March on St. John’s asked me to write a short piece about how we can best support progressive women candidates in elections.
When I won my seat on council in September 2017, I was fortunate enough to have a dedicated team around me. If you’re thinking about running, the biggest piece of advice I have is to surround yourself with people who care about you and who hope for your success. If you want to help a candidate get elected, be one of those people. The provincial and federal elections are coming up, and it’s never too early to start planning for a future election at any level. As they say, run early and run often!
Here are 10 things that you can do if you support new women candidates. Whatever time, skills, or money you have to offer, there’s something meaningful you can do to help:
1. Encourage her to run. I believe there are lots of women out there who might put themselves forward with just a little more encouragement. I needed it! I voiced an interest and I was at a book club meeting when a room full of women encouraged me to run. This was in early 2017 in the wake of the November 2016 American election, which was a call to women everywhere to step up and run for office.
2. Learn about how campaigns are run. We learned a lot from resources shared by YWCA and Equal Voice. Happy City St. John’s ran a municipal elections forum and I got valuable advice from the panelists. Go to these kinds of campaign schools when they are offered!
3. Be part of her core team. The four or five people around you that you can call in the middle of the night if you need to are the most vital, especially the campaign manager and a close personal confidant.
4. Be part of her broader volunteer team. Our team had over 200 volunteers to canvass the city, answer phone calls and do data entry (that helps “get out the vote”). Be her volunteer coordinator if you have some time to spare. There are many categories of volunteers and many skills that are needed. Everyone has something to offer.
5. Be her mentor. I was fortunate to have veteran members of the political community (and the people who support them) support me in this way. I will be grateful to these people forever.
6. Build her profile. Like and share her tweets, Facebook posts. Help her meet people in your neighbourhood that she doesn’t know yet. Tell your friends and families about her. Take her to events and meet and greets. Call into radio shows and discuss election issues to raise awareness of the need for change. Offer to publish her policy ideas on your blog if you run one.
7. Donate money. Most campaigns will need signs, brochures, a website, and that’s all very expensive. It’s possible to run a large campaign on primarily small donations but it takes hussle!
8. Donate skills. Offer graphic design, videography, photography. Ask her if she would like to practice public speaking with you, ask her if she could use support for media training.
9. Advocate for election reform. The current system drastically favours incumbents, the wealthy, and those with strong connections to the existing power structure.
10. Be there for her when she doubts herself. This will happen, and it will mean a lot to hear your reassuring voice. Running a campaign can be a long process, for me it was about 7 months of intense activity and there were a lot of ups and downs. Negative comments on social media during a campaign can take getting used to. And if she makes a mistake, help her learn from it.
Maggie Burton is a Councillor-at-Large for the City of St. John’s