Local Leader Organizes Event to Enlist More Candidates
“Just do it.” That’s the message one of our New Leaders Project signers has for conservatives who are considering running for local office.
After watching several local election cycles in his Illinois community, Mike Shorten noticed that there often weren’t enough candidates running for all of the offices up for election where he lies in McHenry county. He explained, “Often the incumbent would run again and you’d be lucky to get another person challenging. Then sometimes no one will run for a seat, so someone has to be appointed to the position later.” He realized that a large percentage of the money he was paying in property taxes was being spent by people who were not elected, and not being held accountable by voters.
So Mike, who is a project manager for an office supply store, signed the New Leaders Project pledge in 2011. When the next local elections cycle came around in 2013 he ran for office and was elected to the board of Nunda Township Trustees.
With another wave of local elections coming up in 2015, Mike and other leaders in his county knew they had to do something to draw peoples’ attention to the need for new local leaders. In October they organized a Municipal Elections Fair and invited residents to learn more about the functions of local government and about running for office.
“The more people we can get involved and running for office, the better off we’ll be. Frustration and apathy keep people away, but a lot of people think they can’t be an elected official without sacrificing too much family life. It’s true that you do have to make some sacrifices, but I have young children and I’ve found ways to make it work.” Mike said.
Turnout for the event showed that Mike’s message is resonating. Approximately 50 people attended the event in October- speakers who held a variety of public offices talked to the audience and shared information about the roles and responsibilities of different offices. Information about how to become a candidate for some of the various offices was made available as well. By the end of the evening, a show of hands revealed that about 75% of the audience had serious interest in running for office.
When asked what advice he has for first time candidates, Mike suggested “If you are not familiar with how to run a campaign, find someone who is and ask them for help. There are a lot of for-hire campaign managers out there, but there are also a fair amount of folks that will do the job for free if they think that you are genuine and willing to work… Knock on a lot of doors and talk to a lot of people. Listen as much as you talk.”
Local elections have a huge impact on citizens’ daily lives- everything from education, taxes, business regulation and even emergency services are run at the local level. Mike and other new leaders like him are impacting their communities, their states and our country by increasing accountability through elections and creating a pipeline for future leaders to gain experience and move on to higher levels of office.
You can too, by joining the New Leaders Project and using American Majority’s campaign resources to help you identify new leaders or build your own campaign.