Friday, January 25, 2013

How to run for City Council

Posted By on Fri, Jan 25, 2013 at 3:40 PM

City Council election
  • Pam Zubeck
  • From left, Laura Carno, Sarah Jack and Jan Martin give tips on being elected.

Raise a lot of money, flood mailboxes with mailers, use social media often and, if elected, always vote in a way that is the best for all citizens, not just special interests.

That was the advice to those running for Colorado Springs City Council's six district seats this April, given at a how-to-type meeting held at the Penrose House last night.

Hosted by El Pomar Foundation's Forum for Civic Advancement, the session drew about 30 people, with a couple of surprises in the audience.

Colorado Springs City Council
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Tom Harold looks like he's up for the challenge.

Tom Harold, who's been active in civic affairs over the years, showed up, saying he'll give incumbent Angela Dougan a run for her money in District 2 up north. Retired military member Bill Murray, who also will challenge Dougan, was there as well.

Sam Mamet, executive with the Colorado Municipal League, told the candidates that they'd need a thick skin and a passion for public service.

City Clerk Sarah Johnson outlined candidate and campaign-finance requirements, noting the deadline for filing for candidacy is Feb. 6.

A panel comprised of Councilor Jan Martin and political consultants Sarah Jack and Laura Carno had plenty of advice.

Jack said that, like it or not, money is a necessity for candidates to get their name in front of voters. She estimated $35,000 is needed for a district Council race. The recommended tool, she said, is direct-mail, and she advised candidates they'll need to "touch" voters 11 times "for them to remember who you are."

So, she said, candidates should label themselves. "What makes you different? Why should people vote for you?"

Carno, who ran Mayor Steve Bach's campaign in 2011, recommended candidates focus on branding themselves, putting out the truth about their opponents and correcting any false narratives about yourself. (Remember the wife-beating allegation against Bach?)

"The media is your friend," Carno advised — before quickly warning that candidates must be prepared for their questions. She emphasized that Facebook and Twitter accounts are a must.

"So many people, including myself, get their information from social media," she said.

But Jack interjected that social media can get you in trouble, too, so choose your words and photos carefully.

Martin offered advice to those who are elected. Be professional; focus on a few goals that will provide a common thread for their efforts while in office; be prepared by reading meeting materials in advance; be engaged; and be yourself.

"When it's time to make a decision, ask yourself what you believe will be the best for the community," Martin said. "I believe you can never go wrong with that philosophy."

Other news from the campaign trail:

Today, at the Penrose Library, former El Paso County Commissioner Jim Bensberg announced his candidacy in District 3, saying his mantra is that the best government is the government that governs least.

District 3 includes much of the west side, the southwest and downtown.

Jim Bensberg City Council April 2 election
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Bensberg speaks to his fans today, announcing his candidacy.

One of his opponents, former State Sen. Keith King, announced his candidacy Jan. 10 on the steps of City Hall, vowing to not break his pledge to oppose any and all tax increases.

Keith King City Council

Incumbent Brandy Williams also is running in District 3. Elected in 2011, she attended the Thursday night workshop but hasn't yet filed, according to the City Clerk's election website. She was busy this morning attending a Drake Power Plant Task Force meeting, the kickoff for an effort to write a request for proposals for an in-depth study of whether to sideline the coal plant, which provides the city with a third of its electricity.

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