The Duval County first election rapidly approaches on this coming Tuesday. Some of you have already voted through mail-in ballots or through early voting, or you may enjoy voting on Election Day. An even smaller number of our good citizens might be wondering whether they should have gotten into the race for Jacksonville leadership. Though that ship has sailed for this term, it is not too early to plan for a run for political office in 2027.
Democracy is essential to our American way of life but in order to have a great democracy we must have prepared and unselfish local citizens helping lead our towns, cities and counties. Jacksonville needs strong and well-motivated leadership in government to improve our standard of living and to keep our community moving forward. Good decisions made by you and your fellow elected officials can have a lasting effect on generations to come as well as helping your current constituents.
What it takes
The first question you must ask yourself is why do you want to run for office. There is only one good answer: you want to make your city, town or county better by serving your constituents. If you’re doing it for prestige or money, please reconsider. Running for a political office should be a calling like that of a preacher who wants to serve. I would also caution you about running for office on just one issue because over the years of your term you will be faced with hundreds of issues large and small. You must be prepared to answer questions on all the issues of the day in addition to new ones that pop up on a regular basis.
If someone told you that you should because you would be good at it and that person was currently holding office or had recently held office, then I would say you should consider it. Or you may decide to run on your own volition with no encouragement from others. Either way, think long and hard about it.
For one, before you get too deep, you must get the blessing of your spouse or partner because he or she will have to live with your extra work hours and the ups and downs of running and performing your political duties. In addition, they will most likely be a valuable member of your political team as they may help to put out signs, knock on doors, and convince people that you’re the one for the job.
Secondly you must get permission from your employer (and if you’re self-employed it would be good to get buy-in from your employees.)
What makes a good candidate?
First and foremost, you must have a servant’s heart to help the people and to make your community better. How can you show others you have this trait? Past performance is an excellent predictor of future outcomes. What have you done already to make your community better? Did you lead or work as a volunteer in a service club or not-for-profit like Rotary International, the United Way, the Salvation Army, your church or synagogue, or the Scouts? Do a good job as a volunteer first, and show your community you are able to give unselfishly for the betterment of all.
Are you already successful at your current job? If you are, you will have the confidence of those working around you and they could very well help in your campaign. In addition, the clients you serve at work may also vote for you or help in your campaign.
You should have thick skin. The ability to take criticism is important in most races, as criticism will come from not only from your opponents but from the press and, most surely, on social media.
You must have the time. If you’re helping to care for younger children or aging parents and you already have a second job, you may want to wait.
How I got into politics
Running for office was never a thought for me until one day in 2002, when Matt Carlucci (who at that time was a two-term Jacksonville City Councilman and fellow State Farm agent) and I were working on a video stand for the Stanton High School football team. His son, Matthew, and my son, Jason, were both on the newly formed football team. City political races were just getting started, and Matt was running for mayor. I always had great respect for Matt, who was a fair and honorable elected official, and his father had also been a state legislator. While we were swinging hammers building the video stand, Matt talked about his mayoral campaign and suggested I run for City Council. I was taken aback that this successful city leader had confidence to ask if I would run for office.
As intriguing as it was to run, I had two major stumbling blocks that were impossible to ignore: 1. I was still serving in the U.S. Navy Reserve as well as running my insurance agency and 2. I had three teenage sons who needed my mentoring. I knew the timing was wrong, but the fuse was lit for my interest in serving my city.
My friend Michael Corrigan won the 2003 District 14 City Council race. At the next election four years later, Councilman Corrigan ran for re-election. As president of the Park and King Area Association, a local volunteer community group, I had worked well with Councilman Corrigan on issues in our neighborhood and had no desire to run against my friend.
But with term limits ( Corrigan could not run again) I set my sights on the next election. I was fortunate to win in a runoff in 2011 and was re-elected in 2015.
If you feel the calling to run for political office, take notes on this election, the good and the bad. Get involved with your local political party and start serving your community now.