How to become a Texas candidate, and how to make it grassroots freindly.
I set out on a journey this last week to learn more about what it takes to become a Candidate in a Texas election, and to hopefully provide myself with an opportunity to make a political statement. What I learned further confirmed my opinion of the problems with our political system. I’ve assisted with election campaigns before, but this is the first time I’ve looked into getting myself listed on a ballot.
Running for office today is no small feat. It requires a great deal of resources to get people to even recognize you’re name, and timing is also very important. Money is also, unfortunately, a big factor these days, to a point were it’s cost prohibitive for the average person who’s already busy trying to make ends meet. For a very good and detailed description of what you might want to do if you are serious about running for office, you can check out the Texas Democratic Party’s Candidate Resources web-page.
As for my experience, It started with contacting the Collin County Republican Party‘s Executive Director about what is needed to file to become a candidate. I was told that all I would need was a drivers license so that the application could be notarized, so I spent my lunch break to go over to the CCGOP office to get an application. What I learned was that I was in the wrong place for the position I was interested in, and also needed to pay an application fee. Depending on the office it could be as much as $5,000, and since I wanted to run for an office that crossed county lines, I had to go the the capital city and apply at the Parties State Headquarters. I was looking at running for a position as a U.S. Representative, but going to Austin, a 4 hour drive, to spend a little more then $3,000, around a months take home pay for the average person, just to get put on the Republican parties primary election ticket, just wasn’t going to be practical for me.
For a serious person, this is just the beginning, as they will have to campaign to get other party members to back them in the primary elections on March 2nd. If elected, they then have even more paperwork and campaigning to get done before the final elections in November.
After all this I though, maybe it would be cheaper to run as a Democrat, but after doing a little research on their web-page, they have the same filing fees; most likely mandated by law. Even if I applied for a more local position, with a less expensive filing fee, many of these positions require too much time to allow continuing to work a regular full time job, and pay too little for the average person, without alternative means of income, from being able to afford to take the time off work to serve in such a position. This means the majority of people in state offices in Texas are either in non-traditional jobs, are business owners that can afford to be away from the business, or are independently wealthy; none of whom are what I would consider to be average and thus likely do not understand how various laws might affect the average person.
Certainly it’s important to make sure someone is serious about running for office before applying, and we don’t want candidates running that are just in it for the money, but if we truly want a political environment were the government is of and by the people, we cannot make it so cost and time prohibitive for average people to get involved. In other words, if the Tea Party’s and Goooh truly want to make a difference, they will need to find ways to provide the needed funding to an average person, who understands what the average person goes threw day by day to make ends meet. They are also quickly running out of time to get a candidate they can support into the Texas elections if they want to maximize the chances of having their candidate win.
Of course there are other options, such as getting ballot access threw petitioning, or getting involved in an “alternative” or “third” party that already has ballot access (currently in Texas that limits you to the Libertarian Party). The Libertarian Party do have some officials serving in government, but they are still not likely to win. Other parties have no ballot access in Texas and must rely on petitions. The reality of this is that with today’s mentality towards their parties, and deep party loyalties, it is unlikely to get elected without convincing the majority of voters that you are not only the better candidate, but that you also have a good chance at winning. This requires a great deal of hard work and money, regardless of what party you represent.
So what’s the solution? Personally I think we need real campaign finance reform, not more McCain-Feingold type reforms that only makes it more difficult for the average person, while favoring the incumbents who know how to play the game; I suggest baring anyone from contributing to a campaign for someone who does not represent them. We need better representation, so that it’s easier for the people to personally know the people that represent them; originally the U.S. Constitution suggested one representative per 30,000 people (Artical I, Section II), but unfortunately today it’s around 20 times more then that making it impossible to have personal relationships between representatives and any decent portion of those being represented. If it was lessened to even half as many people per representative, it would require less money and resources to get those being representative to know the candidates.
Doubling the size of congress many seem unmanageable to some, but with today’s technologies, we could use any number of mass collaboration tools, along with secured internet connectivity to allow our representatives to remain living within their respective districts, so that lobbyists and special interest groups would have less access and influence on them to affect their decision making, then would those local to them, who could go visit them on their lunch breaks.