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Planning Your Run for Office With a Disability - Article by Ed Carter with Able Futures

For more information you can reach out to ecarter@ablefutures.org or visit the website ablefutures.org 


Following in the Footsteps of FDR: Planning Your Run for Office With a Disability

Franklin Roosevelt was the architect of this nation's recovery from the Great Depression. He is consistently rated as the best U.S. president in the Siena College Research Institute’s Survey of the U.S. Presidents by presidential scholars, only dropping to second place in the 2018 update, where George Washington inched ahead. Roosevelt also suffered from the long-term effects of the poliovirus he contracted at 39 years of age. Author James Toobin argues that far from hiding his disability, Roosevelt used his personal challenges to his political advantage. There is perhaps no better role model to show how far a person with a disability can take his or her political career, but if you want to run for office you need more than a role model; you need a plan.


Design Your Platform

Begin by designing your platform. If you run as a member of an existing party, you can take much of your plan from the party's platform. That doesn't mean you can't give the ideas your own tweaks. It's only natural that you would want to run a disability-friendly platform. Design a platform that includes a focus on public access, Americans with Disabilities Act enforcement, reducing crime against disabled persons, or a special education overhaul.


Plan Your Campaign

You can start designing a platform and planning your campaign years in advance. It's important to consider your strengths and whether there are ways you can make yourself more appealing to voters. For statewide or national offices, consider returning to school for an advanced degree. The following degrees provide gravitas and give you the tools to plan and execute a successful political career:


● Master of Arts in American Government

● Master of Public Affairs

● Master of International Affairs

● Juris Doctor (law degree)


If you already have a master's degree, try for your doctorate. You don't have to give up your career or your life to go back to school if you attend an online university. Online school is no longer the purview of small schools no one has heard of. You can attend graduate school online from top schools, on your own time.


When you're ready to run, your campaign can focus on your skills and education. More importantly, like Roosevelt, you can use your disability to your advantage. You are a person who has overcome hardships most people never experience. You are tough and resilient. Let your constituents know it.


Gather Your Team Even though you and your platform are the focus of your campaign, you can't run an effective campaign on your own. Volunteers and paid team members get your message to the masses. A campaign manager and media consultant who specializes in social media carefully crafts your message, plans your time in public and responds to any allegations from your competition.


Fund Your Run

Your campaign team, logo design and sign distribution, along with your local and social media advertising all cost money, sometimes, if a race gets dirty, a lot of money. Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City spent almost $2.5 million on his last mayoral campaign. Start your fundraising early, using your team to call for donations and ask for donations through social media. You could also hold a fundraising event where potential donors get to meet you and find out more about your campaign.


Your disability isn't a hindrance to holding political office, it's an asset. With planning, you are on your way to following in the footsteps of FDR. For now, stay abreast of Solway Township’s current discussions

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