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Thinking about running for office? Todd Chase offers advice and encouragement

Todd Chase

OPINION

BY TODD CHASE

The events taking place around us and the decisions made by governments at all levels are most often the driving factors behind the decisions of regular citizens to step up and run for office. In my case, it was ten years ago that I watched the local news with my mother as the City of Gainesville passed the new Fire Assessment Fee, one among several things that just kept making it more expensive for the average person to live here, particularly a retiree, like my mom, living on a fixed income. Then came those fateful words she spoke: “Honey, you should run for office and help these people, you’d be great…”

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The news lately at the local level seems to have kindled that same desire in a new group of citizens, and I can’t blame them. I have great appreciation for anyone who puts themselves out there to run for office. I’ve done it twice locally and am now running for Congress, so I thought I would put together a primer for anyone out there considering it. These are just my thoughts and opinions, but they are formed by my experiences in campaigns. 

Know why you’re running

Be prepared for people to ask you why you are running. If you cannot answer that question clearly and genuinely, you will have a hard time convincing people to support you. Take the passion and emotion of why you want to run and work on explaining it in 30 seconds–the classic elevator pitch. You can’t just say “because of the damn mulch in the skatepark,” but it’s a good opener!

Know what you know, and know what you don’t know

This next thing to me is probably the most important thing and it is an overused cliché, but it applies perfectly to winning a campaign: Know what you know, and know what you don’t know. Every single first-time candidate thinks they know how all of this works, and I can assure you that you do not.

All campaigns have similar strategies, tactics, and plans in order to win, but they have to customize them very specifically to each race. You have to work with someone who can lead your campaign, to help plan and prepare, based almost entirely on data. “I know a lot of people” will not win your race. There is a precision to knowing how many votes you need, who they are, where they are, and how to reach them. Talking about an actual campaign and all that goes into it is a book in itself, and this is not meant to be that. It is YOUR campaign, and you ultimately make the decisions, but if you are someone who is unable to listen to others and think you already know how all of this works, then I would respectfully suggest you save yourself the aggravation.

Pay attention to details

You need to also be very aware of the different dates, requirements, paperwork, etc., for the specific seat you are considering. Do you have to live in a specific district, and can you prove it? What are the fees (or can you get petitions)? How do the fees need to be paid? When is the deadline for qualifying? This is another reason why you need good people around you.

You will need money

This should not come as a shock, but you will need to be able to either spend a fair amount of your own money or be able to raise money. The important thing here is that you don’t need to raise the MOST money, you just need to raise ENOUGH money. You have to reach the voters, and I would suggest that the longer you have before the election, the more you can walk and reach people through the ground game of volunteers and hard work that always counters money, but you have to take a hard look at the very specific aspects of your race.

Be prepared to work hard

Be prepared to work extremely hard. Period. If you are not someone that can get out there and work, then again, save yourself the aggravation. In my first run for city commission, I ran against an incumbent in a single district and had the opportunity to walk much of it. I still worked full-time, so I left at around 5:00 each afternoon, walked neighborhoods until around 8:00, and then went hard all weekend. We had volunteers, my family, and other supporters who also helped, but if you don’t work, it won’t work. Trust me.

This also brings up a quick point on working, employers, and other issues. You just need to be prepared and be honest with your employer to have their support. That situation is unique for every candidate, but it is a very difficult road if you are unable to commit the necessary time, and there will come a point where the campaign will consume you, so be prepared for that. 

I want to close the way I began because I still believe it is the most important part of a successful campaign: the “Why?” As I prepared to enter my current campaign for Florida’s 3rd Congressional District, someone I respect greatly, a proven winner in politics, told me that if you know your “why” and you believe in your “why” and can express your “why” with sincerity, then put everything you’ve got into it and work hard. If you do that, no matter what happens in the end, you won’t lose!

The Alachua County Supervisor of Elections’ document with filing requirements is found here. The deadline to submit petitions has passed, but the qualifying period to file by paying the fee is June 8 – June 12.

Todd Chase, a businessman and former Navy pilot, is running for Congress in District 3.

The opinions expressed by letter or opinion writers are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of AlachuaChronicle.com.

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