• Sarah Shorter

Bootstrapping Your Campaign: The Exploratory Committee

Why are you considering running for office?


Maybe you originally planned on running for Platte County Commissioner. It starts with a very basic irritation at certain board members appointed by the current commissioner and two coworkers saying "you should totally do that."


Perhaps you have looked at running for commissioner in the past, so now it is mostly looking at sites you'd been on before, making sure you understand what exactly a commissioner does and feeling confident that you can do that, and seeing how much money those county-wide offices make.


So here's the thing. My fellow millennials, my darling Gen Z, please, I am begging you, look at these offices. In Platte County, MO, these positions make about $60,000 a year. And that's a job you have for four years. And half of these jobs are mainly record-keeping! Now, I'm not saying they're not important but I know several hundred people who were considered "essential workers" during the pandemic and had to interact with the public because that's their entire job who make maybe half that. Did you guys know this? Did you know how much these positions can make? I need you guys to start showing up for these races because you can make a change in your community and make a living wage while you're doing it. If $60,000 is a step down in income for you, awesome. Give someone else a chance.


(sidebar: I read yesterday that $100,000 a year is "comfortable middle class" which means I am a lot poorer than I realized. I don't think most people realize how little they actually make)


But back to your exploratory committee, which consists of two coworkers at your part-time job.


So you're going to do some research as mentioned above and you're going to see if anyone has filed to run for office yet, or has plans to. In this instance, this will mean realizing that someone has already filed to run for your party for that office.


And you'll look at their website and see they're a union man? Who also believes in common sense cannabis laws??? Man, you don't want to run against that, you want to vote for that!


But the thing is you're still getting those Run For Something texts so you finally text back and get some contact information and find out about a county Democrats meeting that you can, wonder of wonders, actually go to. You figure you'll see if there's any other offices you could file for, maybe recorder of deeds or something, just so that there's no unopposed races, because those are gross.


So you go to the meeting and it turns out there's someone running for your party in every county office except Collector which is Not Your Jam. But you're at the meeting wearing your Gay Politician outfit with the Katherine Hepburn vibes and your Marsha P. Johnson pin for confidence and you introduce yourself as queer and disabled, and maybe also Millennial, and maybe you will get a reaction that is, for the most part, shall we say, less than enthusiastic. A few people might be visibly delighted you introduced yourself this way.


Whatever. It's who you are, and you're not going to apologize for it! You left that shit behind in your 20s!


During the course of this meeting it will come to light that there's no Democrat running for State Senate in your district, which is 34. 34 is a nice number, you think. Threes are always good and four is easily divisible by two. There's absolutely no way you'll wind up running for that office, but you can keep your ear to the ground in the absolutely inconceivable event that there's no one considering running.


(Inconceivable, it turns out, is a word that does not mean what you think it means in this situation.)


The deadline for filing might be approaching and you keep checking in with the county party because surely there is someone who has experience, is better suited, and overall has an actual chance at becoming State Senator for District 34 in the race against the incumbent. It's starting to feel a little like Ferris Bueller's Day Off where you're the one going "Bueller....Bueller...Bueller" but you're also the one who is going to have to take his place if no one shows up.


Surely, you will think, there is someone more qualified to do this. Never mind that you try to have the confidence of a mediocre cis white man, this is a little beyond that.


Turns out that's just something you're going to have to deal with later because guess what, no one else is volunteering as tribute. You guess a less than ideal candidate is better than none, and that everyone is just going to have to deal with you being queer and depressed and your chronic migraines.


Now you get to plan your trip to the Capitol because hey ho, you have to file in person! You have a full time job and a part time job, so this should be super fun.


Congrats, your exploratory committee has been successful.

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Before I decided decided to run for office, I'd done some research. Not a lot, but a solid medium amount of research. I wasn't going in completely ignorant of what the process would be for getting on