Anybody can run for office at a certain age. That simple truth is at once an essential component of American democracy and the reason why local politics can bear a striking resemblance to a middle school Beta Club.
Think you have the intestinal fortitude to survive four years in City Hall? Then break open the piggy bank and fork over the candidate filing fee to the Charleston County Board of Elections and Voter Registration at 4367 Headquarters Road, where you'll fill out all your paperwork during the filing period (which is usually during August). If you're running for a City Council or Commissioners of Public Works seat in Charleston, it'll set you back $150. If you're running for mayor, it's $1,000. You can, however, skip the filing fee if you provide a notarized affidavit saying that your net assets are less than $5,000.
Other than that, there are a few things you should be aware of before you stick your feet in the pluff mud of municipal electioneering:
• Be sure to check in with the Board of Elections and Voter Registration to make sure you're not missing a deadline. In 2011, the filing period for Charleston elections began Aug. 15 and ended Aug. 29.
• Start hitting people up for money. In local elections, donors can only give you up to $1,000 apiece, but there are ways around this. For instance, a husband and wife from the same household could donate separately, an employer could channel money to you through his employees, or a person could set up LLC shell companies as conduits for extra donations. If you have no qualms about supporting school choice, give Howard Rich a call. Does this all sound a little shady? Welcome to politics.
• Unless you want the press and state government jumping down your throat, you'll need to report your fundraising activities to the State Ethics Commission. If you want to dig up some dirt on your opponents' fundraising habits, check their records on the SEC's Public Disclosure website.
• Get to canvassing, you baby-kisser, you. Call the State Election Commission at (803) 734-9060 to see what it'll cost you to buy a list of registered voters in your precinct. Once you've got the list, do what politicians do: Send out mailers, go door to door, throw lavish neighborhood barbecues (Hey, it worked for Keith Summey). Get your name out there, and try to listen to people when they share their concerns.
• To run for the Charleston County School Board, you'll need to submit a petition with 500 signatures, including 250 from within your district. You have to live in the district where you are filing. You can find all your paperwork at scvotes.org. There is no petition requirement to run for mayor or city council.
• Before you go in for an interview with a reporter, make sure you have assembled your thoughts in a coherent manner. Also, try bouncing your ideas off of someone besides family members and close friends, just to make sure you're not coming across as clinically insane. Trust us on this one.