Thinking of running for elected office?

Jan 10, 2020

So you're thinking of running for office. Perhaps you don't like the policies of your current representative—or a position just opened up because of a retirement, scandal or election result. Where do you start? The Masten Resource Center is one place. From 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, a nationally renowned political "campaign fixer" will be in Buffalo to share her experience.

Kate Coyne-McCoy is proud to say she has trained or interacted with, in some way, every current Democratic pro-choice female member of Congress.

"It's pretty cool when I turn on the impeachment hearings, there are people who I know and I love and I have in my cell phone, doing great things for the country," she said from her home base in Rhode Island. "You know, lots of folks who are sitting in Congress now didn't start their electoral careers there."

Rep. Val Demings, the Democrat from Orlando, FL, was a police chief when she ran for Congress and lost, then ran a second time and won. Coyne-McCoy helped her. Coyne-McCoy has focused the last 20 years on empowering women and people of color, like Demings, to run and win elected office.

Kate Coyne-McCoy has focused her political consulting on female candidates and people of color.
Credit Campaign Fixer: KCM Consulting

"I worked on my first campaign (at age 12) because my parents were organizers and their voter file was a big long file of 3"x5" cards on our dining room table," she remembered. "Now I can bring up a voter file in any state in the union with a couple strokes of a keypad. So the technology has really changed, but (men and women) both need to raise money, they both need to connect with the voters to get elected. Those things really hasn't changed. The way we do it has changed."

Many female candidates also have more barriers to hurdle than their male counterparts. She said her job is to break down those barriers so a candidate can win.

"You need child care, you need to earn a living, you're raising your children and your in-laws are living in the house and your mother has Alzheimer's and you have a full-time job. That's the reality for a lot of women," she said. "How do you work around that and fit in a campaign? Well, at the local level, in a city Common Council race, you can do that."

She said Saturday will be about planting the seeds for success over time - the "long game," as she called it.

"In this particular session, we'll focus pretty heavily on how to raise money, how to build a finance plan, how to find the money, how to identify where you can get the money from. You have 1,000 friends on Facebook, but you only have 40 friends in your phone. That's a problem," she said. "It's literally tactical, nitty-gritty instructions about how to begin."

Coyne-McCoy said a lot of the session will also focus on "message": what a candidate says along the campaign trail "that is persuasive, compelling and memorable and that demonstrates real contrast between you and the other person running."

The session is free and sponsored by the national think tank Education Reform Now Advocacy.