Being active and involved in local politics can help make advocating for the needs of your members and your department much more successful.
While the overarching goal is to win the right elections (with a focus on legislative goals), you can also build power in the local political infrastructure by being seen as a sophisticated, serious player.
Follow these steps to take you from a side-player to a respected local political leader with knowledge and skills that make your support a must-have for local elected officials and give you more access to those decision-makers.
Showing up is a huge part of the game in local politics. Attend council meetings, party meetings and the before and after gatherings. Get to know people and speak up when you have something to add. Be present online – elected officials are concerned about their social media presence, and you will have opportunities to engage via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and campaign websites.
Map Social Networks
Build your knowledge of who knows who in the social and political sphere in your community. Understanding these connections helps to understand how decisions are made and resources flow.
Deliver an Audience
Turn people out for events – political leaders need people to speak to. Whether it’s your friends, family or local members, being seen as someone who can provide and audience raises your political importance.
Learn to Ask for Money
Money is vital for political campaigns and raising it takes determination and skill. Learn how to make the ask.
Deliver Key Donations
Be seen as a source of contributions for campaigns; this makes you someone the candidates need to have on their team. Don’t limit yourself to just your local’s PAC – think about other organizations or individuals that might donate – and thus be seen as someone with clout beyond your own organization.
Know the Terrain and Voter File Data
Study the geographic boundaries of the relevant districts in your area. Know which neighborhoods are represented by which officials. Spend time reviewing election results and voter file data – if you can explain why and how someone got elected, you’re a player.
Know Your Neighbors
Neighborhood chatter can be a great source for political intelligence – you can hear different points of view and be able to provide information to leaders about how they and their policies are seen.
Become a Trusted Information Source to People in Your Networks
Learn how to identify the wheat from the chaff when it comes to rumors and information. When you can share information in a way that boosts your credibility and helps allies, do so, but don’t just gossip.
Cut Through the Complications – Learn the Processes and Regulations
Be a reliable source. Campaigns and elections are all governed by basic sets of rules – residency requirements, ballot access, voter registration rules, early voting, campaign finance, etc. Learn these rules not just for yourself, but so you can help guide others in the process.
Deliver Petition Signatures
Ballot access, whether for a candidate or a ballot measure, can be a daunting task and usually occurs before the campaign is fully organized. Helping in this crucial moment to make sure your measure or supported candidate gets on the ballot can increase your credit with leaders.
Learn All Elements of the Campaign
Understand how the money, message, organizing and get-out-the-vote functions work. Learn how to identify the right resources to deliver at the right moment and how to be seen as a credible supporter rather than a high-maintenance activist.
Train and Lead Volunteers
People are one of the three key resources in the campaign. Volunteers require training to carry out the tasks a campaign needs from them (especially voter contact). By training and leading volunteers in effective action, you not only help the campaign meet their goals, but will be seen by activists as someone to defer to and respect.
Get Elected to Office
At a certain point, the skills you hone will make you a viable candidate for office. It’s not always the right step, but you may find that you can advance the issues better yourself than through other people.