You’ve talked with your family. You’ve thought about a message and a platform. You’ve started putting a team together and soliciting support from the community. Now that you’ve decided to run for office and have made your first steps, there’s one more question you have to answer: When should you announce your candidacy? Jump in too early and you risk becoming old news, but on the other hand, you don’t want to wait until the campaign momentum has already left the station and your would-be opponents have entrenched themselves. How should a candidate walk this line?
At Lincoln Strategy Group, we advise candidates on all stages of their campaign, including when to declare. Take a look at what to consider as you get ready to make your big announcement!
Nature of the Office
Selecting a time to declare your campaign depends largely on the office for which you’re campaigning. In a small local contest, such as a mayoral race, you won’t need to declare your candidacy much farther than a year ahead of the primary or the election itself since you have fewer voters and constituents to reach. Meanwhile, larger races—including those for congressional seats or statewide offices—may require an earlier announcement because you’ll need to make yourself known to a broader constituency.
Declaring your campaign earlier means that you’ll need significant resources in order to keep it running; this includes not just financial resources, but manpower as well. Before you make the announcement, determine whether or not you have the necessary funds, staff, and volunteers required to hit the ground running, and if not, take some time to build yourself up. It’s also critical to think about how you’ll sustain those resources, so try to wait to declare until you have enough fundraising or outreach infrastructure in place to keep the operation running smoothly.
Size of the Field
Although it can be hard to figure out the exact number, you’ll want to have a sense of how many other candidates will be jockeying for the same office as you. If you think it’ll be a large field, you may want to declare early so that you can get your name out there before you become just another face in a sea of political hopefuls. Furthermore, if you have a strong base of support and declare early, you may be able to force other people out of the race or disincentivize them from even entering. In a smaller field, however, there’s less pressure to run charging out of the gate as soon as possible.