This is the second in a series of articles about “How to Get Elected as a Libertarian.” As a recently elected Libertarian for a Township Trustee in a small rural northern Michigan town, I believe that the Libertarian Party of Michigan should recruit as many qualified, freedom loving candidates as possible to run for similar local roles across the state.
This article focuses on how to get started with the process of choosing a winnable race.
Learn How Your Local Government Works
How and when do you decide which position to run for? My advice is to start NOW! It may seem like the next election is far away, but there is a lot of work to be done! Start with a baby step: simply attend your local government meetings and ask questions! It’s important to get a feel for your local government: the structure, the people, and the issues.
Starting with the most local position gives you the best chance to win. The number of people you need to reach is more manageable than state level positions, which require fundraising just to have a small chance to be elected. In Michigan, depending where you live, the local positions are at the township, village, or city level. County positions are also great choices, as each county is divided into districts. Often a County Commissioner and a Township Trustee have similar numbers of constituents.
There are numerous other boards and committees in each township, village, city, or county. For example, there are commissions and boards for zoning, planning, water, sewer, parks, fire and ambulance, housing, roads, and of course schools.
Some of these boards have members who are appointed, and some are elected. Some of those who are elected run in partisan races, which means that candidates have to choose which party to put after their name. Other positions and races are non-partisan, and the candidates do not disclose their party. Obviously, it is more challenging running as a Libertarian in a partisan race, but it also does more to advance the party. Many of these boards and commissions have volunteer positions, while others may pay per meeting. A few of the elected positions are considered full time, such as the Township or County Clerks, Supervisors, or Treasurers of the larger townships.
The bottom line is that each area is very different, and every position is different. Your first job is to get out there and figure out how your local government works!
Who Are The People Involved in Your Local Government?
In addition to understanding the structure of your local government, another important part of your decision is to understand who the people are on each of these boards and commissions.
To start with, are the current board members competent? Do they vote based on ethics? Do they support freedom? Do they listen to the people? Do they vote for or against your principles?
As you attend meetings, you will realize that some people need to be replaced. Others may already vote for freedom and libertarian values.
Also, some people in these positions have been there forever, and have towns and streets named after them. They might be so popular that unseating them would be difficult. On the other hand, maybe some of these people would retire if they knew there were suitable replacements.
Getting to know the people is a very important part of your decision about which position might fit you best.
What are the Issues?
In addition to learning about the structure and personnel of your local government, you should know which issues are handled by the various boards and commissions. Some of these might interest you and suit your background. For example, an engineer might prefer to be on a water and sewer board.
Regardless of which board you choose, the issues can be complicated. It is a big advantage for you to be aware of the issues before you run for office. When you run your campaign, you will be able to intelligently discuss the issues. It will also make your job easier once you are in office.
In summary, if you think you want to run as a Libertarian in the next election, start NOW! Research your local government, attend meetings, and start talking to the people. This will help you to make a more intelligent decision about which position to run for, and it will be a huge benefit to your campaign.
The topic next month will be creating your campaign plan. I welcome ideas and questions at any time at firstname.lastname@example.org.