April 18, 2017
You should run for local office. Here’s why.
Democrats have been accused of focusing on presidential politics to the exclusion of everything else. There’s some truth to that accusation. As a party, we need to pay attention to every level of government. We need your help.
Local offices matter
The news tends to focus on what happens in Washington DC. It takes a lot of time and resources to make a television news show or to report news in print, so it makes sense to cover stories and people with the largest possible audience–like the entire United States of America.
The thing is, most of the government in our country doesn’t meet in Washington DC. Most of the government in our country doesn’t even meet in our state capitals. Most governing happens in our city councils and school boards, our county commissions and our water boards. There are a heck of a lot of these local offices, so we need far more people to serve in them than we need to serve as president or congressperson or senator.
There aren’t just more city council members than senators in America, but the decisions made close to home impact your life more than most decisions made in DC. I personally think that Betsy DeVos was a poor choice for Secretary of Education, but I guarantee you that you can have a more direct impact on the schools in your community as a member of your local school board than she can from Washington.
You should consider running for local office because local offices matter. Serving in local office is an opportunity to serve. As a Democrat, as a Kansan, and as an American, I believe in the value of serving. I bet that you do, too. Running for local office is one way to serve.
Non-partisan elections are an opportunity
Many local elections in Kansas are non-partisan affairs. That makes a lot of sense. There isn’t a Democratic or a Republican way to for a water board to decide when to replace a pump.
As Chair of the Kansas Democratic Party, I want us all to be proud Democrats. We have a noble history, but I know that in some places for a little while it may remain hard to win an election if you have a “D” after your name on the ballot (we’re working on changing that). If you live in such a place, running for a non-partisan office is a chance for you to meet people and show your devotion to your community even if you don’t win. If you win, serving well in office is a chance to change some minds about Democrats in your area.
Most importantly, serving in a non-partisan office is a way for you to make your part of the world better. That’s an opportunity to take when you have the chance.
We need to build the Democratic bench
I’ve got to confess: I think the handwringing over the “weak” Democratic bench is overblown. We have no shortage of talented, energetic Democrats throughout Kansas. We have Democrats serving our communities as volunteers, as leaders of community groups, and as respected members of their communities. Our bench is strong.
We haven’t always done a good job as a party of encouraging our Democratic leaders to seek elected office. We are blessed with many people who are able to serve–and we know they can because they already are serving in various capacities–we just need to encourage them to take the next step.
If you are one of these Democratic leaders, you may be exactly the kind of person we need to run for office close to home right now. That will put you in a better position if you should decide to seek to serve in Topeka or Washington someday. Regardless, though, it is a chance for you to serve right now.
What to do
If you’ve read this far, my guess is that you are at least contemplating the local election possibilities for yourself or someone you know. Let me be the first to say, “congratulations!”
Now, let’s talk about the next steps.
The filing deadline for local elections is June 1st. You will need to file for that election, usually by submitting paperwork with your county clerk.
Before you file for the election, though, you will need to decide what office to seek. You may want to talk with your county Democratic Party. They will help you get the lay of the land and can connect you with local resources. If you don’t know how to get in touch with your local party, please submit your information to the Kansas Democratic Party, and we can help you get in touch with the right people.
This is what patriotism looks like
Running for local office isn’t easy. It’s hard work, and it will definitely make you want to tear your hair out once or twice. That’s true even if (actually, especially if) you win.
That’s okay. Patriotism means being willing to serve, even when it isn’t an easy thing or a sure thing. There’s much more to loving our country than just wearing a lapel pin with a flag on it. Loving your country means serving when and how you can.
Chair, Kansas Democratic Party