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Determining why you should – or shouldn’t – run for office

5 min read
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Jack Nagel · May 16, 2023

“Connor Roy was interested in politics from a young age.”

This quote from the TV show Succession, though fiction, reveals one of the biggest problems with many politicians throughout history - they don’t have a good reason for running for office. You’d be shocked how many candidates, when asked why they’re running for office, stumble over their words, give a half-baked answer, or simply don’t have one. This not only looks bad in the moment, but is the telltale sign that your campaign is doomed. From your why statement comes your campaign messaging, your social media content, your ability to secure donations and endorseents, and generally your ability to earn the trust of voters.

This is why finding your ‘why’ when deciding to run for office is the absolute first thing you should do. This guide will go over what it means to find your why, reasons you should and should not run, how to write your why statement, and more.

The most important elements of a ‘why’ for candidates:

At Good Party, the first question we ask candidates before offering our tools and services is, “Why do you want to run for office?” Now, most people won’t be able to articulate their way the first time and it takes a lot of practice to be able to answer that question succinctly. 

So what are the key components of a good why statement?

First, you have to have a genuine care for your community. Without genuine compassion for the people in your area and a desire to serve them, any attempt to make connections with voters will fall flat. Forming your ‘why’ must include an empathetic message that you understand the issues facing the community regardless of their political leanings. Have

Next, you’ll need to understand the office you’re running for. For instance, if you’re running for a county commissioner seat and are making one of the pillars of your why statement about banning assault weapons or abolishing income tax, you’re signaling that you don’t know the responsibilities of your role. Your ‘why’ statement should prove that you’re a candidate that knows the limits and the powers of the position and are results oriented. This means doing the research into the position and forming the elevator pitch of your platform on things you can actually do. This will also position yourself well against opponents who overpromise or underestimate the authority that the role presents.

Finally, your income statement needs to be rooted in something bigger than yourself. This means parking your ego at the door when talking about your campaign and centering your campaign around the best interests of the community as a whole. Doing this will allow you to speak more authentically to voters about building a coalition of people that want to make a difference and that you will truly represent their interest, not just your own. Centering your campaign around a movement will also help candidates consider your campaign as a part of their entire ballot. Most elections don’t just have a single office up for grabs, so collaborating with candidates that are also a part of your movement and shared values will help you win support from their campaigns as well. Overall, however, it’s about how you yourself believe that you’re a part of something that’s more than just your campaign. This will mentally unblock you from building real relationships with people you talk to on the campaign trail.

When to consider not running for office

You may have the vision, experience, and empathy with voters to run a strong campaign. But your campaign is only as strong as the people around you. Stability and flexibility in your personal life is extremely important in running a viable campaign. There are a number of circumstances that you need to consider when deciding not to run for office.

First, if there is instability at home or weariness from your family, running for office is probably not right for you. Some nerves and mild stress with your friends and family happens with just about every candidate that decides to run. But when that stress causes dread or resentment, it’s time to park the bus. The key to avoiding these stressors is addressing it with the people closest to you as early as possible. You must explore the decision with your partner, children, and close friends to get their buy-in that you’re ready for this and they’re ready for the effect it will have on their lives. It’s also critical that you ask your family and friends if they think you will be a good representative - the people closest to you should be excited to support you and proud of your decision. Getting this feedback early makes all the difference.

Next, you need to make sure that you have the bandwidth to run an effective campaign. Running for office is essentially taking on another part-time job and often more. You’ll need to make sure that your employer is on-board when things start to get serious. This is because running for office is not just a time commitment, it’s often a financial commitment. You will likely have to sacrifice some of your own resources to run a winning campaign, especially in the early days. For example, our politics director, Jared Alper, ran a campaign with a candidate that was running a business by day and finishing up their PhD by night, and it was a disaster. You need to be prepared to go all the way with it.

Finally, an undefined or self-centered mission is a death sentence for a campaign. The surest way to turn off voters is an I and Me campaign vs. an Us and We campaign. Unless you’re a celebrity or well-known public figure, making a campaign about furthering your own career or gaining attention will be extremely likely to fail. Most voters don’t care about you, they care about what you’re going to do for them.


