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Election 2014 Thu Mar 06 2014

Put Down That Latte - You're Running For Governor!

There's a good chance that, right this very minute, you've clicked on a link from Facebook or Twitter, and gotten to this article, while enjoying some sort of hot caffeinated beverage at a local establishment. Maybe you're seated at some sort of weird little round antique table, and you've got some paper to research, or some spreadsheet to format, or just some "work" to "do"... but you're easily distracted, and, hey, you secretly like being easily distracted.

Clearly, you should be running for Governor.

Or, if you're not feeling quite that ambitious, just run for Comptroller.

I'm serious here. Who would joke about something like Illinois state government?

You don't need as much as you might think. Yeah, you need to collect thousands and thousands of signatures, and you need to fill out some paperwork, and you need a web site. And you need some money. But this is all doable, far more doable than you might have ever realized.

The main thing you need is six friends. All seven of you have to be at least 25, and at least one of you has to be 30. And one of you has to be an attorney. You have to all be U.S. citizens, and have lived in Illinois for at least two years. And... that's it. You've got yourself a 7-person slate for statewide office in Illinois in 2014!

Now, obviously, it would help if you and your friends had actual positions on political issues. But for some of the offices, even that isn't really a requirement. Jesse White has been Secretary of State for about 317 years, and his main claim to fame before being elected to office the first time was the Jesse White Tumblers.

So let's just assume you've got strong opinions, your friends tend to share them, and you're articulate and not afraid of microphones. Here's why you should run:

You've got the time. Your posse probably doesn't have a lot of babies yet. You might not all have full-time jobs. Some of you might not even have jobs at all. Plus, your Netflix queue has gotten dangerously low.

It'll help you get a job. New barista positions can fetch hundreds of resumes. Office jobs can attract even more. Somehow, you're going to have to separate yourself from the pack. What better way to do that than speaking to your rare real-life motivated self-starter experience of running for statewide office? Plus, if getting work is more about who you know than what you know, doing something that has the potential for you to interact with hundreds or even thousands of people can't hurt.

It's a great way to meet people. Maybe you're not in a committed relationship. Maybe you've tried Maybe your friends are saying you've just got to get out and meet people. Well, this is a sure-fire way to get out and meet people! You'll be able to present yourself as someone with real opinions about how things can be better, and isn't that a better conversation starter than the Cubs or White Sox? And maybe you are in a committed relationship, and you just need to get out of the house sometimes. Nobody's judging you here, friend. Well, nobody except for a couple of million voters.

There is a lot to see and do in Illinois. Are you a history buff? A nature lover? Or are you just into finding whatever the state has to offer? A statewide campaign can mean a series of road trips all across the state. You can go to the Superman Celebration in Metropolis, or to the Turkey Testicle Festival in Byron. These are perfectly acceptable places to campaign, unless you're courting the vote of Lex Luthor and/or a bunch of vegans.

It's your campaign - you get to run it your way. If you want to have a press conference in front of Vanna Whitewall in downtown Peoria, you can. If you want your campaign literature to be a picture of you and your ferret, go for it. If you want to hold all of your campaign meetings at La Pasadita... just make sure you tell people which one.

The other candidates suck. If you've read this far down, you probably agree with this statement. Next!

You have something to say that deserves to be heard. Do you see any other 20-somethings or 30-somethings confronting 40-50 more years in the workforce whose opinions are truly being heard in these elections? There are numerous major issues which will affect younger voters far more than older voters, from how lenders are allowed to handle student loans to whether public schools will be largely dismantled 5-10 years from now when you're one of the parents trying to make sense of what's happened.

You're probably still doubtful that you can actually do something wild like assemble a bunch of friends to run for statewide office. But you can. You likely have advantages you never realized.

A full slate of candidates for statewide office will need to submit at least 25,000 valid signatures. That means, realistically, about 40,000 raw signatures, and maybe more if the signers are overwhelmingly in their early 20s. But between you and your six friends, you probably have a couple of thousand Facebook friends, most of whom live in Illinois and who can all help a little bit. You probably have a peer group beyond the six people you're running with, and you'll be able to get a lot of those people to go out and help you collect hundreds of signatures at outdoor events. Petitioning can be hard work, but for people who enjoy each other's company, a couple of hours out in the sun on the streets of Chicago followed by a couple of hours cooling down at the bar can be a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

There's a pretty good chance that one of the seven candidates can build websites, and one of the seven can do some solid graphic design. If not, somebody else you know does this stuff, and would be glad to help out. You don't need to pay thousands of dollars for this kind of work, you just need to pick up the tab next time you go to Cole's.

Once you get on the ballot, the novelty of the situation will attract donations. Yeah, you'll be running against candidates spending millions of dollars. But if you raise just $50,000 - and that is actually realistic amount for 7 people working together - you can fund an office, all of that travel around the state, a decent amount of yard signs, and a dynamic web presence that will probably be better than any of your opponents.

Now, there are a couple of things you should keep in mind. To pull all this off, you'll need to pick a party label. Maybe you could convince a pre-existing third party to support you - it'd be a good way to get a lot of additional people on board. Or maybe you'll just make up a party altogether. You could name yourselves the Mint Julep Party, or the Black Metal Party, or the We Like Donuts Party, or the We Hate Rahm Party. You'll also need some guidance on how to make sure all of your petitioning paperwork is in order. And if you successfully raise money, you better have a competent treasurer, because you'll have to file campaign disclosure statements to the State and/or FEC. People like election attorneys and experienced treasurers are out there, though. Some of them have read this far too, and they're taking it seriously.

How can I say they're taking it seriously? Because this is Illinois in 2014. People on the streets are dreading this election and would love to be inspired by something. If your team of intrepid young candidates can avoid making bigger fools of yourselves than your opponents, the sheer audacity of you running and it not coming off as just a big joke will be something people will rally around, even if your political positions still aren't that well-formed. And if they are well-formed, and you can speak as a group with a convincing voice, all the better.

Politics in Illinois is performance art, but many of the people with nominally important roles aren't artists, they're just extras. The General Assembly routinely pulls stunts like introducing 300 page amendments to bills and then voting them through within the next two days, so you know your legislators aren't even reading the stuff they're voting on. If someone accused you of making a mockery of the political process by running for Governor, well, good for you! These people deserve to be mocked, and everybody knows it. But you can move beyond mockery into a higher level of art with a campaign like this. And along the way, you can love every minute of it.

So put down your latte. Jump back to your other browser tab. Share this piece with your friends, and tell them: you're in if they're in. Fight it out to figure out who gets to run for what office. Put together a little plan. Make sure that everybody is serious, because you need to hold your slate of 7 people together at least through July to meet legal requirements.

Then pick your latte back up, finish it and bus your own table, because the last thing we need around here is another scandal.

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