Update: After publishing this piece, I received a statement from Andrew Saturn, executive director of WOKE Washington. That statement is now included below. Additionally, a previously published quote from Bernie Sanders has been added.
In January, Raven Payne and I outlined Jackie Rock’s campaign to win a seat on NE Florida Anastasia Mosquito Control Seat 3. Raven, having grown up just north of Saint Augustine, where the election took place, had never heard of the Mosquito Control Board. Though this election or its seat may seem insignificant to some, I believe it showcases:
- You can be a progressive in a predominantly red district and still win elections. Progressives don’t have to move to predominantly progressive places to be a leader in the movement.
Noel Frame, current state rep (36th district) in Washington State, in an address titled “How I Weaseled My Way Into the Hearts of 31,273 People,” outlines how to become a successful candidate. Step #1 is to find your community, stay there, and “while you’re at it, find one you can win.” She explains that she is from Battle Ground Washington and her politics would not fly there, so she moved to Seattle.
The mindset that progressives can only be successful in already established left-leaning areas can be personally successful for the short term, but in the long run, this mentality has to change. As evidenced by the electoral map of the 2016 presidential election, left-leaning voters are the majority, winning by almost 2.9 million votes, but are severely handicapped electorally because the vast majority of those votes come from heavily condensed metropolitan areas. In other words, the mindset of progressives moving to the established left-leaning districts to be successful has, in essence, gerrymandered them into a small amount of districts throughout the country.
Here in Washington State, the same effect of self-gerrymandering presents itself. Democrats are fairly strong during statewide elections, yet the state senate and house are nearly split when voting gets broken down by district. Thus, we need more progressives like Jackie Rock in red districts fighting for progressive values if there is going to be anything resembling a ‘political revolution.’
- Evidenced by Bernie Sanders’s recent Town Hall in West Virginia, “progressive,” or what conservatives would call “radical,” policy positions are popular.
As Keane Bhatt, a writer and activist from Washington DC succinctly puts it, “if politicians were to ignore corporate pundits and instead energized otherwise apathetic voters with an actual commitment to popular policies, they would offer a solution to voters’ yawns.”
— People For Bernie (@People4Bernie) March 14, 2017
- Outlined by the likes of Bernie Sanders and Nina Turner, the progressive movement needs to occur at every level of government. Even apart from the political arena, Nina Turner advocates for people to “walk a block, mentor some kids.”
We have heard political leaders expose the need to focus on everything from the presidency to the school board, or, as Anoa Changa says, “from the hood to the Holler,” but I don’t think many people know of all the elected positions that exist in and around where they live.
Bernie Sanders, in a statement, outlined the need and importance for people to run for office at every level:
We need to start engaging at the local and state level in an unprecedented way. Hundreds of thousands of volunteers helped us make political history during the last year. These are people deeply concerned about the future of our country and their own communities. Now we need many of them to start running for school boards, city councils, county commissions, state legislatures and governorships. State and local governments make enormously important decisions and we cannot allow right-wing Republicans to increasingly control them.
A lot of positions, like the Mosquito Control Board in Florida, don’t make the news even though decisions made by such boards affect your daily life more in some aspects than certain federal laws. Thus, the first step to understanding local politics is knowing what positions exist and, secondly, in what ways these positions affect our daily lives, or, in other words, what they do.
Hey, You! Run for Office!
WOKE Washington, a nonpartisan grassroots nonprofit in Washington state, has compiled all of the open positions in 2017 across the entire state of Washington, nearly 3,000.
WOKE Washington, having collected together every open position in the state for 2017, highlights the multiplicity of opportunity to those who wish to heed the call of “political revolution.” This data, if you happen to live in another state besides Washington, can be gleaned from your Secretary of State’s office/website. If a state’s Secretary of State doesn’t have the election information you need, contact your county elections office. If nothing else, you can use this resource as a jumping off point to connect with locally elected officials in your area.
Say you want to run for office and be the change you want to see in the world within the political arena. One of the first things to take into account is the procedural requirements of your desired position. For example, filing deadlines, filing costs, where to file your declaration for candidacy, who currently holds the position you seek, where to submit your voter’s pamphlet information, and the position’s required qualifications (age, citizenship, education/certifications).
Next, you have to start your campaign, which among other things, means setting up the mechanisms to fund your campaign.
Andrew Saturn, executive director of WOKE Washington, explains that the hurdle to becoming an elected representative might not be as daunting as you think:
The establishment wants you to think running for office is some unattainable goal for regular people, but it’s not. Many elected officials run totally unopposed and are elected into office with no prior experience. The only requirement for many positions, such as school board or city council, is a love for your community. Don’t let them make you believe that they have some sort of special knowledge or training, because they don’t.
Resources to get you started
HowToRunForOffice.org – HowToRunForOffice.org is a site dedicated to teaching you everything you need to know about running for public office.
RunForSomething.net – Helping recruit and support under-35-year-old progressives running for down-ballot offices to build a Democratic bench.
RunWomenRun.org – Run Women Run is a nonpartisan organization that supports bringing qualified, pro-choice women to elected office.
King County Candidates Guide – A one stop shop for everything you need to know about running for a position within King County.
If You Want to Run for Office (and You Should), Start With These Resources – By Osita Nwanevu
Candidate College: 10 Essential Tips for Running for Office – By Morgan Pehme