By Ed Carter
Photo by Marcus Aurelius from Pexels
Is it your dream to one day hold elected office? Despite the fact that people with disabilities make up one out of every four people in the U.S., the differently-abled are still underrepresented in public office. While it may seem daunting to undertake this mission, more and more people with disabilities have decided to run for office in recent years, hopefully showing an upward trend.
No matter if you want to run for office at the local, state, or federal level, some maxims are universal. Here are some things to remember as you build your election team and start running your campaign for office:
Work with the right people
The success of your campaign depends not only on the people you know and how you appear to voters — you also have to hire the right people who know how to get you to the top. You need a campaign manager, someone to take care of the campaign finances (for instance, a certified public accountant), several volunteers, and folks to run your outreach and marketing efforts. You may even need a political consultant for an office run, depending on the size of your campaign and whether or not you expect to win. There is no “one size fits all” campaign management team, but some iteration of this group will help get you on the trail.
Let’s take a closer look at one of those roles: a CPA or bookkeeper. Again, you will need this professional on your team to keep track of the money coming in and, most importantly, going out for various campaign expenses, as well as to help you file taxes when it comes time for that. The good news is freelance CPAs can be found on online job boards like Upwork where you will find that the cost to hire an accountant will be based on experience and skill level and can go up to $32 per hour.
Make yourself known
A large part of campaigning is getting your name out there and making sure the voters know who you are and what you stand for. People with disabilities are doubly disadvantaged in this area because there isn’t currently a good way to track those kinds of statistics at the state or local level, which means voters aren’t really aware of the candidates or their status as a person with disabilities. It’s your job to make sure you are as visible as possible within your voter bloc and focus on awareness. Using social media is a good way to maintain a line of contact with your voter base and get the pulse on current events and issues.
Network within your community
Depending on what level of government you are considering running for, getting involved with your local chamber of commerce, volunteer organizations, and city council meetings is always a great idea. Networking with friends at both the community level and in “high places,” as they say, is a good way of making sure your campaign is getting the attention it deserves. You could also find a political mentor to give you advice on your next move.
Use your strengths
People with disabilities are known to have strong leadership qualities and resilience, making them prime candidates for public office. Your problem-solving abilities, creativity, and adaptability will serve you in the long run, so make sure your campaign is organized around you and your strengths.
For more inspirational, informational, and focused thought leadership about mental health and disabilities, please visit Dr. Carl Forkner’s blog to find community resources and exciting research findings. Dr. Forkner is a great resource for mental wellness and neuroscience.