(9/09) So You Want To Be A Commissioner?
I know, you watch us on TV, scream at the set and call us a bunch of idiots. "I could do that," you say out loud to anyone within earshot. Finally, someone calls your bluff, dares you to run, and off to Winchester Hall you go to file your paperwork and pay the $25 filing fee. Now sit back and wait for the free media to
spread your name and your "platform" and wait for election day, right? Really, really WRONG!
Within the confines of this article I won't cover all that you'll probably do as a candidate, but I will suggest some of the things you should do as a candidate. You'll need a treasurer for your campaign, someone good with reports and bookkeeping. A trusted friend can serve as your manager, but a campaign manager is not
required. Get some thank you cards and a receipts book, you'll need them.
Running a campaign requires money. If your name is already known to many in the County then you'll probably need less than someone without name recognition. Yard signs cost between $2.50 and $3.00 each and for a County our size you'll need at least five hundred - a thousand is better. Unless you plan to drive them to
everyone who wants one you should enlist the help of friends in different parts of the County to help you distribute them.
You'll also need campaign materials, such as door hangers, a tri-fold brochure or some other hard stock product to market yourself at campaign events. If you plan to campaign at The Great Frederick Fair, stickers are good to have as well. A roll of stickers (1,000) will cost about $200-$300.
You're going to want to buy from the Board of Elections a disc or printout of all the registered, voting members of whatever party to which you belong (generally Republican or Democratic). The first step to getting elected is to survive the Primary, and only voters of your party affiliation can cast a vote for you. Not
expensive, but equally important to the campaign is a comfortable pair of shoes, plan on spending a lot of time in them.
If you've never really thought about how large an area Frederick County is, you'll soon appreciate it as you begin the arduous task of knocking on doors. I personally knocked on over 2,500 doors in 2006 and a like amount in 2002 (my first run for Commissioner). All of those doors had a registered Republican inside-
remember, while you'd like crossover support, only members of your party can help you in a Primary with their vote. My door knocking campaign took me to New Market, Brunswick, Urbana, the City of Frederick, Thurmont, Jefferson, Middletown, Adamstown, Emmitsburg, Mt. Airy, Walkersville and unincorporated parts of the County.
Advertising is another expense you should anticipate. You do have choices - radio (AM / FM) and newspapers and internet and HOA newsletters and direct mail come to mind. It will be your decision how much and where to direct this effort. Your campaign budget will also play a factor. Regional newspapers like the Chronicle and
Brunswick Citizen are bargains, as are websites that accept political advertising, such as The Tentacle.com.
Improve your memory! We don't really have debates in Frederick County, we have Forums. At each Forum the protocol is generally to spend three minutes telling about yourself and why you want the job. Practice your three minutes until you know it forward and backward. The first time I attended an event at The Frederick
Fairgrounds I was so utterly unprepared that I started to do some stand-up comedy that fell very flat - I couldn't wait for someone to put a hook around my neck and get me off the stage. How embarrassing, don't let it happen to you. It's natural to feel awkward speaking to a group, but it's easier if you're truly prepared.
Do some research and networking. There are a lot of, for lack of a better term, special interest groups that care about what you think and what you plan to do if you're successful in your efforts to win office. Talk to previous Commissioners and even current ones about your plans - learn from them. If you have a particular
area of interest and want to make that a central theme of your campaign, talk to County staff. I can't begin to tell you how impressed I am with the caliber of the employees who work for Frederick County government.
Plan to spend a lot of time away from your family. If you want a vacation, take it around Easter, you'll be busy the rest of the year assuming you survive the Primary. Campaigning and fundraising is exhausting. If you're knocking on doors prior to the Primary in September, it means you're out in July and August summer heat.
Keep a smile on your face and remember that although you think everyone has heard your message the person on the other side of the door is probably hearing it for the first time.
Don't overpromise and commit to things you cannot and should not do. I have heard that some candidates have promised to remove certain employees if they win election to curry favor with the special interest group that has an interest in seeing someone gone. This would be a colossal mistake on your part. If you have thoughts
like that, keep them to yourself.
Attend as many events as you can. It's not possible to be in two places at one time and sometimes events do conflict. Hopefully a friend, or campaign staff, can stand in on your behalf at one event while you attend the other.
I have never had as personally rewarding a job as that of County Commissioner. The efforts of the campaign are well worth, to me, the satisfaction I get in serving. If you are thinking about running for this office, commit yourself to it and do it right. One more thing - drop me a line, let me know your thoughts. My e-mail
address is email@example.com.
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