How to Run for Mayor

Two Parts:Getting on the BallotRunning a Campaign

Running for mayor of your city or town is often seen as the first step on your path to political fame. It is also an incredible opportunity to help your community and promote change. Follow these steps to learn how to run for mayor.

Part 1
Getting on the Ballot

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    Know the steps you must take for your specific city or town. Each city has its own requirements that you must meet in order to run for mayor. Get a copy of your city or town's charter, which will outline the requirements for getting your name on the ballot. Most cities and towns actually have a copy of their charters on their websites. To find yours, run an internet search with a phrase like ‘[Name of Your Town] city charter.’
    • If your town does not have its charter online, you can always go to your city hall and ask to speak with a clerk who can help you to get a copy of the city’s charter. Contact your local County Election Commission office to see if they have any guidelines about signage and eligibility requirements.
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    Get the support of your political party. If you are hoping to run for mayor as the representative of a certain political support, it is important to actually get the support of that political party. Speak with the local leaders of your political party. Having the party’s support will help you get your name out there, and bring in signatures and support. Go to party meetings and prompt the party leaders to help put you on the ballot as the party’s mayoral candidate..
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    Start a petition. Generally, you will need to file a petition with your local government in order to run for mayor. Each town or city will have its own number of signatures that you must collect with your petition in order for it to be validated. Most of the time, you will also have to collect those signatures and file a petition within a certain time frame. The number of signatures you will need can be found in your city’s charter. Learn how to gather support for your petition here.[1]
    • During election season, a certain date will be set that you will have to gain the correct amount of signatures by. If you do not reach the number of signatures by the set date, your name will not be put on the ballot.
    • Find out if your town or city requires to file any nomination papers with your petition.
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    Create a write-in campaign if your name doesn’t appear on the ballot. If you do not get enough signatures within the designated time frame, you should consider a write-in campaign. On each ballot, the voter has the option of writing the name of the person they would like to see as mayor. If you know you have many followers, create stickers with your name on them and pass them out to voters before election day. When they vote, they can place the sticker with your name on the line designated for who they vote should be mayor.
    • Providing voters with stickers is not necessary, but it a good way to remind them that you are running and would like their vote. If they do not have a sticker, they may forget that you are running or what your name is (even if they support your ideals.)

Part 2
Running a Campaign

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    Hire a staff. While you will most likely want a decent-sized staff to help you on the campaign trail, the three most important positions you will need to fill are campaign manager, treasurer, and fundraiser. Your staff can be made up of dedicated friends and family members, or you can hire professionals to help with your campaign.[2]
    • Your campaign manager, as you may have guessed, is responsible for running the campaign. He or she will address campaign problems and keep things running smoothly. While you can attempt to be your own campaign manager, you will probably be too busy making public appearances, doing interviews, etc. and will welcome the help your campaign manager provides you.
    • Your treasurer ensures that the funds gathered for your campaign are allocated to the right aspects of the campaign. He or she is also in charge of keeping all financial records of the campaign, so as to prove that your campaign met all of the requirements enacted by your city’s charter.
    • The fundraiser is in charge of bringing money into your campaign. You (the candidate) are the reason why people will make donations to your campaign, thus you are the one who will be doing much of the actual fundraising (soliciting donations, attending fundraisers, etc.) The fundraiser makes sure that you are focusing your efforts in the right places.
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    Finance your campaign. You can do this by petitioning community members and organizations for donations or you can use your own money. Your city will have regulations governing the kind of fundraising you are allowed to do, so make sure that you know what those regulations are.
    • As stated above, the best way to finance your money is to fundraise. Whether or not you hire a fundraiser (it’s recommended that you do,) you will need to be soliciting donations from members of the community, local businesses, etc.
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    Form a budget strategy. In order to run a successful campaign, you will need to have a successful budget. Sit down with your fundraiser, treasurer, and campaign manager and come up with a budget for your campaign. Factor in the absolutely necessary things--contacting voters, putting on fundraisers, paying your staff, etc.) and project how much money you will need to fundraise in order to cover the campaign costs.
    • Generally, you will want to contact each potential voter five to six times while campaigning. Determine how much money it will cost to do this, and factor that in as well.
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    Create a strategy for your campaign. Your strategy includes what issues you will be running on. As a mayoral candidate, these issues should be topics that directly affect the people in your city or town. These issues also tie in with your personal beliefs. You cannot run on a campaign strategy that you do not actually agree with or believe in.[3]
    • For example, if you are running for mayor in a small town that has a beautiful park that a large corporation wants to level and build a nuclear power plant on, you may consider using the issue of the power plant as a centerpiece of your campaign (namely that you will fight against its construction.)
    • If you are running for mayor of a large city, you may consider choosing a broader issue to be the main focus of your campaign. An example issue could be fighting to clean up the areas around schools (such as making them drug free and safe.)
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    Run a clean campaign if possible. Of course, part of your campaign strategy is deciding how comfortable you are with running a negative campaign against your opponent. The world of politics is a vicious one. Try to stay focused on a positive campaign without rumor-mongering about your opponent. Any turned off voter is one vote (possibly many) lost - Mayoral races are often decided by only a few dozen votes.
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    Be cautious about what promises you make. Instead of making promises to businesses and citizens - make demands of them that they communicate openly with you once you become mayor. More people will appreciate a mayor who breaks no promises and tells no lies.
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    Advertise your campaign. Advertising is an important part of getting your name out there and gathering supporters. This means contacting local media, creating signs, and giving away merchandise with your name on it.[4]
    • Contact the local media. Chances are, if you are one of the main candidates running for mayor, the local media will already be contacting you. Regardless, schedule interviews with local newspapers, radio stations, magazines, and any other form of media.
    • Find a local company that will make signs for you. Using a local company will help to show that you are dedicated to supporting the local economy. Ask your friends, family, and supports to display your signs in their windows, on their lawns, etc. Pass signs out at fundraising events, when you attend events, and really any time you are out in public.
    • Other good items might include bumper stickers and flyers. Pins, hats, t-shirts, etc. are also a great way to make your staff, friends, and family into dedicated walking billboards.
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    Give your campaign a powerful social media presence. Social media has become one of the largest tools candidates can use in their campaigns. Create a Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. account for your campaign (as well as for yourself if you don’t have them already.) More importantly, make use of these platforms by posting to them regularly (this means at the very least once a day.) Have your supporters re-tweet/re-post your posts.
    • Something to keep in mind: if you are using an account (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) you have had for quite a while, you should be positive that there is nothing compromising on them (ie. delete those pics of you at that last Christmas party.)
    • Consider putting together a website to help people learn about you and your ideas. If they can't meet you in person, they can at least read your ideas.


  • Try volunteering and promoting charities before you decide to run. It will get people familiar with you and what issues are important to you.
  • Make sure to write your web address on bumper stickers, signs, flyers, t-shirts etc.
  • Not all mayors are elected. Some city councils appoint the mayor. If this is the case, then you will have to win the council election and do a bit of politicking to become mayor.

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Categories: Careers in Government