I grew up in a political family. My father was a journalist who became a community organizer, and he wrote several manuals on grassroots organizing and how to win political campaigns. My mother was a teacher who became an education reform organizer and activist, and she often traveled the country giving trainings on reforming public education. Naturally, I was child labor. I often ended up helping to add names and phone numbers to spreadsheets, looking through piles of paper for one specific key document that my parents needed, or reading chicken scratch on yellow writing pads to my parents over a phone call. As the child labor, I also had the rewarding task of sitting in on many conversations with potential political candidates. These people were considering running for anything from city council to governor, and before they began their campaigns they came to my parents to ask for advice. My parents would always start the conversation with a question that would make or break the run. A question so complex, yet so simple, that it could predict the future: the success or failure of their potential bid.
"What are some of the issues in your district?"
My parents were looking for 3-5 well-thought-out issues, and I can tell you that more often than not, the candidate was unable to produce an answer to the question. The answer to the question, however, was not as important as the thought and experiences necessary to answer it. To be able to answer this important question, you need to know your district. Knowing your district comes from listening to what people have to say. That means going to meetings of community groups, listening to people in barbershops, and having conversations in the checkout aisle at your local grocery store. Maybe the property taxes are too high, maybe the local public transportation system is broken, maybe the current elected official is ignoring an entire portion of the district. To be able to answer this question, and answer it with issues that resonate with voters, is the golden ticket that can help win an election. All politics is local, and local politics is all about issues.
Ask yourself, “What are some of the issues in your district?”, listen to your community and use Run for Office to see how you can get involved.