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Beachcomber: Want to Run for City Council?

  • By David Barron

So you want to run for public office? Well, now is the time to start thinking about it seriously.
Many local cities including Monterey Park, Rosemead and Montebello will be conducting elections for city council in March 2015.
Sounds like a long ways off, but it isn't.

First of all, you have to convince your spouse, your family and your close friends that they need to come along with you for the ride. Why? That’s because they will be your core group of supporters. It is going to cost them money and time. They are the ones that will have to clean up the garbage when you have a fundraiser.
I remember Congresswoman's Judy Chu parents cleaning tables, taking out the trash and putting away chairs at one of her fundraisers.
The first question they will ask you is "Are you crazy?"
Then they will ask you "Why?" and you better be ready with a good answer.
People run for local public office, such as city council, for a variety of reasons. One basic reason is that they have a great ego and believe they can make a difference as an elected official. That is just as good a reason as any, as far as I am concerned.
But others want to fix problems or have an axe to grind: that is the local city has done them such disservice and they want to get even.
But it can be as simple as wanting to fix the potholes in the city or have a strong dedication to public service.
Or, because running for office, win or lose, might be good for business. If you are a lawyer, doctor, dentist, developer, realtor or some similar service business more people will know your name after a campaign. Certainly your contact list will have a lot more names in it after you run for office. If you are lucky, you get to do a lot of marketing with other people's money.
If you get elected and you mix personal business with city business, you are treading in dangerous waters because of conflict of interest regulations. But if you lose, you don't have worry about it.
What does it cost to run for office? That depends on how serious you are. Some recent candidates have gotten a second mortgage on their home and taken every bit of vacation and sick time to be free to campaign.
Investment of time is probably the most expensive part of a campaign. During the early months you are engrossed in planning, strategizing and networking.
In the last couple of months of an election campaign, you may be involved seven days a week, from the early morning hours until late at night. Your family has to be really supportive to make sure meals are ready, clothes are laundered and you don't miss any appointments.
Money wise it can take between $25,000 and $100,000 to run for office. It depends a lot on how many fancy mailers you send out and how many dedicated volunteers you have.
If you have never been involved in a campaign, you may have to hire a professional campaign manager. They cost at least $10,000 for a three-month campaign, and may be more if they take a portion of funds raised.
If you run a campaign to get the attention of people who vote by mail, you may have to pay thousands of dollars more for consultants, labor and mailings. Nowadays, nearly 50 percent of the voters cast their ballot by mail. 

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