Dear Council Candidate…

Dear Candidate for Rockville City Council,

With thirteen people running for a city council seat in Rockville this year, it’ll be more crowded than ever. You’ll have to work harder to get your voice heard because voters will have difficulty telling you all apart (which one is Bridget Mullican?). My advice is to be distinctive and avoid the shallow promises to lower taxes, fight crime, be inclusive, preserve green space, attract business, or modernize city services. Yawn. Everyone will be saying those things, so learn about the particular needs and interests of the various communities in Rockville and how you will you go about addressing them. Solutions are nice, but often issues are so complex that a good process is more important (has anyone mentioned the APFO to you?).

Remember running for office in high school? It’s very much the same with adults, I’m afraid. Those who win are usually pretty and popular, dress well, or everybody knows their name. If you don’t have those advantages, you’ll want to use yard signs with your name in 4″ high letters, send mail with a big smiling photo of you, knock on doors for hours a day, and shake hands with strangers. Your skills, accomplishments, integrity, and qualifications are probably outstanding and you’d be a terrific councilmember—but that’s not what gets you elected, alas. Remember who was elected president in 2016.

Have a strategy. Rockville has 68,000 residents, of which 40,000 are registered voters. But only 6,000 residents voted in the last election—that’s less than 10 percent of the population. Figure out who those voters are. Don’t waste your time on people who won’t vote for you. Nothing you say will convince them, so move on to another person who might. You’re looking for the undecided voter. Don’t hire a political consultant out of Florida to give you a strategy. You’ll be paying a lot of money for ideas that don’t work in Rockville. Instead, talk to people who have run for office previously—win or lose, they’ll have much better (and cheaper) advice.

Finally, hang in there. Most people you’ll meet are courteous and interested, and you’ll meet some amazing neighbors. There will be a few grumpy and downright hostile people. Unfortunately, they tend to be the ones you remember and wonder how you can live in the same community, but try to put them out of your mind. They’re probably grumpy with everyone so don’t spoil your day by wondering how it could have gone better. You can’t please all the people all the time. Remember the good folks.

Best wishes for the election. Running for office is more difficult than serving, but it’s essential to our democracy and I appreciate your willingness to serve.

If you’re not running for office, consider helping those you’ve identified as good leaders for Rockville. The biggest expense for most local campaigns is postage, and that continues to increase the cost of running a decent campaign. Your dollars really help. Remember who was elected president in 2016.

And don’t vote for “balance.” If you’re heading into the operating room, you don’t want the surgical team to be “balanced.” You want the best minds working for your benefit and be clear about the goals, not arguing whether to remove a kidney or liver.

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