“Where do you stand on…?” That’s a question political candidate get a lot, and for good reason. When a candidate is elected, they will be casting votes on a variety of issues, and it’s important for voters to have an idea of what those votes could look like. This is even more important for non-partisan and local level races where the issues aren’t always on a party line.
That’s a lot of homework to do before running for office, and while we would never expect candidates or elected officials to be experts in every policy area (because that would put the lobbyists out of work), there are a few ways to get up to speed on the issues in your community.
We believe so strongly in this that we actually dedicated an entire segment to campaign issues in the Get Ready To Run online training program. Check it out if you want to get a head start on your future campaign.
Ways to learn the issues:
- Subscribe to the local newspaper and READ IT – it might seem old school, but not only will it keep you up to speed on things going on in your community, often there is a reporter assigned to the local governments, making sure you’re aware of the big topics that are being heard.
- Attend community meetings – most communities have a variety of community groups, either sponsored by the local government or non-profits that hold meetings that are open to the public. Whether you are attending a meeting of the elected board, a designated community group or even a Rotary meeting, you will get a chance to learn about many of the issues and opportunities available in your community.
- Volunteer at a non-profit – if there’s a topic that interests you and you want to learn more, reach out to a local non-profit organization. Not only will this give you an opportunity to network in the community, you can see how a local problem is being addressed or where more help is needed.
- Join a board or commission – many state and local governments have boards and commissions, and usually there are openings. These are appointed positions to work on specific topics, ranging from animal control to building permits. By joining a board or commission, you can learn about a function of the government as well as learn government processes, such as open meeting laws and how to run a meeting.
There are countless ways to get up to speed on the issues in your community. The most important thing is that you engage with an open mind and an eagerness to learn. To learn about community issues, the earlier you engage the more knowledge you will have when it’s time to put your name on the ballot, and that knowledge will help you better articulate your positions and answer questions about where you stand.