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The Best Advice I Could Give a Candidate

When I began my campaign for Congress in 2017, I distinctly remember a conversation I had with my wife. She asked how I was feeling after my campaign went public. I told her something that became a mantra for me.

“Whatever I do,” I said, “I’m not going to pander for votes. If people are ready for a candidate like me, that’s great. But if they’re not, that’s got to be ok too. I’ve got to be myself.” I learned so much during that campaign. There were so many things that I wish I had done differently. But one thing I would not change was my commitment to personal authenticity. That’s why the best advice I could give a first-time candidate is to be yourself. I think most of us have an image in our minds of what an ideal politician is - charming, charismatic, outgoing. Or maybe we think that someone running for office has to have a sharp wit and an uncommon command of all of the issues. First-time candidates feel the pressure to live up to whatever idealized version of a politician is in their minds, and often lose themselves in the process. To run for office, you don’t have to be the smartest, the funniest, or the most extroverted. You need to be yourself. I believe that the candidates who are most appealing to voters are those who are authentic. If you’re a policy wonk, be a policy wonk. If you’re an introvert, seek meaningful connections with voters one-on-one. If you’re funny, use your humor to make people feel at ease. Running for office might pressure you to make personal compromises. Don’t compromise on who you are. Now, all of this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t grow in areas where you need to grow. A campaign will give you all sorts of opportunities to learn new skills and take risks. Make sure to stretch yourself. But never lose yourself in the process. Become an even better version of yourself. Being yourself doesn’t mean ignoring the hard parts of campaigning. I don’t think I’ve ever met a candidate who likes to ask people for money. Sadly, campaigns take money, and you’re going to need to raise funds to run a competitive campaign. If you say, “Well, I’m just not the kind of person who raises money, you’re not going to be successful,” it’s more likely that you’re making excuses instead of being authentic. That’s a hard truth, but one every first-time candidate needs to hear. That’s why we’ve put together a Campaign Readiness Checklist so you can be confident that you’re starting your campaign right.

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