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Called to Run for Political Office?

Updated: Dec 29, 2021

The delayed primary has caused a lot of stir in North Carolina. This has also made a lot of people consider or question the decision to run for political office since the filing period has also been delayed.

I hear a lot of people say recently that they feel called to run for office. To collectively respond to these calls to action my response is one from a biblical and strategic standpoint.

As believers, Proverbs 19:21 tells us that while we make plans it's God's counsel that determines our steps. When making any decision, you should always remember this. The Bible doesn't say much about "running for office" but there are a few verses that give us an indication about the role of government and the role of citizens.

First, you need to understand the separation between the government and God's kingdom. In John 18: 36, as Jesus stands in front of Pilate Jesus tells him, "My kingdom is not of this world." Jesus also tells Pilate that, "You have no power at all against Me unless it had been given to you from above." All governmental authority is ordained and given by God. Every just and unjust decision that rulers make is part of God's ultimate plan.

So what are believers to do when it comes to the government? The simple answer is in Matthew 22:21, as Jesus tells the Pharisees to "render unto Caesar the things that are Caeser's, and to God the things that are God's." Also, while Romans 13:1-7 and 1 Peter 2:13 tell us to submit to government, the Bible teaches us not to fight evil with evil.

Unjust governments will be punished by God. While you may submit to an earthy government, you are serving the greater Kingdom of God. By using your freedom not for vice, but for good service, you can silence the "ignorance of foolish men." Finally, 1 Timothy 2:2 tells us that we should "pray for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all goodness and reverence."

As a believer that feels led to run for office, you should consider the roles of government and God's kingdom. Also pray for guidance and wisdom so your decision is one of God's will, rather than personal vanity. Finally, I ask you to consider the following questions before deciding to run. These are questions I ask as a consultant when meeting with a candidate for the first time:

  • Is your heart in it?

  • Do you have the support of family and friends?

  • Do you know the voters and their issues?

  • Can you ask for money?

  • Do you have stable finances and a flexible work schedule?

  • What’s in your past?

Is your heart in it?

I would say this is the most important question you should ask yourself before running for office. Campaigns are one of the most stressful life events. While many people enjoy the excitement of campaigning, it is certainly not for the faint of heart. You will face scrutiny, criticism, and a demanding schedule. You will face unique challenges that will test your willpower and character. If you feel "called to run" then this is an indication that your decision is one from the heart.

What keeps candidates going, aside from faith and family, is having an unrelenting passion for the office. Your heart must be fully into running and the position must align with your ethos and your personal beliefs. This means knowing why you are running for office and having that passion embedded within. Otherwise, you will lose the drive to win before the campaign is over.

Do you have the support of family and friends?

Campaigns will destroy relationships. You may have seen recently the divorce announcement of NC Congressman Madison Cawthorne. Races from school board to President take a toll on personal and family life. Candidates must prepare for this by talking to family and friends about the decision to run.

You will be seeking support from donors and voters, but it doesn't mean much if you don't have the support of those closest to you. When campaigns get tough, it will be your friends and family that are there to lift you up.

Be candid with friends and family. Ask if they support your decision and will stand by your side. Prepare them for possible scrutiny and have your consultant or campaign manager walk them through possible scenarios. Prepare for the time you will spend away from your family while on the campaign trail and while in office.

Importantly, know when it's time to back out of a race. Family should always come first. So if you are close to losing your family over an election, back out of the race. The voters will forgive you for working on your family but they won't be as forgiving if you destroy your family to win an election.

Do you know the voters and their issues?

Know thyself. Know thy voter. Know thy issue. No, Socrates didn't say all of this, but in addition to knowing yourself, knowing the voters and issues impacting them are just as important. Naturally, your reason for seeking political office should be based on a genuine concern for your constituents and their issues, but that's not always the case with candidates.

An irrelevant candidate will not win an election. You will be branded as out of touch and self-serving. We have seen this happen to incumbents who lose sight of who their voters are and the issues they face.

