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How to Run for California Governor
To enter the California governor's race, you have to meet the state's requirements. The exact rules differ slightly depending on whether you want your name printed on the ballot or you're trying to run a write-in campaign. Other than filing fees, the procedure is identical if you're running for the lieutenant governor position.
Only U.S. citizens can enter the election for California governor. You must also be a registered California voter by the time you receive your nomination paperwork. If you've been convicted of a felony involving giving a bribe, receiving a bribe, embezzling public money, perjury or a conspiracy to commit any of those crimes, you're disqualified from running.
Because you have to be a voter to run, you'll have to meet California voter requirements too. These include being:
- A California resident.
- At least 18 years old.
- Not currently serving prison time for a felony.
- Not mentally incompetent to vote.
Laying the Groundwork
Once you decide to run, the first step is to file Form 501, the Candidate Intention Statement, with the California Secretary of State. You must do this before you start soliciting funds or spend a penny – even a penny of your own money – on the race.
The next step is to open a campaign contribution account in a California bank. Even if you're wealthy enough to pay for your own expenses, you must put your money into this account before you spend it. If you set up a committee to manage campaign finances, you must submit a statement of organization to the Secretary of State as soon as the committee takes in $1,000 in a single year.
All the forms you need to file should be available at your county elections office.
The filing fee you pay to run is one expense you can pay before setting up the account. The cost of filing for a political position is 2 percent of the first year's salary. At time of writing, that's $3,479.74 for governor; for lieutenant governor, it's $2,609.80. A cost-saving alternative is to drum up 10,000 voter signatures on petitions endorsing your candidacy. If you can't get the full 10,000, the state will prorate your fee for the signatures you do get. Collect 1,000 signatures, for instance, and you cut 10 percent off the fee.
The appeal of a write-in campaign is that you don't have to pay filing fees.
Still More Paperwork
To file your nomination forms with the state, you need 65 to 100 voter signatures. You also file a declaration of candidacy if your name goes on the ballot, or a statement of write-in candidacy if you're going that route.
If you're not a write-in candidate, you can ask for a ballot designation alongside your name on the ballot. This lets you describe yourself as "John Smith, small business owner" or "Jane Doe, conceptual artist." It's a quick and easy way to let voters who may never have heard of you know something about you.
- All forms required are available from county elections officials, without charge.
- All candidates should contact the Political Reform Division of the Secretary of State's Office (1500 11th Street, 4th floor, Sacramento, California 95814) and request an updated copy of the Information Manual on Campaign Disclosure Provisions of the Political Reform Act before proceeding with the candidate process, as information can and does change frequently.
Over the course of his career, Fraser Sherman has reported on local governments, written about how to start a business and profiled professionals in a variety of career fields.. He lives in Durham NC with his awesome wife and two wonderful dogs. His website is frasersherman.com