There are more than 500,000 elected offices up for grabs at various times and locations throughout the U.S. election cycle, and the bulk of them go uncontested. In California alone, there are 58 counties in need of mayors, school board members, county commissioners, and other local offices.
Interested, qualified candidates can also run for state posts and executive offices or represent their state in Washington as a member of Congress. Who knows, you may even be president someday!
All of the possibilities and national trends toward independence and voter choice offer great reasons to run for office as an independent in California.
Here are six more.
Sometimes, all it takes for inspiration to run for office is an issue or a drive to improve your community. Many a mayor or city council member began their political careers because they were fed up with crime, inequality, or the state of the roads in their city.
Starting at the local level is also a great way to build political experience and strategies, a network of support, and name recognition for future elections.
What grinds your gears or causes an uproar in your community, and what can you do as a candidate to make a difference? The answers to those questions could be the spark that ignites an exciting, viable political campaign.
California is the world’s fifth largest economy and the most populated state in the country. Despite these hopeful statistics, there is still a high degree of income inequality, and the homeless population is exploding.
Dissatisfaction with the quality of life and prospects for the average person, coupled with voter apathy and the perception that politicians don’t represent their views and priorities, may provide independent candidates with the chance to provide an alternative to the status quo.
Although California still has a way to go in terms of inclusion for a range of political candidacies, they still have the reputation for being one of the more progressive states in many ways. They’ve led the way in laws regarding climate change and voter access, and they're home to the epicenter of tech innovation.
In an effort to improve voter turnout, California has mandated that all registered voters receive mail-in ballots at least one month before an election. This makes voting more convenient, especially in communities where getting time off from work or locating a polling place might be difficult.
San Francisco uses a ranked-choice voting system for the office of mayor and the Board of Supervisors. The cities of Albany, Oakland, Ojai, Palm Desert, and San Leandro also use ranked choice voting. The success of this model could spread to other locations in the state, and possibly the rest of the country, paving the way for independent candidates to make a dent in the two-party hegemony.
At 82.3%, California has one of the highest rates of registered voters in relation to eligible voters. Unfortunately, that doesn’t translate to an equivalent level of voter turnout for elections. The last election netted only 42.89% of registered voters.
According to various surveys of voting-age individuals cited in the LA Times, the reasons for voter apathy include:
Lack of voter outreach
Lack of information about candidates
Lack of passion about available candidates
Voters also feel that their concerns about important issues go unaddressed. They’re tired from the struggles of working multiple jobs, raising families, and trying to survive in an economy that makes it more difficult for the average family to afford basic necessities.
This doesn’t leave a whole lot of energy or mental bandwidth to research candidates and issues.
An independent candidate with a strong message and even stronger ground game can reach these voters and turn the tide in their favor come election day, especially when they concentrate their efforts in marginalized and underserved communities.
According to statistics gathered by the Public Policy Institute of California, whites make up the majority of likely voters at 52% despite being only 39% of the total population. Latinos are nearly equivalent in population, but only make up 25% of likely voters. The next largest demographic of voters is Asians (16%), followed by African-Americans (6%). Neither group votes at rates proportionate to their numbers.
Low voter turnout signals that these constituents may be turned off by the present political system and feel that none of the candidates put before them reflects their values or cares about their concerns. They may also feel that their vote doesn’t matter, so they’ve checked out.
The percentage of those who state their support for independents, meanwhile, is 22%. Independent voters also tend to be men (61%) and younger. A whopping 57% of independents are under the age of 55.
Independent leanings are represented among all demographics. Those having lower rates of political engagement may be more willing to consider alternatives.
Look for ways to shore up support among those already likely to vote for independent candidates and reach out to demographics who are underrepresented or turned off by party politics. Rather than only preaching to the converted, independent candidates can reach the disaffected through concerted engagement.
Engage online with groups that cater to disaffected voters, call town hall meetings in marginalized communities, and meet with these constituents one-on-one through activities like door-knocking. Be more willing to listen than to speak, and ask for their input about how their concerns can be addressed.
It’s also important to be authentic and show genuine concern and respect for underrepresented voters.
Approximately 70% of voters in the United States wish that they had more than two parties to choose from, and 35% of eligible voters declare as independents. Fortunately, support and resources for independent candidates is finally growing to match the level of public interest in voting choice.
Good Party has developed tools like an AI Campaign Manager that helps candidates campaign smarter. Their Campaign Tracker helps you view key metrics at a glance from one easy-to-read dashboard, while AI-powered content tools help you reach voters and the media more effectively. Never again will you have to guesstimate online impressions or wonder how many doors your volunteers have knocked.
Then, there’s Good Party Academy. This comprehensive, no-BS masterclass in the art of political campaigning is preparing a new generation of independent candidates to run for office.
It’s ideal for:
People who want to make a difference in their community
Local business owners
Best of all, it’s free and will help you answer the question of “To run or not to run?” in just a few weeks of working with our campaign experts. Academy alums are already running and winning.
Sometimes, the hardest part of running for office is taking that first step. It can be frustrating, but it’s also rewarding.
Primaries for statewide elections happen on March 5, 2024, and the general election takes place on November 5. Up for grabs in the state are seats in the U.S. House and Senate as well as the state House and Senate. Bear in mind that California uses a modified closed primary system for presidential hopefuls, which means that undeclared voters can vote without party affiliation if approved nominees submit their approval of such voters in writing.
Among cities in California looking for a new mayor are Sacramento, San Jose, San Francisco, and San Diego. Other upcoming elections are listed on the Secretary of State website as information becomes available. You can also check with the official website for your city or county for information about open seats at the local level.
Note that candidates for school boards and school directorships who are school employees are ineligible to run in the city of their employment.
The basic steps to run for office in California are pretty simple. In most cases, you only need to be 18 years old or older, a registered voter, a U.S. citizen, and a resident of the city or county in which you intend to run. The only exception to the age requirement is federal offices that have a higher minimum age. For example, you must be at least 35 to run for president.
Next, you’ll need to fill out and file your Candidate Authorization Form. At the same time, you can schedule a filing appointment with a candidate services representative at your local Registrar of Voters office.
One unique feature that might mitigate some of the expense of filing candidacy is the optional Signature-in-Lieu of Filing Fee Petitions, which take $0.50 off of the filing fee for each signature obtained.
Make sure to adhere to all campaign filing requirements and deadlines to ensure that you get on the ballot. In general, the candidate filing period for most elected offices is between the 113th day and 88th day before an election. This is when filing paperwork is available, and it must be turned in to the Registrar of Voters office by 5:00 p.m. on the 88th day.
However, some localities may have earlier filing deadlines, and this information can be obtained by contacting the Candidate Services office. The contact email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Now is the right time to take a stand and make a difference in your community. California is a large and diverse state with plenty of opportunities for real people like you to run for office and win.
Good Party can help guide your campaign through every step of the electoral process. We’re building free, powerful technology and a movement away from greedy corporate politicians and toward a people-powered government that works for all Americans.
Join us in the fight to regain control of our dysfunctional political system!