Running for elected office is an excellent way to make a difference in your community. Here are some reasons why you should consider running for office and helpful resources such as a helpful toolkit.
Be A Decision Maker
Elected officials make decisions that directly affect our local communities. As an elected official, you can be at the table to make important decisions on - public transit, school quality, affordable housing, policing and public safety, sanitation, water quality, job training programs, how tax dollars are spent, and much more.
Be A Champion For Your Community
By running for office, you can speak out and make a difference on issues you are passionate about and are important to your community. Take on a new leadership role championing issues like environmental sustainability, public health, and job creation.
Take Your Leadership To The Next Level
There are many ways to be a leader, and you bring your own unique perspective to the campaign. We'd bet you're more capable to run for office than you think you are. While experience and skills in subjects related to the activities of a board or committee can be important, it is not always necessary to be an expert in order to be a good contributor. With many offices up for election this spring, there are many opportunities to serve your community.
Check with your local clerk to find out what offices are up for election in your community. Make the race competitive and let voters decide who would best represent them.
What To Consider
The Job - Consider whether you want to run for federal, state, or local office. Familiarize yourself with the scope of authority and role of the office you're interested in running for. Keep in mind what this office can and cannot do and make sure it is a good fit to make the change you're looking to make.
The Time Commitment - Local volunteers, appointees and elected officials often have other jobs and responsibilities. A candidate should weigh the balance between his or her qualifications and the demands of other commitments. A commitment to serve as a local official requires - attendance at meetings, committee work, time for research to become familiar with topics that are presented or discussed. It is also important that elected officials are accessible to members of the public.
Experience and Minimum Qualifications - Consider what experience you'd bring to the office and whether you think it would be a good fit. Also, make sure you meet the minimum qualifications to hold the office if elected. In general, in Wisconsin the minimum qualifications to hold an office are:
- United States Citizenship
- At least 18 years of age (or older for certain offices)
- Satisfy residency requirements for a specific office. Residency requirements vary for different offices.
- May not have been convicted of a felony in any court in the United States unless pardoned of the conviction.
How To Get On The Ballot
In order to get on the ballot, there are important forms to complete, nominations papers to circulate, and important deadlines to keep in mind. Find helpful checklists based on the office you want to run for and other important information on the Wisconsin Elections Commission's website.
Candidates have from December 1, 2023, through January 2, 2024, to file nomination papers, declarations of candidacy, and campaign registration statements with the filing officer.
Filing Officer Information
For Municipal Offices - The filing officer is the municipal clerk. With the exception of the City of Milwaukee, the filing officer is the Milwaukee City Election Commission. Find your municipal clerk's contact information here.
For County Offices - The filing officer is the county clerk. Find your county clerk's contact information here.
For State Offices - Register your campaign committee and submit a statement of economic interests with the Wisconsin Ethics Commission. Submit nomination papers and a declaration of candidacy to the Wisconsin Elections Commission. Contact the Wisconsin Elections Commission for more information.
Your state and local election officials are great people to talk to in order to get started with running for office. Find the Wisconsin Elections Commission's resources for candidates here. Contact the Wisconsin Elections Commission here. You can also find your municipal and county clerk information here.
Programs and Organizations:
American Majority: Conservative organization created to train conservative activists to run for office. Holds low-cost online training programs to train on running for office and improve skills to help you on the campaign trail. Also holds in-person training workshops for candidates and activists.
Arena: Progressive organization dedicated to training and supporting candidates and campaign staff through its training program, Arena Academy and conference, Arena Summit; a comprehensive and free toolkit of guides on campaign skills; and financial support for candidates.
Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies (APAICS): National non-partisan, nonprofit 501c3 organization dedicated to promoting Asian Pacific American participation and representation at all levels of the political process.
Collective PAC: organization working to solve the issue of underrepresentation of African Americans in elected office. Runs the Black Campaign School, a multi-day training course.
Dare to Run: A 501c3 organization offering female college graduates the opportunity to participate in a two-year certificate program in pursuit of a career path in public service.
Democracy for America: Grassroots-driven progressive PAC run by Howard Dean that recruits and trains progressive candidates.
Elevate: The National Council on Independent Living's nonpartisan campaign training for people with disabilities.
Emerge America: In-depth, seven-month, 70-hour training program to train Democratic women interested in running for office. The state-level courses meet one weekend a month and cover topics including public speaking and communication, fundraising, media and messaging, networking, and campaign strategy. Trainers are campaign staff from across the country.
EMILY’s List: Provides training and resources for local and state-level progressive women candidates. For federal and gubernatorial candidates, EMILY’s list puts staff and funding to work to assist with these campaigns. Runs a new online training center to help women learn how to run for office.
Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund: Provides support to LGBT candidates running for office, including assessments of campaign viability, campaign training, financial support from their PAC and donors, strategic and technical campaign support, and campaign consultants and staff. Victory Institute is the organization’s training wing.
GOPAC: Provides training and funding to conservative leaders. Includes the Emerging Leaders program, which identifies and trains state-level conservative leaders for a year to lead the party.
Higher Heights: Organization devoted to supporting Black women in politics. Hosts the webinar series #BlackWomenLead, a political training series for Black women.
Leadership Institute: Provides training to conservatives of all ages in campaigns, fundraising, grassroots organizing, youth politics, and communications.