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How to write a strong ‘why statement’

Now that we’ve covered the dos and don’ts of forming your ‘why’, let’s cover how to write a strong “why statement”. Writing your why statement will help you pull together the messaging of your campaign, serve as your elevator pitch to voters about why you’re a good candidate, and serve as your anchor throughout the campaign.

A why statement should contain a few key ideas:

  • Your mission and motivation for seeking office

  • Your values and beliefs that guide your decision-making as a candidate

  • Your vision for the future and the specific changes you hope to bring about

  • Your personal story and experiences that inform your perspective on the issues

Now, onto some examples of good and bad why statements.

Example of a bad why statement:

  • The Headline: A Seasoned Business Trailblazer Devoted to Elevating Our City's Economic Vitality and Prosperity

  • My Qualifications/Who I am:  Hi there, I'm a proud product of this city's former mayor and foremost family and a long-standing leader in the tech sector. My career has been shaped by a passion for economic growth and business development, demonstrated by my service on multiple corporate boards, advocating for strategies that propel my companies. I understand the unique requirements of the key drivers of this city, an insight that has been honed over the years. This wealth of experience and my expansive network make me an ideal representative for our city's flourishing segment in the city council.

  • Why this Race: I've noticed a void in our city council—a need for a voice that truly understands and represents the growth of commerce in our town. I am stepping in to fill this void, firm in my belief that prioritizing more retailers and developments should be the priority for our town.

  • What I will do: Once elected, my focus will be on shaping policies that nurture a more business-friendly environment and championing new external growth. Furthermore, I will strive to position our city as a key player in foreign policy and will send a delegation to the middle-east.

  • Contrast: While my opponent seems to be engrossed with grassroots community issues and wealth distribution, I firmly believe our city needs to be a player on the world stage.

Here’s why this statement is bad: This statement exhibits that the candidate is out of touch with the majority of voters in the typical city. They make no mention or empathy of what the average person is going through. They also lack understanding of the capacity of their office, clearly putting forward their own ambition and circle of elite friends ahead of their own constituents.

Example of a good why statement

Now for an example of a good statement for why this person is running for office:

  • The Headline: As a lifelong Riverside resident and political organizer, I have spent my entire career working to make the American Dream a reality for all.

  • My Qualifications/Who I am:  After watching my brother deal with debilitating injuries from an industrial accident, I fought for workplace safety reforms . When my cousin lost her home to a wildfire, I organized Angelinos to demand action against the utility company that caused it . And for the five years I have rallied young voters to as the Online Organizing Director for DigiVote.

  • Why this Race: When I see big problems, I can’t help but try to fix them. That is why I am running for Mayor of Riverside. Our growing city needs new, independent leadership that will prioritize the needs of everyday Californians, rather than partisan politics and corporate developers. 

  • What I will do: That is why I am fighting for affordable housing, rent control, and to support for our teachers and schools. I believe that access to affordable college and living wages are not just luxuries, but basic necessities for a thriving community.

  • Contrast: My opponent comes from the Democratic Party establishment and has a record of supporting big money interests over working families. It is time for a change. With your support, we can bring new ideas and a fresh perspective to City Hall that will benefit all Californians.

This statement combines the experience, empathy, and humanity of the candidate. It provides specific examples of the policies they want to fight for and frames the policies in a way that puts the voter first, not the ego of the candidate. Lastly, it provides compelling contrast to the incumbent candidate and why they’re a better fit for the job.

How Good Party can help.

.Now that we’ve given you a good and bad statement, we’ll let you in on a secret - the good statement took real inputs from a person and packaged it together with Good Party’s AI! Curious to try it yourself? Good Party offers a free course called Good Party Acadey for people considering a run for office to help them hone their ‘why’ and formulate a campaign plan. The course is 4 weeks and just 2 hours a week, and you’ll leave with the knowledge and skills you need to launch your campaign. It also gives you access to our free AI Campaign Manager tools that saves you time and money when running your campaign. It also helps you take your experiences, vocabulary, and passion and crafts a winning campaign message for you to run with confidence. Check it out using the button below.


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Civic Engagement
How to Run for Office
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By Jack Nagel
I lead the marketing team at Good Party. After watching Bernie Sanders get squashed by the Democrat party twice, I knew I needed to get involved in giving outsiders a chance in American politics. I bring entrepreneurship and startup experience to our insurgent team at Good Party, helping us find sustainable ways to grow.