Thinking about running for office? Arena’s NYC Initiative, Five Borough Future, is here to help you identify and answer the key questions involved in a run.
Let’s start with some important basics:
1. Can you run?
NYS Governor/ Lt. Governor/ Attorney General/Comptroller: You must be 30 years old and be a resident of NY State for 5 years preceding election.
Senate/Assembly: You must be 18 years old and be a resident of NY State for 5 consecutive years and a resident of the district for the 12 months immediately preceding election.
City Council, Borough President, Comptroller, Public Advocate, Mayor: You must be 18 years old and a resident of New York State. Click here to learn more about residency requirements.
If you don’t meet the requirements to run, there are other ways for you to get involved. Learn more about community boards, community education councils and county and state committees/district leader. It may also surprise you to know that federal offices have far fewer requirements.
2. Who represents you?
Research who currently represents you and your community in the City Council and State Legislature. Here are a few questions to get you started:
- What level of office is the best place to have an impact on the issues that are of most interest to you?
- Who are your representatives?
- Are your representatives doing a good job?
- Who has given them money?
- How long have they been in office?
- When are they up for re-election?
- Can they run again?
- Does it make sense to run against them or wait until they are “term-limited” (can no longer run for office)?
Your research will help you identify the positions that best fit your experiences and expertise.
3. Why are you running?
Your answer must be real (true), relevant (central to the concerns of your potential constituents), and resonant (touches voters at the emotional level). Your answer will also be the story that you and your staff will tell about you, your campaign and your community throughout the course of the campaign.
To learn about developing your message use Arena Toolbox on messaging.
4. What does your community need?
If you want to serve your community, you first need to hear your community. Educate yourself on the issues that impact your community and the responsibilities of the office that you’re seeking. A great place to start is by attending your local community board meetings or local political club. Be prepared to talk to folks about their experiences and some of the changes they would like to see in their neighborhood.
5. When do you file?
Research filing deadlines for this cycle by contacting the state’s election office or the local Board of Elections.
6. How can you raise money?
Each office has its own regulations on who can donate, how much they can give, and whether you will receive matching funds. And the rules governing campaign finance are significantly different at the state versus the city level. If you are running for state office visit the NY State Campaign Finance Board or for city office visit NYC Campaign Finance Board website.
Here are some additional resources to help you learn how to raise money effectively:
- Arena Academy: Arena’s national academies include a finance director track. If you have your finance director identified, you should encourage them to apply here when applications go live (New York’s Academy doesn’t have a finance track). Or, if you are in search of a finance director, contact [email protected] for resumes.
- Emily’s List: Emily’s List has put out strong training materials, including this now-outdated but still helpful guide from 2004.
- NGP VAN: NGP VAN published a helpful blog post on the basics of campaign fundraising, available here.
- Books: Unfortunately, there aren’t too many good books on this subject, but Terry McAuliffe’s What a Party! will give you a sense of the attitude of an effective (albeit shameless) fundraiser.
7. How do you get on the ballot?
Petitioning is the first test for many campaigns in the state. Every candidate for office in New York must gather a certain number of signatures to get on the ballot.
Familiarize yourself with the sample petition form provided by the New York State Board of Elections and read their rules for petitions. We also recommend you hire a lawyer who specializes in New York election law, if possible, to help ensure your process is proper and signatures are valid.
8. Next steps
We highly recommend looking at Arena’s Toolbox for more resources and tutorials. You should also consider applying for Arena Academy or the Five Borough Future Fellowship (if you are undeclared). In addition, we recommend the following subscriptions and websites to stay up to date with the latest news and policies.
- Times Union | Capitol Confidential
- Center for an Urban Future
- Chalkbeat | New York
- Citizens Budget Commission
- City & State New York
- New York | Daily Intelligencer
- Daily Politics (NY Daily News blog)
- Department of City Planning
- Empire Center for Public Policy
- Fiscal Policy Institute
- Gotham Gazette
- Manhattan Institute for Policy Research
- Mayor’s Office of Management and Budget
- Museum of the City of New York | The Greatest Grid
- New York Post
- Next City
- Independent Budget Office of the City of New York
- Daily News | Big Town, Big Time: An Amazing History of NYC
- NYU Furman Center for Real Estate & Urban Policy
- NYU Rudin Center for Transportation Policy & Management
- Office of the New York State Comptroller
- Observer | Politics
- The Center for New York City Affairs at The New School
- The New York Times | N.Y.