On October 27th, the ELN was joined by The Samara Centre for Democracy, a campaign strategist, and a panel of elected officials for an engaging discussion to give rising leaders the inside scoop on what you should know before running for political office.
If you missed it, you’re able to watch the recording here. We’ve also compiled a list of our six key takeaways if you’re considering putting your name on a ballot.
1. Throw your hat in the ring.
It can be discouraging when you don’t see yourself represented in elected office, especially if the current political dialogue doesn’t represent your needs or the needs of your community. We must ensure that diverse lived experiences are not only included, but amplified and encouraged, at decision making tables. There will always be a reason to say no, but our public institutions need you!
2. Recognize that politics can be toxic.
From abusive comments on social media to verbal bullying on the floor of the legislature, the truth is, being in a public-facing position comes with an unacceptable level of toxicity. This can be even worse for people from equity-deserving communities who continue to face systemic barriers to public representation.
3. Have a strong north star.
Choose one or two policy initiatives you’re particularly passionate about and focus on those. This will help you block out the noise and stay focused on making an impact. Candidates with a clear and authentic focus have a better shot at garnering support and, if you lose, you’ll always find other ways to continue advancing that policy agenda whether through politics or other avenues.
4. Get boots on the ground.
Local candidates don’t win elections on social media. You need a group of committed volunteers who believe in you, can rally others to support you, and who are willing to knock on doors – thousands of doors. At the municipal level, even though party affiliations don’t officially exist, alignment with a political party can help marshal the resources you need – like volunteers and mailing lists – to win.
5. Be yourself.
You’re going to be talking to thousands of people. It’s easier to be consistent when you’re being your authentic self. Consider this: candidates often struggle most when they’re trying to regurgitate speaking notes that don’t align with their voice or beliefs. Develop an elevator pitch that’s true to you and resonates with your community of support.
6. Prepare for any result.
If you win, use each day in this position of power to do important work for your community. But even if you or your party loses, there is incredibly meaningful work to be done elsewhere, including opposition. If you lose, make sure to do a post-mortem analysis. There will always be things you can learn from and tactics you can change for next time.
Thank you to Sabreena Delhon, Executive Director, The Samara Centre for Democracy, Zain Velji, Campaign Strategist, Campaign Manager to former Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi’s 2017 Campaign, and host of The Strategist podcast, Suze Morrison, MPP for Toronto Centre, Mitzie Hunter, MPP for Scarborough-Guildwood, Founding Co-Chair of the ELN, and Brad Bradford, Toronto City Councillor, Beaches-East York, 2018 CivicAction DiverseCity Fellow, for sharing your candid perspectives and experiences with us!