Updated: Aug 16, 2020
Running for public office at any age is an intimidating proposition. But if I can do it, I believe you can do it. And I feel everyone should be able to access this process. I'm painting this picture of the "early days" of my campaign to help inform and encourage other community members who are interested in the elections process or feel moved to serve their community. I have, in the past, had a few experiences that helped shed some light on what I was in store for: serving as the Ballot Measure Committee Treasurer for Novato's "Yes on D 2017" to renew Novato's Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) for another 20 years, and acting as the Political Committee Chair for the Sierra Club's Marin Group for several election cycles to ensure we get more environmentalists into elected office.
Such experiences, however, cannot fully encapsulate the stress that comes with "putting one's self out there" and offering to step into the role of public servant. How do I make a good first impression? How do I demonstrate I care? How will I feel about myself coming away from that interview or that chat on the street? How will others feel about me, or how will they leave an interaction feeling about themselves?
Without a consultant to "package up" my messaging, I go on what I believe the community needs to hear from me; I go with my gut; I trust my intuition. After all, it is that openness and honesty that I hope to bring to the Fairfax Town Council. Only I can determine what message is uniquely mine, and I accept that it cannot be everything for everyone all the time. If messaging isn't your top concern, be prepared for a deluge of tasks when you "pull papers" from your local town/city clerk. In the midsts of a pandemic, it is now by appointment only. The checklist I completed prior to "filing papers" is as follows: • Nomination Papers (signatures from at least 20--but no more than 30--verifiable, registered voters in Fairfax); • My Ballot Designation (my proposal and justification for the title that appears alongside my name on the ballot) • My Candidate Statement (a 200 statement of "Education and Qualification")
• Permission to Post Personal Information on the Internet
• My Form 700 Statement of Economic Interests (e.g., whether or not I own a business or have a material interest in the jurisdiction aside from the home I live in)
• A $25 Filing Fee
• A Payment for the Printing Cost of the Candidate's Statement ($190 for English; $480 for English and Spanish)
• My FPPC Form 501 (which announces my intent to run and allows me to begin fundraising)
• My FPPC Form 401: Statement of Organization (which forms my "Controlled Committee," Chance Cutrano for Fairfax Town Council 2020)
• an optional signed Code of Fair Campaign Practices *Note: Your County Election Guidelines are your best friend. The Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) campaign guidelines and reporting schedule are your best friend. Get ready to study up! :)
**Note: The aforementioned tasks do not include: 1) Setting up your campaign bank account, getting checks, a debit card, online banking, etc.
2) Getting a federal EIN number for the campaign from the Internal Revenue Service (to start accepting online donations) 3) Setting up accounts, merchant service agreements, etc. for online political donations
4) The myriad list of public relations materials that seem to soon follow (e.g., a logo, website development, donor management services, getting approved for political advertising on social media, etc.)
Lo and behold, after verification of my signatures for my nomination papers, I did it!
Some immediate things may stand out as structural/temporary barriers to equitable participation in the public process, as they certainly stood out to me: 1. Filing fees and printing fees for the Candidate Statement alone can require upfront payment of over $500 here. Many residents live paycheck to paycheck and cannot afford such costs, especially in the midst of a pandemic. Fortunately, there are opportunities to prove the inability to pay (hardship) and have these costs reduced, but I cannot speak to how that process works. 2. I was surprised to find out that the cost of printing in both English and Spanish was over double the cost of printing in English alone. (Apparently, this covers printing costs and translation costs.) What's more, while the bilingual option seemed like an obvious choice to me, I was given the impression that many candidates forgo this opportunity to speak to the wider community. This, I contend, is part of the structural exclusion we see in our communities. 12% of my communities does not identify as white, and some segment of that demographic (including households in my own apartment complex) are Spanish speaking households. So, elected officials opt to exclude these households--potentially perpetuating marginalization--because the incentive structures encourage the "English only" route for Candidate Statements. Let's explore how we may fix this design flaw. 3. Collecting signatures for my Nominations Papers was tricky in the middle of a pandemic. My approach was to reach out to people I knew to schedule safe, physically-distanced meetups to get the signatures I needed. All candidates may not be so lucky. Just be prepared to make adjustments if you, too, plan to run for office in the not-so-distant future! All in all, this process was a great experience. I hope this helps to shed some light on the process and encourages you to get on a ballot in the not so distant future! (As always, be sure to check with the election officials in your particular jurisdiction for the best and most up-to-date campaign guidance.) I'm excited to step up, meet my fellow community members, and share my passion, my vision, and my leadership on the campaign trail and beyond.
All I know is...It's Official: Hello Candidate Cutrano