Want To Run For Office? Here's Some Advice

Isaac Bryan, a 29 year old academic high achiever who came from a huge foster family, was elected to the California Assembly in a special election about 7 months ago. He represents the 54th district which is ultra-blue and includes Culver City, Baldwin Hills, Crenshaw, Ladera Heights, Palms, West Adams, Century City, West L.A., Mar Vista and Westwood. How blue is "ultra-blue?" Only 8.7% of the voters registered as Republicans. Last year Trump won just 13.5% of the vote in this very racially diverse district:

  • Latino- 30.5%

  • White- 29.4%

  • Black- 25.2%

  • Asian- 12.7%

Bryan, whose specialty has been criminal justice reform, is the executive director of UCLA's Black Policy project. Monday, he sent out a series of interesting "how to" tweets I thought I'd share in narrative form, starting with this:

Don’t run because you want to be an elected official. Run because you see a gap in leadership that you have the history, support, & commitment to fill.

  • History- track record of policy wins

  • Support- real people who would affirm that leadership

  • Commitment- even on the hard days


Recognize the value of an inside outside game. Grassroots doesn’t mean you shouldn’t raise money or earn endorsements. You need both, and you need to enter the race very clear about that.


Past history working for an elected official is helpful experience in policy making, but you can come out of many backgrounds with policy experience.

The University and Advocacy Based Organizations are other great places to gain experience.

In my case I had history with all 3


Being able to move a narrative online is powerful. Being able to bring real people out in person is even more powerful.

Stay focused on the work. Organize around the issues you care about. You’ll feel your voice and the responsibility grow as your history of policy wins grows.


Be prepared to call everyone you’ve ever met to ask for a contribution. There is a reason even the President has to ask for money. To win you have to explain who you are succinctly to voters and until we have real campaign finance reform, it’s expensive.


Decide early what kind of money you won’t take. For me it’s no oil or law enforcement.

Contributions legally can’t influence your future votes, but even so I felt strongly where I stood. Know where you stand.


Don’t tell different stakeholders opposite things because you know what they want to hear. Understanding framing is critical, but never-- NEVER-- change up your core values.

We see that way too often, and you don’t have to do it. You can stay rooted and still win.


Along the way new friends will come along and lift you up, some old friends will let you down, and complete strangers will push you over the top.

Trust your instincts and always keep pushing forward.


Lastly, when you win…

Vote for the things that you ran to change. Write the policy you believe in. Learn the politics but never compromise your values.

Your base will always see the work you are doing, and the ones who change up on you never really had you. Stay focused.

UPDATE: Respect From Mayor Mark Gamba

Wow! Awesome advice from someone so young. I know dozens of politicians twice his age that would do well to heed his advice. This is a great example of why I encourage certain young people to engage in politics. For far too long, all levels of politics have been heavily dominated by older people, often retired people. While there is nothing wrong with retired people being represented in various elected bodies, they should not dominate those policy making bodies. Young people have more at stake. Many policies take years and sometimes decades to play out, especially the unintended or unconsidered consequences. People who will be directly affected by those decisions should be a major part of the decision making body. This is particularly true in the realm of Climate Chaos. I personally know otherwise-- well meaning, kind, thoughtful people in their 50s, 60s and 70s who do not prioritize that work, and I can only imagine it is because they will not experience the worst effects themselves. Imagine what the US government would be doing if the majority of Congress were 40 or younger? I suspect there would be far less concern for making rich people richer and far more concern for solving the actual problems that families face now and will face in the foreseeable future.