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1. Pick your office.
Pennsylvania residents who have not been convicted of bribery, perjury or embezzlement of public funds (as outlined in the state constitution) may run for dozens of public offices in the districts in which they live. These offices include county commissioners and row offices, borough and city council members and mayor, township supervisor, tax collector, auditor, assessor, judge of election, inspector of election, constable, magisterial district judge and school board members.
Even at the local level, incumbents have an inherent advantage because they have a record of accomplishment, name recognition and a base of supporters. Do your research so you can pick a winnable election to avoid wasting time and money.
Develop your strategy, theme and message. Voters want a reason to vote for someone, so develop an effective message and general theme of the election. Develop a strategy by calculating a win total. Start with the average number of votes for a similar race in recent years. Divide that number by two and add one vote. This is the estimated minimum number of votes you need to win the election.
The Pennsylvania Secretary of State and county elections offices can provide the appropriate paper work that potential candidates need to file, including a statement of financial interests. In order to get on the ballot as a Democrat or Republican, a potential candidate must collect signatures from voters of that party. The signature requirement ranges from as few as five signatures for inspector of elections to as many as 1,000 for county commissioner or city mayor. Note that borough mayors, who have much less power than city mayors, only need 10 signatures.
Candidates for some offices, including school board members and magisterial district judge, may cross-file, meaning they can collect signatures from citizens of both parties and appear on both the Democratic and Republican primary election ballots.
At a minimum, a candidate must appoint a committee chair and treasurer and they cannot be the same person.
Track and report expenditures. Candidates in Pennsylvania must file expenditure reports with the Secretary of State if their total expenses exceed $250.
Meet with constituents. Purchase advertisements in newspapers and on radio and television if you have the money. Talk to the local press. Keep in mind that earned media is usually better than paid media because you get your message out without having to spend money.
ELECTIVE OFFICE IN LOCAL GOVERNMENT (pdf)Download
GENERAL INFORMATION ABOUT RUNNING FOR PUBLIC OFFICE Rev 5.31.17 (pdf)Download
MANUAL FOR COUNTY COMMISSIONERS (pdf)Download
BOROUGH COUNCIL HANDBOOK (pdf)Download
BOROUGH MAYORS’ MANUAL (pdf)Download
TOWNSHIP SUPERVISOR’S HANDBOOK (pdf)Download
AUDITORS GUIDE (pdf)Download
Have you thought about running for your local school board? It can be one of the most rewarding experiences in your life. Watch this brief video on what is required before you throw your hat into the ring.