An increasing number of women are running for office, a phenomenon the media has tagged to the “Trump effect.” Well, more the merrier and it couldn’t have happened sooner.
As we have pointed out before, women remain dramatically underrepresented across every level of government. As per Pew Research data, women comprise just 19.4 percent of the U.S. Congress; well below the 51.4 percent of women in the overall U.S. adult population.
So, not only is getting involved more important than ever, but now it is evident that apparently political office doesn’t require much in the way of qualifications.
The general tendency is for women to say, “I do not have much experience, I don’t have the necessary qualifications, I won’t be able to raise funds,” and a lot of other similar excuses. But chances are, if you are a woman with a conscience, you’ve already been vocal on issues, advocating successfully for yourself, and probably for others. This inclination and experience is enough for a viable candidate to run for office.
Before you decide to take the plunge, you need to be sure about how much time and effort you want to commit. It doesn’t matter whether you’re running for a school board or the Congress, the difference is only in scale.
Always keep in mind that voters need to be convinced in you as a candidate. It’s all about the money you can raise, the volunteers you can attract and so on. More importantly, do you want to give up your day job or are you set on straddling both your career and elected office? If you are not willing to make some sacrifices, you are not ready enough to run yet.
According to the 2012 Census data, there are close to 90,000 local and state governing bodies, with over 500,000 elected offices. And barely two percent of Americans ever run for these seats! The positions vary from the local (school board, city council and county commissioner) to state (auditor, treasurer, attorney general, and governor) and federal (representative, senator and even the president).
You can start your search at runforoffice.org. You just need to type in your location and it throws up a full list of elected seats in your area. Each come with a description, along with information about the next election due, rules for eligibility, application guidelines, dates for filing your candidacy and more.
Needless to say, it’s critical to review these rules and deadlines thoroughly. People get thrown off ballots for not adhering to these, knowingly or unknowingly. Make sure you’re not one of them.
Remember that there is never a perfect time or perfect seat. You can choose to start off small with an appointment to a non-paying office that won’t need the time or money needed to run for larger offices.