OK, so you want to run for elected office. That’s great, says Delaware Area Chamber of Commerce President Holly Quaine.
A surprising number of people when planning a foray into public life don’t really know the answer to that question.
“It’s very well and good that your family and friends think that you’re smart and a good person — but there’s much, much more to it than that,” Quaine said.
Registration is open for the Delaware chamber’s “Election Academy” — a program that more or less amounts to a political boot camp. The topics range from knowing how to register with the county board of elections to organizing a campaign committee to actually implementing a political platform if you are lucky enough to be elected.
The workshop is meant to target people considering filing for the 2012 March primary election, when a variety of countywide and local positions will go up for election.
“Some people run not knowing how they’re going to get elected,” Quaine said. “Maybe some folks who are really good candidates aren’t having their message heard. You wouldn’t drive a car without training and I think (running for office) is a pretty big deal. There’s a lot of homework involved.”
The first of three sessions, held on June 2 at St. Ann’s Hospital in Westerville, will revolve around establishing a campaign infrastructure and deciding whether to run and for which office. The second, held on June 9 at the Willis Building north of Delaware, will focus on running an effective campaign. The third and last session on June 14 at the Delaware County Bank headquarters in Lewis Center will focus on running the race and implementing post-election plans.
Delaware County Commissioner Dennis Stapleton, a former Republican state representative from Fayette County, Republican Ohio Secretary of State John Husted and Westerville attorney Joe Barone, a registered Democrat and former campaign treasurer and State Rep. Cheryl Grossman (R-Grove City) have committed to speak.
The Westerville Area Chamber of Commerce has held the Election Academy every other year for the past eight years. This coming June will be the first year the Delaware chamber will be involved.
The fact that Westerville overlaps into Delaware County makes the collaboration a natural pairing, Westerville Chamber President and CEO Janet Davis said.
The Westerville chamber first started the program to encourage business owners to get politically-involved, but it has expanded to be more generally geared toward the public, Davis said.
“We were a city of 35,000 people then. We thought, why can’t we get more than three people to run for office?” she said.
Many current Westerville city council, commission and school board members are alumni of the program, Davis said. One alumni and former Westerville city council member, Anne Gonzales, is now a Republican state representative.
Stapleton, a former state representative who won a four-way Republican primary for the commissioner seat in March 2010 and handily won the general election in November, will speak on June 9 on how to run a winning campaign.
Sometimes people run for office with good intentions without knowing exactly what they’re getting into, Stapleton said Wednesday.
Politics is a process of trial and error — the election academy will let people who are interested in running for office explore their curiosity while staying under the radar.
“I think there are lots of people that like politics and decide they want to be involved with office and make decisions without making the preparation they need,” Stapleton said. “And I think an academy like this allows a little bit of anonymity. I think it will be able to teach them a lot of things about getting started.”
Stapleton first ran for office in 1994, challenging an incumbent state representative in a rural district southwest of Columbus. In doing so, he rankled some local Republican Party faithful.
“I wasn’t too involved in politics, and didn’t see the faux pas of doing that until afterwards,” Stapleton said. “After the fact, I saw it wasn’t the smartest thing to do.”
But it ended up working out for him. Stapleton ran knowing that the incumbent was thinking about leaving the office soon to run for state senate. Stapleton lost the race, but managed to build up familiarity with voters in the process.
He was successful the next time he ran for office in 1996, when the incumbent left the seat open to run for state senate, just like Stapleton had heard.
“I positioned myself to win,” Stapleton said.
The registration deadline for Election Academy is May 26. To learn more about the program, visit delawareohiochamber.com or call the chamber at 740-369-6221.