Latino Victory: Organization committed to growing Latino political power in elected office.
Maverick PAC: Network of business and political leaders focused on driving young people to the political process through fundraising and events.
National Democratic Training Committee: “Free campaign training for every Democratic candidate, everywhere” in four different areas: building field plans, fundraising, message and media, and management. Free and online campaign training.
National Federation of Republican Women: Provides workshops, manuals, and training to Republican women interested in running for office.
New American Leaders Project: Training programs for first- and second-generation Americans who want to use their civic power. Programs include Ready to Lead, which teaches candidates how to use their heritage as a political asset; New American Fellows, a two-year fellowship selected from the Ready to Lead program that offers mentorship, political guidance, networking, and additional skill-building; Ready to Win, which is advanced, boot camp-style training for New American Fellows and campaign staff; New American Leadership Academy, for newly-elected immigrant officials; and Power & Policy: New Americans in Elected Office, a conference which showcases legislative initiatives, offers networking opportunities and enhances leadership skills.
New Leaders Council: Organization dedicated to training progressive Millennials and anchored by its NLC Institute, a six-month intensive training experience carried out by chapters in around 50 cities and states across the country.
Progressive Change Campaign Committee: Provides endorsements, small-dollar donations, and personalized training to PCCC-vetted candidates.
Public Leadership Education Network (PLEN): National organization with the sole focus of preparing college women for leadership in the public policy arena.
Ready to Run: Run by the Center for American Women and Politics by Rutgers University, this program holds programs in different states using local experts on the political climate in those states.
ReflectUS Coalition: Nonpartisan coalition of seven leading women’s organizations working to increase the representation of women in politics.
Re: Power (formerly Wellstone Action): Organization dedicated to working with individuals and organizations across the country to build inclusive politics, including through skills training and coalition building. Conducts a variety of training programs around campaign management, digital organizing, running for office, and governance.
RightNOW Women PAC: Volunteer organization helping to elect qualified women to federal office.
Run for Something: Program to support people under age 35 who want to run for office. Connects qualified people to training organizations, and provides staff and funding to worthy candidates. They have a database of campaign training programs at local, state, and national levels available on their candidate resources page.
Running Start: Non-partisan movement to train young women to run for elected office.
She Should Run: A 501(c)3 to encourage women from all backgrounds to run for office. This website offers free, online courses for women to gain the leadership skills necessary for running for office.
Truman National Security Project: Offers a free online course on how to run for office.
Veterans Campaign: hosts training workshops to train veterans to run for public office. Also offers a MA in Public Leadership through the University of San Francisco.
VOICES of Conservative Women: holds run-for-office training for conservative women interested in public office.
Vote Run Lead: offers online resources and in-person training to women interested in running for office.
WeLead: Run by American University, WeLead is a four-day intensive training that addresses campaigns and elections, communication and message development, fundraising, public policy and government relations, and professional development.
Winning for Women: A 501c4 dedicated to identifying and creating paths forward for women leaders who share core values of economic freedom and strong national security.
Wisconsin Progress: An organization dedicated to training progressive candidates and recruiting candidates throughout Wisconsin.
Women’s Public Leadership Network: Nonpartisan organization providing “knowledge and resources to make running for elected office and engaging in the political process more accessible” for women, including webinar series on civic engagement topics.
Women’s Campaign School at Yale University: A non-partisan, issue-neutral program that runs multi-day campaign training programs for women interested in running for office or managing campaigns.
“The Art of the Political Campaign: How to Run for Elected Office with no Money, Name Recognition or Political Connections,” Brian Duewel
“Becoming a Candidate: Political Ambition and the Decision to Run for Office,” Jennifer L. Lawless
“Campaign Boot Camp 2.0: Basic Training for Candidates, Staffers, Volunteers, and Nonprofits,” Christine Pelosi
“Don’t Just March, Run for Something: A Real-Talk Guide to Fixing the System Yourself,” Amanda Litman
“How to Get Elected to State and Local Office: A Beginner’s Guide,” Timothy Hickman and Catherine Hickman
“How to Run for Local Office,” Robert Thomas and Barb Gunia
“How to Run For a Political Office and Win: Everything You Need to Know to Get Elected,” Melanie Williamson.
“The Political Campaign Desk Reference: A Guide for Campaign Managers, Professionals, and Candidates Running for Office,” Michael McNamara
“Represent: The Woman’s Guide to Running for Office and Changing the World,” June Diane Raphael and Kate Black.
“Run Jane Run…We Need You in Office!: Why Women Are a Natural fit for Politics and How to Get More of Them Elected,” Maria Rodriguez and Liz Samuel Richards
“Run: Your Personal Guide to Winning Public Office,” Marian Walsh
“Running, Winning, Serving: The Candidate’s Guide to Local Elections,” Craig W. Turner
“The Victory Lab: The Secret Science of Winning Campaigns,” Sasha Issenberg
“Winning Your Election the Wellstone Way: A Comprehensive Guide for Candidates and Campaign Workers,” Jeff Blodgett and Bill Lofy
Thank you to the National Council on Independent Living for compiling this list of resources. If you have a program, book or other resource to add to this page, please contact Eileen Newcomer, Voter Education Manager at enewcomer [at] lwvwi.org.