You’ve filed for office. Now what?

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Have you ever thought of running for the North Carolina legislature but didn’t think you had the skills or money? Perhaps you threw up your hands in frustration saying it is hopeless in so many gerrymandered districts.

But maybe you’re one of the people who filed to run this year. In this election, 169 of the state’s 170 General Assembly seats will be contested. It is unprecedented competition to serve in Raleigh.

Consider the fact that only two out of every 10 voters say they approve of the job the current legislature is doing and indications of high voter interest in this November election. The signs are everywhere that 2018 will be a change election.

This is an extraordinary opportunity for first-time legislative candidates in both political parties.

So, back to the original question: Have you ever thought of running for the state legislature?

The N.C. Institute of Political Leadership was formed to help potential candidates (no matter the political affiliation) who did not have the money to pay for hands-on training with practical skills to help win elections in an ethical and effective way.

Applications are now being accepted for the fall 2018 class, which starts in August and runs for 11 weekends until the end of November — just like a typical North Carolina legislative campaign.

How, you say, can I run my own campaign if I am in this program? Because you will be in the middle of an entire, actual campaign — your own.

This is what you would do over the course of your five-month campaign in the IOPL:

• Prepare a campaign plan (fundraising, strategy, district voter analysis, media production (print, TV, radio, social media), GOTV (get-out-the-vote) which would be critiqued by Ross Harris, executive director, and by fellows in your class;

• Put your thoughts into a paper to be delivered to the class and videotaped on why you are a Democrat, Republican, independent or Libertarian. Defend your philosophy (ideology) and why you are running for office;

• Debate with fellows of the opposite political party to defend your position on various issues;

• Prepare and produce TV and radio spots and be interviewed by an anchor on-set;

• Actually raise money for your campaign by learning and using fundraising techniques;

• Meet party officials, consultants, pollsters, reporters and columnists, and interest group executives.

Here’s the best part of your IOPL campaign experience: Live with members of the opposite political party. Listen and hear their points of view. Articulate and defend yours. This occurs over each one of the 11 weekends in this program. You will find that when elected to the legislature, this part of the program not only helped you in your campaign but in effectively serving in the General Assembly.

Skeptical? Don’t be. The proof is in the many IOPL fellows who have done this. To name a few:

• N.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Martin (R-fall 1992)

• Associate Justice Barbara Jackson (R-spring 2003)

• Secretary of State Elaine Marshall (D-spring 1991)

• State Treasurer Dale Folwell (R-spring 1989)

• State Rep. Nelson Dollar (R-fall 1988)

• State Rep. Duane Hall (D-fall 2010)

• State Rep. Gale Adcock (D-spring 2006)

• State Sen. Mike Woodard (D-spring 2001)

• State Sen. Erica Smith (D-spring 2017)

• State Sen. Andy Wells (R-fall 1989)

Call or write: Ross Harris, Executive Director, N.C. Institute of Political Leadership at 336-908-7171 or rharris@iopl.org.

Walt de Vries of Wilmington is a political consultant, author, university professor and founder of the N.C. Institute of Political Leadership and co-founder of the American Association of Political Consultants. He has co-authored two books on ticket-splitting and another on Southern politics.