How to Run a Successful City Council Election

How to Run a Successful City Council Election

Becoming a member of the City Council is a fantastic way to affect change in your own community. Many people want to serve on their local City Council to represent fluctuating diversity in the populace and to maintain safety and welfare in a growing city. Fortunately, every election cycle, many people will be running for the same seat in their City Council, giving the citizens many options and viewpoints. The key to winning your seat from the other contenders is getting your message into every corner of your district (assuming yours is a popular message) and have it seen as much as possible.  

The most important aspect of your campaign will be your message, or more preferably, messages, and putting those messages on all your campaign materials. There may be several hot-button issues in your community that you can message about while maintaining an overall picture of your political stance. For example, a community may be growing too fast by building several apartment communities, increasing traffic and wellbeing on the roads. Stating that you are against more community growth could be a popular message. Or increasing the police budget to provide more traffic law oversight in areas that are heavily congested. Another example could be property tax. You could be for higher property tax to increase the budget in other areas of the community or lower property tax to keep the cost of living manageable. Whatever stance you take on hot button issues should be clear, concise and on all your campaign materials.  

Depending on your budget, you should have as many campaign materials as possible. That includes the essential yard signs, palm cards and mailers and if your budget allows, banners, door hangers and stickers.  

Yard signs are a practical way to get your name seen all over the community. When you’re canvassing the community, ask homeowners to put your sign in their yards. Put yard signs up at every major crossroads in the community, as well. Your yard sign should have your name and the office you’re seeking. If you’re running along party lines, people recognize red as more conservative and blue as more liberal. If you want to convey an allegiance to party, your color choice is important. Red, white, and blue are seen as neutral, or not politically affiliated. 

Palm cards are essential when you’re campaigning anywhere. Whether it is going door to door or holding a rally, you should have palm cards to hand out to everyone. Palm cards, also called rack cards, are a 4×9 post card that states your messaging, or why you’re running for office, and a short bio. If someone is running for re-election, the messaging will include what they’ve already done for the community, as well as future intentions. Palm cards are great for handing out when you cannot speak at length with everyone you meet face to face. 

An extensive mailing campaign should be at the top of your campaign materials list. It allows you to get your messaging directly to potential voters. The most successful mailing campaigns usually involve several postcards sent out in the weeks and months before the election. Each postcard should focus on your stance on a hot-button issue. For example: A post card sent out 3 months before an election could focus on hot button issue #1. An additional post card could be sent out 6 weeks before the election with your messaging on hot button issue #2 and third a week before the election summarizing all your issues and a reminder to vote. The images and logo should be consistent with each mailer.


If your budget allows for other materials, door hangers, stickers and banners are helpful. Door hangers are practical materials to have when going door to door to leave behind when no one is home. Bumper stickers are a great way to ask your constituents to show their support for you, especially if they cannot contribute any other way. And large banners are fantastic for having your name stand out at major intersections in your community. They are much larger than yard signs, and thus stand out much more.  

Getting your message seen and heard by all of your potential voters means starting early. Get your yard signs and mailers out before any of the other contenders. Start going door to door sooner so you can cover more ground, sometimes going to the same neighborhoods twice. Your face and message should be the first and last one associated with the City Council seat that you’re seeking.  

Use social media! Create a Facebook and other social media accounts that inform voters about your candidacy and encourage viewers and their friends to vote for you. Write content for the page and post as frequently as possible, including visuals of you and your family in the community. This is a way to monitor feedback from the community and tweak messaging if needed. 

Your goal is to become well known and liked in your community. Go to community events and socialize with constituents when in public and make yourself seen around town. Visit and promote your locally owned restaurants, attend the district high schools sporting events, and attend the community church. Winning your City Council election is much like winning a community popularity contest. Shake hands, smile at strangers, and introduce yourself to as many people as possible. Good luck! 

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