Tag: first-time candidates

The Year of Firsts: Freshman Candidates Find the Campaign Trail Grueling, Expensive and Rewarding

Just before the deadline closed, Cara McClure and Kari Powell submitted the paperwork to run for the Public Service Commission. They didn’t know one another beforehand, but they ended up on a phone call just after the midnight deadline talking about their similar platforms and how, despite having never run for political office, they would each need to hit the ground running.

Then the idea came to them: why not run as if they were on the same ticket? Doing so would let them pool resources and cover more ground as they canvassed throughout the state. The women decided that using an innovative approach to campaigning was the best way for them to go up against their seasoned opponents.

McClure and Powell are just two of many people who entered the political fray for the first time this year and had to grapple with the question of how to campaign with little or no name recognition. The surge in first-time candidates is a national trend reflected in Alabama. Women, particularly black women, across the country qualified to run in record numbers this year. In Alabama, the Democratic Party had more people qualify to run for office in races up and down the ticket, with half again as many candidates signing on to run for seats in the Legislature than did in 2014, possibly inspired by Doug Jones’ victory in his race for the U.S. Senate in December. The Republican Party also had a bump in people wanting to run for office this year, perhaps in a desire to stave off the threat of a Democratic resurgence.

Several first-time candidates interviewed by BirminghamWatch said the experience has shown them that campaigning is grueling, time-consuming work. Often lacking active party support, many of the first-timers turned to grassroots efforts to get out their messages. Universal among these first-timers was a confidence that they can make an impact using innovative approaches to reach voters despite financial challenges. Read more.