If you’re running a campaign as a candidate in a political election, there’s a philosophical reason why you should really begin by looking up the qualifications and duties of the office you’re seeking. If you do win you election, you are going to have to look things up in the code on a regular basis because your office and duties are regulated by law.
You should begin by learning your way around the state code or city charter. You should want to win your election, but you should also want to be good at the job you’re running for. A good official always follows the law, and always checks the code first to see what the law is.
If looking things up in the code or charter seems too intimidation, ask someone in the party or an old hand if they know a friendly lawyer. Lots of lawyers are politically active and would be happy to share their election knowledge by giving you a copy of the relevant code sections if you’re a good candidate.
Although checking the office out in the state code for your election is not a must-do thing, we strongly recommend it. There are also other, more informal, ways to find out about the job. One of the very best is to attend the meetings of the board or office.
If you plan on running in an election for city council or the school board, it in on the city council or school board meetings and listen to what goes on. Find out what is currently on the agenda, and what is likely to come up during the campaign.
Talk to people who have held the job. An incumbent is not likely to give you much help if you are running in an election against him, but if you know someone who has already served in that office, ask him or her about it. Talk to the employees in that office about the work they do and how it might be improved.
Talk to the people who are served by that elected office or do business with it on a regular basis. If you are running for the Housing Board, you should ask the head of the tenant’s union and the president of the landlord’s association what they expect from a member of the board after the election.
There are plenty of specialized requirements that must be met before you can qualify as a political candidate for certain specialized offices. In one state only a licensed physician can run for coroner, only a certified peace officer can run for sheriff, and only a licensed professional engineer can be a candidate for county engineer. In another state, none of these professional licensures are required.
We won’t give the names of the states because it really doesn’t matter what the official requirements are for being a political candidate in some other state. It only matters what they are in your state, and you have to look that up yourself.
The qualifications for specific political candidates are listed in your state code, which is a compilation of the state laws. Many libraries have copies of the state code, some state offices do, and virtually every lawyer has a copy of the state code in his office, so it is fairly easy to find out about the official qualifications.
You may be running for an office that is governed by a city charter, or local ordinances, so you have to check that source, but local codes are readily available in libraries and law offices, too.
When you look at the qualifications to be a political candidate, also look up the section that deals with the duties of the office – the powers, functions, and areas of responsibility. There may be some duties involved in the job that you are not aware of. In public employment, like any employment, it is a good idea to look at the job description before you sign on.