Top Five Reasons to Run for Office in Northwest Arkansas by Will Watson
If 2018 was any indication, political offices in the fastest-growing region of the state are going to be contested at unprecedented rates. In Benton County, which has historically seen only two or three Democrats challenge any office, more than a dozen ran for county and state positions last year. Washington County more than doubled its number of contested elections.
Running for office is a rewarding and challenging pursuit. It is an important function of democracy and can be a pathway to new friendships, a better understanding of how government works, and a new set of skills for any candidate. And you might win!
Here are the top five reasons to consider running for office in 2020.
1. Our local, state, and federal governments need more regular people to step up and run. Politics is dominated by people who largely go unchallenged. Presenting competing platforms with ideas about how to improve the lives of the families in a given city, district, or area makes the political arena more competitive and creates a marketplace of ideas. If all the people in government are coming from similar backgrounds of privilege, it’s much less likely that working-class and struggling folks will be on their minds. There is no such thing as a perfect candidate or a perfect time to run – and everyone has something to bring to the table.
2. Running for office gives you new skills. Putting together a campaign for public office, whether it’s city council, county office, or the state legislature, requires communication, organizing, and interpersonal skills that will enhance your abilities for any job. Whether it’s thinking about the graphic design of your logo or campaign materials or developing fundraising skills to finance your efforts, a political campaign calls on you to develop new tools that can be applied to any future work.
3. Earning votes will expand your network. Meeting new people is one of the best reasons to run for office. Every office you can run for is defined by geography. Maybe you want to run for city council in a specific ward, or a district that is composed of several neighborhoods – or maybe you want to represent the whole county or state! Either way, you’ll have to build a campaign team, go knock on many doors, and meet folks who will help fund your race. All of this will greatly expand the number of people you know and can count on for help.
4. Governments should be reflective of the people they serve. It’s a well-known fact that nearly every level of government is far too old, too white, and too male. To make governments look more like the people they serve, we need younger candidates, more women, and more people of color to consider running. That also means we need more resources for them to run, like training, financial support, volunteers, and allies to help along the way. In 2018, Springdale elected its first Latinx member of the county government – but there is much more work to do.
5. There’s nothing like winning an election.Not all candidates are going to win. In fact, more than half are going to lose! But when you do win an election, you get the honor and privilege to represent people – workers, families, hopes and dreams, and real issues – in policy-making positions that can truly affect people’s lives. Whether it’s creating more inclusive cities, improving infrastructure like county roads or animal shelters, or advocating for policies that will make our state better, running and winning can have a hugely positive impact on those you will serve.
Now, it’s pretty clear that running for office isn’t for everyone. It requires a lot of extroverted activity that just doesn’t appeal to every person. But candidates for office need skilled campaign help and no matter whether you’re introverted, extroverted, or a little of both, politics affects your life and rolling up your sleeves and participating is critically important.
Will Watson is a nonprofit arts fundraiser and amateur political recruiter. In 2018, he recruited more than two dozen candidates to run for public office in Northwest Arkansas and beyond. He likes haunted places and his adopted dog, Atticus Finch.