One of the biggest decisions one can make is the decision to run for office. It’s something that should not be done lightly, and one should seek out the counsel of friends and family during the decision-making process. Candidates always talk about the experiences or moments they had that made them decide to run for office, and those stories are usually very inspiring and help on the campaign trail. All that being said, it is worth a potential candidate’s time to consider this question:
"Why shouldn't I run for office?"
There are two ways to think about this. The first is more surface level:
Do you have time? This can mean personally or professionally. Can your spouse or kids withstand you being gone a few nights a week for meetings and other community events? Are you able to take time away from your job or your career to be a public servant? Being in a part-time public office while holding a full-time job is a constant juggling act. Therefore, during the decision-making process, it’s important to consult with your employer, co-workers, and every member of your family. Weigh the benefits of serving your community, with the sacrifices you will have to make personally.
"When you're making your decision to run for office, ignore all the hype and excitement about serving the public; the first thing you have to do is make sure your family is behind you 100%."
-Former Washington State Representative
The second way to think about this question is more introspective and requires complete self-honesty. Would you make a good elected official? It seems like a simple question but it’s not. Say you have been working on campaigns for years and you’re passionate about a certain few issues. Naturally, you think your knowledge of campaigns, and your few selected issues make you a good candidate. This is not always the case. There is a difference between a good activist and a good candidate. A good candidate knows the ins and outs of countless policy issues and community problems and can get a read on what the electorate is thinking within their district. A good activist has a small set of issues they are extremely knowledgeable on, and they cater to a small subset of people who have the same stance, oftentimes not willing to compromise.
In addition to this, once in office, you will be required to become an expert on hundreds of issues regarding the region, state, and even nation. You will need to transition from a meeting on agriculture to a meeting on higher education in minutes without missing a beat. This does not mean that an activist would not make a good candidate, what it means however is that potential candidates need to understand what they are, and what they can do to be the best candidate they can be. If after thinking about all this, the decision is that running for office isn’t the right fit for you, there is no shame in that. Politics always need activists and dedicated campaign volunteers.