you can coordinate the name across all of your online accounts. (Unless your name is very unique be prepared to compromise on the campaign name.)
Cost: Domain name registration, website hosting and development. This will vary greatly depending on your abilities and if you have to hire help.
Next up is printing. Unless you’re confident in your graphic design skills, you’ll need to find some professional input. Think about every election you’ve seen. What sorts of things do you remember? Stickers, t-shirts, signs, banners, etc. Start small with just a few items. You can do more once you have more donations coming in.
Cost: Professional logo design if you can’t do it yourself, then printing of cards, stickers and other items.
That all took me about a month, because it takes extra time when you’re learning as you go. Most candidates still have the same job, family, and life that was there before they decided to run, so if you thought your time was limited before then get ready to figure out how to do a lot more with the time you have.
If you’re in a rush because you’re getting started late in the campaign cycle or there’s a special election then you’ll need to consider how much time and money you can spend up front to get things going quickly and hire professional help.
Once you start thinking about running it’ll seem a little overwhelming, but if you like puzzles and mysteries and civics and learning then it’ll be fun. As the process goes on I’ll do my best to keep things updated for you.
Here we go!