Where Can I Run?

6 mins read

There are 500K elected positions in this country: a new tool will help the left contest all of them.

Progressives have a new tool in the toolbox thanks to one of our favorite groups, Run For Something, which today launched wherecanirun.org, through their (c)(4) arm, Run For Something Action Fund.  The new tool lets anyone type in their address and see all the races available for their district, and includes helpful information such as eligibility requirements, who has already filed, and even the salary for the position.  

Run For Something is rolling out the new tool as part of a big push to recruit challengers to Texas Legislative seats before the December 9th filing deadline, but obviously this is a tool with huge potential for every progressive hoping to make change. 

Though I am not planning to run myself (at the moment!), I wanted to check out how it works and I recommend that everyone reading this do so as well–if only to educate yourself on how many elected positions there actually are for your community.  Typing in my address in my tiny Vermont town (population ≈ 3000) I was stunned to learn that there are 22 elected positions up this cycle. Of course there are the big-name races like Governor, Secretary of State, and state assembly representative. But how about “Town Moderator” or “Town Lister”?  And I hadn’t realized that there are several open seats on my town Select Board. And then there is “Town Agent,” “Town Auditor’s Board,” our Roads and Library Boards–that’s a lot of seats and almost all are currently open.  

Most of those positions are technically non-partisan, but let’s not kid ourselves.  We live in hyperpartisan times, and if you need proof, just look at how aggressive Republicans have been about running for these down-ballot seats. Conservative groups like Americans for Prosperity regularly back candidates for races that might surprise you like local school and even library boards. Right now, Democrats contest for only a small percentage of the more than 500K elected positions in our country, something that groups like Run For Something are working to change.  

I can personally think of about 500K reasons for why we should have progressives running for and winning those seats, namely so they can advocate for and enact inclusive, progressive values and policies.  But there is a larger strategic picture here as well. Here are five reasons why I’ve made recruiting and helping candidates for these races a priority in my own activism: 

  1. BUILDING THE BENCH: These down ballot races are our training ground for higher office–by challenging for these positions we’re building our bench of future Senators, Governors, and even Presidential candidates.  
  2. BUILDING PARTY INFRASTRUCTURE: this is a much bigger topic, but I’ll just say here that running Democrats for offices in every race is key to rebuilding the party infrastructure and pursuing a true 50-state strategy (see my next point).   
  3. MAKING INROADS IN RED DISTRICTS: Remember when California was a Republican stronghold? Partisanship isn’t static, but we can only make blue inroads by running candidates, talking to voters, pulling in supporters and volunteers, and making the case for progressive policy EVERYWHERE.
  4. REVERSE COATTAILS:  It’s time to lose the conventional wisdom that the top of the ticket is all that matters. In fact, running down-ballot candidates can boost turnout for state-wide and federal candidates. A Congressional candidate cannot possibly reach out to all 700K voters in their district.  But a local candidate with an electorate of 1200 may well be able to knock on every door, and those in competitive races will often have to reach out to irregular or deregistered voters in order to reach their win number–those voters will also vote in a congressional or presidential election.        
  5. YOU LOSE EVERY RACE YOU DON’T CONTEST: Let’s stop giving Republicans so many freebies.  Make them fight for their seats by defending their records and policies

So check out wherecanirun.org, see what races are happening in your community, and let your fellow activists know about any seats without a Democratic challenger. You might just be able to find someone to run–or even decide to run yourself–and by doing so help ensure that the 2020 blue wave makes 2018 look like a mere ripple.    

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