Today I’d like to speak about one of my favorite subjects, how Millennials can run for local office and some of the challenges they may face.
It seems odd that many of us middle-aged folks are still getting used to the idea of Millennials being elected to Congress and now the post-Millennial generation, Gen Z, has shown up in the U.S. House of Representatives for the first time.
As the biggest generation in America, Millenials are now fully getting involved with their local government here in Palos Verdes as well and we’ve definitely seen an uptick in Millennials participating in the political process from door knocking and canvassing as well as manning phone banks, or even showing up to attend city council meetings or showing up at the state capitol and communicating with legislators about their priorities.
It may appear to me that Millennials tend to look more at the federal and state levels of government than their local government due to the media-driven hot-button issues of education, immigration, and health care.
Those are things that local government doesn’t necessarily have as big of a role in well but millennial engagement at the local level is increasing with more understanding about what exactly the local government does. Once more folks understand the importance of attending city council meetings and /or contacting their local officials, it’s only a matter of time for more Millennial engagement at that level,
This local political engagement is where Millennials can have an immediate impact by running for office. Keep in mind that every government level requires a significant undertaking and that one’s age or generation are secondary, Many of these electoral challenges are amplified for Millennials because campaigning is a full-time job, and many Millennials have other responsibilities, whether it’s maintaining a job or starting and supporting families.
Many Millennial are finding out that aspiring to public office brings more time conflicts than they imagine at first. Also, running for office is an expensive process and many Millennials don’t have the extra levels of disposable income that they can invest in their campaigns. As the legendary California politican Jess Unruh once said, money is the mother’s milk of politics. Rightly or wrongly, that is still the case.
So what is an aspiring Millennial public official to do to get started? For one, begin to talk to successful candidates at the local level on a friendly basis and ask them questions about their journey. Local public officials tend to be very approachable at public functions and my experience is that they love to talk about themselves! But it makes sense to do talk to people that have successfully run for local office and have them give you a lot of details about the amount of time the financial resources you’ll need to participate.
At that point, you go from there. You really need to just understand the fundamentals of your local community issues and also you need to have a timeline. You need to understand how many signatures you need, and that varies depending on what district you’re running in to what city you’re running in, to what office you’re running in and understanding the fundamentals when you need to turn in those signatures and how to file a campaign finance report. These are just the basics that lead to the other fundamental building blocks to a campaign- keep in mind that you need to get those nailed down first.
Second, it would be very advisable to volunteer or intern for another local candidate first and get your hands into the machinery of a local face. Do you have any special talents you can volunteer for a local candidate? Even if you are just available to knock on doors then you possess a valuable skill set.
If you have any experience developing your own social media profiles then you might volunteer to help another campaign with these functions as well- keep in mind that boomers still predominate at all levels of government and many of us still don’t appreciate the importance of digital promotions- much less know how to manage our own social media accounts effectively.
Being a defacto intern for another candidate at the local level will also bring you in contact with other like-minded people who share your views and also connect you with established local business people who might contribute financially to your future candidacy.
In any case, you are certain to make lasting friendships and professional connections with this approach.