How to run for city council

GrowSF Clubhouse series

How to run for city council

Supervisors are the most powerful position in San Francisco politics. What do they do? And what does it take to run for office?

When: Wednesday, March 24, 4:30PM PT




Before You Run

  • Get involved in your community, build relationships with potential voters and volunteers
  • Get involved in other campaigns
  • Get involved in neighborhood associations

Months Before the Race

  • Assess whether you’re running against an incumbent or open election
  • Depending on answer, your campaign strategy will be different
  • Build list of contacts who will support you
  • Need to file with 3 entities (in SF) - Department of Elections, Ethics Commission, Secretary State Office
  • These filings can take a lot of time - have to decide to do yourself or through lawyer

Kickoff Day

  • Two primary goals
  • Goal 1 = launch party for your volunteers to build morale
  • Goal 2 = collect photos that you’ll use for social media after that
  • Make it fun
  • Note you should file / kickoff campaign at a specific time - want to file in July so you have 6 months before donation filing deadline
  • Donating reporting deadlines is when press covers things, and the more you raise the more other people will want to fund you

After Kickoff

  • First goal is collecting funding
  • To qualify for public matching, need 100 people to give you $100
  • This is actually a tough threshold to cross
  • Then you get 6:1 matching
  • You’ll do a lot of this work yourself initially
  • Need to aim for a $250K minimum, but you can win with < $1M

Campaign Staff

  • Campaign manager - most important - someone who shares your values; point person on events, endorsements, doing management of mail, coordinating advertising, manage everyone else
  • Field Manager - coordinates volunteers
  • Volunteers or contractors for phone banks and knocking on doors
  • Consultant - help with direct mail and strategy, but pricy - doesn’t think you need one

Most effective events

  • Events that dont seem like politics - i.e. video interviews with chefs and restaurant owners on their favorite dishes
  • Grassroots 1:1 engagements
  • Phone calls
  • Campaigning at grocery stores
  • Ballot explainer parties - explaining different ballot measures
  • Host events where it feels like you’re giving something, rather than asking for something

30 second cold call / pitch

  • Have to get comfortable with cold sales style convos
  • Wear your campaign shirt, so people know who you are
  • Make sure you say your name 2-3x so they remember
  • Cover your 2-3 major campaign bullets
  • “Im Danny, Im running to build more housing and clean streets, and here’s whos endorsed me”
  • Also ask the constituent a question - what issues they care about


  • Are not necessary, but can be helpful
  • Most officials and orgs have already made up their mind, and you cant change their endorsement
  • There’s ⅓ of orgs that you can sway; focus on the ones who align with your values
  • Note that getting endorsements is an opportunity cost to reaching voters - endorsements are throughout the city, and voters are only in your district


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