Candidates Learn the Ropes

The SCDC hosted a Candidates’ Workshop for people interested in running for local elected positions. We thank all those who attended, encouraged by us to serve their communities. If you missed the event, here are some notes.

Getting on the Ballot

The deadline is April 3rd for filing a petition to appear on the primary ballot for municipalities with partisan elections. This applies to most towns in Sussex County. You may download a petition from the Sussex County Clerk’s web site:

You must gather a prerequisite number of signatures from registered Democrats in your town. This is usually twenty-five (fifty in Hopatcong). The number is also found on the clerk’s web site, but feel free to call the office if you have any questions. We recommend gathering ten to twenty percent more just in case. The more signatures you gather, the more voters you have already reached!

Running the Campaign

These are some of the things to keep in mind while you campaign for office:

  1. Know why you’re running. Have an answer is someone asks.
  2. Know the issues. If you haven’t already done so, start now attending town council and board of education meetings. Develop your position on the issues, and write a brief “white paper” on your position.
  3. Perform opposition research on your opponent(s) and on yourself. Know what your opponents may say about you, and have an answer.
  4. Start fundraising. Don’t be shy.
  5. You may consider polling, opinion research, and surveys.
  6. Be prepared to give of your time for this effort. You may lose a few weekends.
  7. Get out and talk with people. Attend local events.
  8. Start a web site or Facebook page.
  9. Get out your vote. Know which households represent likely voters. The SCDC can help you with data.

Being on the Council

Here are some of your likely experiences of being on the town council or board of education.

  1. When you start, be humble. Listen and learn the process and the decorum.
  2. These are not overly political positions. You will not be asked to vote on issues like reproductive rights or trade policy. You are there to make sure your community is cared for; that the roads are maintained, the lights work, and the trash is picked up. Serve your community well.
  3. You will be assigned to work on one or more subcommittees, such as recreation and economic development.
  4. Most town councils meet once a month, but will meet more often during budget season.
  5. If you are on the board of education, there are many ethics rules to follow. You will likely be required to participate in annual ethics training classes.


There are several important fundraising rules to follow:

  1. You are encouraged to download and familiarize yourself with the NJ ELEC manual:
  2. The staff of the Election Law Enforcement Commission is open and friendly. Feel free to call them at 1 (888) 313-ELEC (3532). They are happy to speak with you.
  3. There are rules for handling money. You must report contributions using the forms found in the manual. You will need to gather some information about the person making the contribution.
  4. Be respectful, but don’t be frightened by the rules for handling money. The rules are simple and so is the process. Again, speak with the people at ELEC if you have any questions.

The SCDC may hold a more detailed workshop on running a campaign later in the year.