Texas has been going through a tremendous demographic shift as more and more people move here from out of state. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Collin County where the population is expected to reach nearly 3 million people within two decades. It’s not only turning small towns into suburban communities but also causing people to question how to change the systems that put certain people into office while keeping others out.
Among the significant barriers that aspiring candidates face include money to fund a campaign, access to campaign donors and an employer who will support your public service desire. These are some of the primary concerns people worry about when they’re considering running for office, according to a Dec. 2019 report by Reform Austin.
Another barrier is how do you even get started if you do want to run for office? The reality is that the process is a bit more complicated and subjective than a few simple steps. Yet being able to serve your community in a greater capacity as a local official is not only rewarding but could change lives. To help you get started, Collin County Business Alliance has created a handy election guide and laid out eight important steps on how to run for local office.
And who better to supplement that advice than Sadaf Haq, who ran for Frisco City Council Place 6 in 2020? Her campaign definitely had its fair share of challenges: She was the first Muslim woman ever to run for Frisco’s city council and ran against incumbent Brian Livingston, all during one of the craziest election years in history due to COVID-19.
While Livingston ended up being re-elected to his position, Haq’s fundraising techniques caused her to out-raise her opponent.
Of course, the filing deadline to be a candidate in the local elections in Collin County for the May 1, 2021, election was Friday, Feb. 12. But between CCBA’s eight steps and Haq’s first-hand experience, below you will find everything you need to know if you want to run for local office in the future.
No. 1: Talk to Your Family and Friends
The first and, probably, most important thing you want to do if you’re thinking about running for local office is to have a chat with your friends and family. It’s essential that they’re on board and you have the support of the people closest to you.
Haq says she couldn’t have run for office had she not had the blessings of those around her. She first told her husband that she was thinking of running, and he ended up giving her the initial confidence she needed. “He would say, ‘If anyone can do it, you can do it,’” she says. “He identified a strength within me, which I didn’t know that existed.”
No. 2: Clear it with Work
Running for office means that not only will you have to spend a lot of your time campaigning, but your name will probably end up in the local news. Because of that, the next step is talking with your employer to make sure they are OK with cutting down your hours and face representing them in the media.
Lucky for Haq, she and her husband own a medical practice. Her husband is the physician, and she handles the business development. Even though she didn’t have to worry about upsetting a superior, taking time off to campaign presented some challenges.
“It was hard because there were some responsibilities which [my husband] would have to end up doing or other staff would have to end up doing,” she says. “Then everything became virtual, and so it worked out.”
No. 3: File Your Appointment of Treasurer
While this is not the most exciting step, it is a crucial part of the process. The Appointment of Treasurer is an official document required of all candidates as they start seeking election and must be done to begin raising money for your campaign. Doing so helps to ensure the public is aware of your candidacy and triggers requirements for you to begin reporting your expenses and contributions based on the filing schedule for your particular race.
This document must be filed with your appropriate filing authority. For those running for local offices, it should be filed with the city secretary or board services of your school district.
To find your Texas Appointment of Treasurer, click here.
No. 4: Make a List of Your Supporters
The next step is to create a list of everyone you know that will endorse you and your campaign.
Now some people may tell you that it is possible to self-fund a race, but Haq says that most people would agree that it is better to have people who believe in your race enough to contribute to your campaign.
It is also a good idea to be as transparent as possible with your campaign donor list. The state of Texas requires candidates to report campaign contributions. The report must include the amount and date of each contribution, along with the name and address of the person or political committee who made the contribution, according to the Texas Ethics Commission’ Campaign Finance Guide for Candidates and Officeholders Who File with Local Filing Authorities.
However, if the contributor gave $90 or less, it is not required to report their personal information.
No. 5: Call Your Close Friends and Family First
When it comes to gathering supporters and raising money, it’s best to start, literally, at home by asking your friends and family. It also helps if you, like Haq, are very involved in your community and have already developed many connections.
It’s also a good idea to find a campaign manager to help you create a campaign budget and plan, which Haq highly recommends as a former candidate who ran without one. While her treasurer ended up acting as her campaign manager, she had volunteers and occasionally paid for help. “I still think back, and I’m like, ‘How did we do it?’” she says. “I mean, literally, there were moments where it was just me and my treasurer.”
It’s also critical that you understand the Texas Campaign Finance and Ethics Rules, which you can view by clicking here. Of those rules, three important ones to keep in mind are:
- You have to have a campaign treasurer appointment on file to accept campaign contributions.
- The candidate must sign the reports — not the campaign treasurer.
- When reporting campaign contributions, you must also report any from your personal funds.
To access campaign finance reporting forms, click here.
No. 6: File Your Application to be Placed on the Ballot
Now, it’s time for more paperwork.
Your race filing authority will provide this document, and you must file it during the specific time period for the race you’re running in. For example, the filing period for the May 2021 election spanned from Jan. 13 to Feb. 12.
Filing this document makes your candidacy for that specific office official. It will also ensure your name is placed on the ballot.
And that deadline is a harsh one — the filing application is always due the 78th day before the election at 5 p.m., according to the Texas Secretary of State. The earlier you can turn it in, the better.
No. 7: Campaign, Campaign, Campaign
Once you’re officially a candidate, it’s time to start the most exhausting portion — campaigning. This process will consist of meeting constituents, knocking on doors, attending community forums, making phone calls and raising money.
Of course, be prepared for your days and nights to start blending together just from the sheer amount of people and meetings during your campaign. “I remember I would come home, whether it was eight at night, nine at night or whatever, and literally I would crash — my brain was tired,” Haq says.
No. 8: Early Voting and Election Day
As Election Day nears and early voting begins, your work as a candidate is far from finished. During the early voting period and on Election Day, you must greet voters at the polls while continuing your campaign strategies. Be prepared to spend 12 hours a day, in some cases, for several weeks.
Usually, the elections department will begin posting the results from early votes and mail-in ballots at 7 p.m. The results will slowly start coming in throughout the evening, and the outcome will begin to become clear.
And regardless of what the result is, you should be glad you did it. Haq says she wouldn’t have traded her experience running for Frisco City Council for anything in the world.
“It allows you to see yourself through the lenses of people and what their views are on you,” she says. “I feel like it’s such a learning process, and there’s so many learning moments for you as an individual [on] how to be better, how to do better. That is what my takeaway is.”
Publisher’s note: We at Local Profile are proud to present, in partnership with the Collin County Business Alliance (CCBA), the series “How and why to run for office” which we hope will inspire all the incredible members of our community to consider running for local office and help bring about positive change.
Disclaimer: Neither Local Profile, Collin County Business Alliance nor CollinCountyVotes endorses any candidates.