Editor’s Note: With every single General Assembly race contested this year, North Carolina has a flood of first-time candidates. Friend of Longleaf Politics Edwin Peacock graciously agreed to share tips he gives to people new to the political scene who ask him for advice.
Running for public office is very similar to getting married.
The only difference: You’ve got to finance your wedding, garner support and enthusiasm for your wedding, and hope that people will actually come. Oh, and until around 9:30 p.m. on your wedding night, you won’t know whether your bride/groom will say “yes” to your proposal.
Here are the seven steps in this process that I’ve observed over my eight years campaigning that will hopefully better prepare you for your own run for elected office.
1) Preparing the wedding announcement.
It sounds easy, but the toughest question you must answer yourself is why you are running for office. Before any public announcement is made, there are many internal factors that must be given thought and consideration before going public. Once you’ve arrived at these decisions, a campaign is driven by the calendar leading up to your wedding.
2) Choosing your groomsman or bridesmaids.
One nugget of sage advice I got in my first race: “You are your campaign manager. Don’t forget it!” That was true, but you will need 3-4 committed, organized, detail- and task-oriented friends who will help you in this journey.
You’ll need friends who will volunteer to help you with finance/fundraising, website/digital/social media tasks, public relations, managing volunteer initiatives, and someone who’s really good at pulling off events. Whether you choose to hire a “wedding planner” (political consultant or campaign manager)depends on your budget and your personal preference.
3) Save the date.
The driver to “kickoff or launch” of a campaign is driven by the upcoming electoral cycle and several key dates: when filing opens/closes for your race, the primary date, the general election date, and then key finance reporting deadlines.
4) Throwing engagement parties.
To successfully have folks show up to your wedding, you need to be able to finance it and effectively spend your money in order advertise it enough to lead to a “yes” on your wedding night.
Financing activities include the following — and all are needed to be successful: letters, direct e-solicitations, direct donor phoning and face to face meetings, and hopefully having lots of folks host engagement parties. These are parties for yourself, and the only gift you’re hoping to get is money. Hint: “low outlay, high net” is your goal.
5) Creating the invitation list.
The difference between a good candidate and a great one is their database. To fundraise and effectively advertise yourself to the right groups, you need to first have your own contact database in good order.
Next, you need an excellent mailing and printing operation adept at production and execution of political mailings to targeted voters for your race.
Finally, you must have an excellent digital/social media team that knows how to locate and help you across the many mediums used to reach likely voters — Twitter, Pandora Facebook, etc.
6) Meet the family.
Every family has their patriarchs, the peacemakers, and that crazy uncle! You’ll soon need to meet all of these important characters in the community and your party leaders leading up to the wedding.
This is necessary to establish your credentials and qualifications, and build up support for yourself in the all-important “circle of influence.”
This breaks down into a few major leadership groups: business, civic (past & present), faith, nonprofit, party, and media. In short, you need to have met the most influential people in each of these groups to be successful.
7) Get your “nearly-wed” training.
Many prospective candidates hold off because they feel like they need to know a lot more before deciding to run. That’s understandable, so after you get engaged (or even better, before), you’d be well served by getting involved in organizations and community activities.
In Charlotte, these include Leadership Charlotte, Generation Nation and the Women’s League of Voters. Most counties will have their own analogs.
Finally, consider serving on one of the many city/county/school board appointed boards or commissions.
Edwin Peacock III is a former member of the Charlotte City Council at-large (2007-2011) and was the Republican nominee for mayor in 2013 and 2015. He lives in Charlotte and is a financial advisor with Northwestern Mutual.