You can get to know your constituents before running for office by attending community events, attending town halls and Board meetings, serving on a government Board or Commission, talking to local business owners, and talking to teachers, law enforcement, and other professions in your community.

If you don't know your community or their problems, then why are you running for office in the first place?

Can you ask for money?

Candidates are fundraisers. I know this sounds dirty, but campaigns cost money. It's very rare for any level campaign to spend under $1,000. So unless you plan on self-funding your campaign, which I don't recommend even if you're a billionaire, you're going to have to ask for money.

Why do people give to campaigns? Because of the candidate. If a donor is confident that the candidate is competent, and will represent their interests while in office, they will give. This means that you can hire the best fundraiser in the country, but if you are not willing to go out and meet with donors and voters to ask for support, you won't raise money.

You must also be discerning of who you ask for money from. Special interest groups creep into every campaign and if a potential donor doesn't have your community's well-being in mind, it is wise not to accept their contribution.

You don't have to like asking for money or be a skilled fundraiser, but you must be willing to make the ask.

Do you have stable finances and a flexible work schedule?

Historically, only wealthy individuals run for office. While this trend is changing, as it should, you still must be stable financially and have flexibility with your work. Elected positions require a lot of time away from work and typically only gubernatorial (governor) and congressional offices pay a full-time salary.

Unfortunately, these two factors bar a lot of great candidates from seeking office. Government should be representative of all the people, including the working class.

Before running for office, you should know the time commitment that the elected position will take. Talk to current or former elected officials for the office sought and ask them how much time a week they spend on government work. Can your schedule allow for this time?

How contested is your race and what is the size of your representative area? The amount of travel during a campaign for town council is much less than campaigning for congress, which covers multiple counties. Also, if four other candidates are running in the primary for the same office, you are going to have to do a lot more campaigning than if you are running for an uncontested seat.

Once you get an idea of the campaign and elected office time commitments, discuss this decision with your employer. Does your job allow for a flexible schedule? Does your workplace have policies on political activities? Are you paid by the hour or amount of work you perform? Can you and your family financially afford to cut back work in order to serve in an elected position?

What's in your past?

The most uncomfortable, but critical conversation that I have with candidates is what I call the "sacred confession". No, I'm not a priest but as a consultant bound by a confidentiality agreement, I always ask what a candidate has done in their past. This is so I can get ahead and develop responses to potential attacks by opponents and determine if a candidate is disqualified from running for office in the first place.

In most cases, a felony conviction will bar you from running in most offices. Also, the "court of public opinion" can, in most cases, be unforgiving. But let's face it, we all have made past mistakes. As Alexander Pope said, "to err is human; to forgive, divine."

Your voters in most cases will be forgiving for past mistakes that come to the surface if you are honest about them and ask forgiveness. I've seen many candidates that try to lie, bury, and cover up past transgressions. Most of the time, this paints a candidate as dishonest and untrustworthy, which destroys a campaign.

However, candidates who disclose past issues (like alcoholism, divorce, or a past crime) by acknowledging it, asking for forgiveness, and showing voters how the candidate learned from the mistake, can build the character of the candidate and establish trust in the voter.

For non-criminal or non-civil issues (which I call "moral slip-ups") that come to the surface from opponents seeking to defame the character of a candidate, the best course of action can be to acknowledge the action and move on. Trying to cover up an accusation only makes you look more guilty.

Acknowledge your mistakes, disclose them to your family and campaign consultant/manager in advance, and develop potential responses to the problems. You will be a much stronger candidate, and person if you go ahead and confront your past.

These are just some of the key questions to consider if you're thinking about running for office. The decision to pursue elected office is not a light or an easy one. If you are thinking about running for office in 2022 give me a call to discuss. Bridges Consulting, LLC provides full campaign consulting and management to candidates so that you are equipped with the tools needed to win.


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