What we actually do for candidates
Update as of April 16, 2020: While RFS’ priorities — elect young, diverse, progressives to office — have remained the same, we are now looking at a new hurdle in 2020 that goes beyond the GOP, gerrymandering, or the Koch brothers.
The COVID-19 pandemic has upended the campaigns — and potential campaigns — of thousands of first-time hopefuls. No more door-knocking, no more in-person events or fundraisers. Heck, we’re still trying to figure out how to safely get people to the polls. This pandemic is unprecedented and like you, we are figuring out how to handle this situation as we go along.
As of March 2020, the RFS team has built out a new system of support for candidates in the wake of COVID-19. This includes more intense one-on-one support from our regional team on methods and tactics candidates can utilize to make sure they are on the ballot, that they have the funding they need, and that they are able to mobilize supporters from home.
We’re working with other organizations to give candidates what they need to run 100% virtual campaigns. Not to sound trite, but we are stronger together — that is why we created ResourcesforCampaigns.com, a central hub of trainings, webinars, tips, and guides for candidates running for office in the midst of a pandemic. This resource includes work from Swing Left, Indivisible, ActBlue, Center for American Women and Politics, Arena, Emily’s List, and many others.
We are pushing and working with some of our kickass alumni who are themselves pushing vote-by-mail initiatives in their state. No one should have to make the decision between their vote and their lives. We want to ensure that throughout 2020 everyone can cast their vote safely.
If you have any thoughts, concerns, or questions about running for office during the COVID-19 pandemic, please email us at email@example.com. If you have suggestions on how we can help candidates during the pandemic, please submit them here.
We launched Run for Something on January 20th, 2017 with a simple premise:
Run for Something will recruit and support young diverse progressives to run for down-ballot races in order to build sustainable power for Democrats in all 50 states. TBH, the folks we support now could be possible members of the House, Senate, and maybe even President one day. We aim to lower the barriers to entry for these candidates by helping them with behind-the-scenes mechanics, tactical and strategic support, advice, mentorship, access to training, and everything in between.
In our efforts to create a party that reflects the changing face of our electorate, we decided to focus on every candidate who wanted to run for a down-ballot seat, not just candidates who meet the standard “viability” test, aka how much money they’ve raised or what Congressional offices they’ve interned at . We know that type of prioritization wouldn’t allow us to embody our core values.
We also decided that by investing in every candidate and giving each one an equal shot at running a kickass campaign, we would empower voters to go out and have their voices heard. Simply put, we trust voters. Local election stakes are tangible, the candidates are relatable, and the issues are personal. Voters who might not show up for the top of the ticket in 2020 — whether it’s because they’re not enthusiastic enough about the nominee or they just don’t think their vote matters in such a big election — could be brought in and convinced they have power by engaging through a local race .
We believe the voters should decide who the right candidate is to represent them — not an institution.
We promote progressive values. Getting more progressive people running means more chances for constituents to see their vision for the future through the lens of someone authentically connected to their community. The more we can spread these messages through real people — not political pundits — the better off we will be.
Our risk tolerance is high: Like incubators or venture capital firms in the tech world, we don’t expect all of our candidates to win the first time out. By getting on the ballot, holding opponents accountable, and getting Democrats engaged through voter contact, our candidates will be effective in building out the party at the local level, thereby increasing the likelihood of another young Democrat running in the near future.
Between 2017 to 2019, we elected 304 candidates in 49 states + DC to offices ranging from state Senate to county Sheriff. Our candidates come from all walks of life– teachers, doctors, activists, artists, parents, refugees — and they represent communities that have been historically excluded and discouraged from running. Our candidates are winning because they run grassroots-powered campaigns focused on local issues — and we were there to help every step of the way.
Are you ready to run for office? Read below to learn about our process.
Step 1: Sign up at RunforSomething.net
Through press, social media, paid advertising, grassroots outreach and a constant drumbeat of conversation, we aim to destigmatize the idea that running for office is only for a limited type of person (read: rich, overly educated, straight cis-gender white men.)
After signing up, potential candidates are invited to join a conference call, where they will get the basic run-down on working with RFS. From there, they will have the option to participate in a 1:1 with a member of the RFS outreach team. Our outreach team is made up of folks with experience on campaigns or in the progressive movement. On the call, the outreach rep is looking for four key factors:
- Is the candidate progressive, by whatever definition fits their community (i.e. A progressive in Louisiana is different than a progressive in California)? We direct folks to RunforSomething.net for our definition of progressive (key point: we don’t have a litmus test).
- Is the candidate rooted in their community — do they have a network, connections, and an authentic understanding of the major concerns of their potential constituents?
- Does the candidate understand what a campaign means, what it entails, and are they willing to do the work?
- Is the candidate compelling and interesting to talk to? If the volunteer was going to work for them, on a scale of 1–10, how excited would they be?
Step 2: If a candidate meets those criteria…
RFS community support.
They get invited to our Slack community. In the Run for Something Slack team, candidates can build relationships with other people considering running for office, as well as RFS volunteers. Our community is structured by state as well as by specialty and by demographics — candidates and volunteers are self-organizing, setting up in-person meetings, and commiserating as they encounter similar challenges.
RFS candidates will have the opportunity to match with mentors with different areas of expertise. The goal is to democratize access to institutional knowledge in a scalable way. Instead of pairing up one candidate with one expert who may not have specialized knowledge in all facets of a campaign, we’re trying to help candidates get experts to specific questions from many experts. This allows mentors to support many candidates at once.
Access to resources and trainings
RFS staff and volunteers constantly share links to trainings and programs put on by partner organizations that might be useful for potential candidates.
Press and social media amplification
RFS will help all candidates that are part of our community connect with relevant reporters, PR guidance, and will signal boost through social media. Any outlet that wants to talk to our candidates can email firstname.lastname@example.org — we’ll do what we can!
Step 3: The Run for Something Endorsement
Once candidates have completed a call and started to engage with our community, they are invited to apply for the Run for Something endorsement.
In our first three years, we’ve endorsed over 1000 first-time candidates. We’re going to go even bigger in 2020.
Endorsed candidates gain access to many additional Run for Something resources including our database of creative help and additional mentorship.
Reach out to us at email@example.com