This series will provide a cursory overview of the steps needed to run for local office in Los Angeles County. The information provided is not intended to be legal advice. Readers should be cognizant that other local rules may apply in addition to state law.
If you are running for local office (i.e. city council or school board) it is likely that your county administers the election. As such, counties provide information about running for office:
Regardless of county, you should be aware that you may be subject to campaign finance reporting requirements and conflicts of interest rules. You should get a hold of this handbook from the Fair Political Practices Commission.
Many more handbooks will be inundated upon you as you initiate your candidacy.
Initiating Your Candidacy
Before running for office, the first legal question on your mind should be whether you are eligible for that office. Municipalities tend to have residency requirements, requiring a candidate to have resided in the city or district for a certain amount of time. Some districts take it a step further and require candidates to be a registered voter of that district. There may also be a citizenship requirement, as it is for the California Legislature.
Applying for Your Nominating Documents
If you are eligible for office, then you can start your candidacy. Your candidacy starts when you file your nomination documents with your county’s registrar of voters. In Los Angeles County, the filing period for the March 7, 2017 election is from November 14, 2016 to December 9, 2016.
But before you can file your nominating documents, you will have to apply for them first. A candidate must first fill out a Candidate Registration and Qualification form. Information from that form is used in the Application for Nomination Documents.
When you execute your Application for Nomination Documents, you can then file your nomination documents. This includes:
- Declaration of Candidacy (declares your candidacy, provides your ballot designation, and has you take a loyalty oath).
- Ballot Designation (allows you to put a title underneath your name on the ballot, such as your profession or current elective office).
- Candidate Statement Form (allows you to submit a candidate statements for the voters to read on their ballot).
- Candidate Campaign Statement Forms (these are your initial campaign finance registration and disclosures required under the Political Reform Act).
What must be included in the Candidate Campaign Statement Forms varies from candidate-to-candidate, which unfortunately makes this following section somewhat complex.
Candidate Campaign Statement Forms
Most candidates will have to file a Statement of Economic Interests form (state law provides a list of categories designating who must file). It exists because state law seeks to restrict elected officials from using their power to benefit their own financial interests. As such, candidates may be required to disclose their financial interests in this form.
Other filings will depend on how much money you plan to raise or spend. If you plan on raising or spending less than $2,000, at the very minimum, you should a file:
- Candidate Intention Statement (informs the Secretary of State of your intention to be a candidate).
- Officeholder and Candidate Campaign Statement – Short Form (this discloses committees that you know are raising and spending money on behalf of your candidacy).
Note that if you later end up raising or spending money in the amount of $2,000 or over, you will have to file additional documents. This brings us to the situation where candidates raise or spend $2,000 or more. In that situation, you should file:
- Candidate Intention Statement.
- Statement of Organization (your level of financial activity now requires you to register as a committee).
Be aware that the Statement of Organization registers you as a “committee.” Committees have various responsibilities, including maintaining a separate bank account, designating a treasurer, maintaining detailed records, and making disclosures. These responsibilities will be discussed in further detail later in this series.
This completes your packet. Once submitted, you will be placed on the ballot and officially become a candidate in the March 7, 2017 election. But what comes next? The next article in this series will discuss the public examination period for candidate statements, candidate names, and ballot designations. It occurs after the deadline for filing nomination documents, from December 10-19, 2016.
Photo credit: Elliot Stallion