Unique Strategies on Why Local Elections Are the Real Driver of American Politics


India Walton’s work as a school nurse in Buffalo, New York, allowed her to see firsthand the effects of health disparities in her community. She knew something had to change, so she got involved in local politics, eventually running for mayor.

The India trip illustrates what too few people know about American politics: local problems require local solutions. Many aspiring politicians believe the way to better their communities is to become a state senator or governor, rather than hold local office. Sole Strategies thinks more people — especially aspiring politicians — need to know that local elections are the real engine of American politics.

“It’s just a misconception that you have to go for those higher seats in order to change the lives of the people around you,” says Amani Wells-Onyioha, chief operating officer at Sole Strategies. “Many people believe that the problems they face in their region can be solved at the national level. So they will be running for a seat like the US Senate or to be a member of the federal congress or even a governor, when many of the issues that affect their community can be solved locally by those who sit on the city council. or as a delegate. Most policies that affect people locally are resolved at the city or county level. »

Sole Strategies is a women’s and minority-owned organization, created by a team of political experts specializing in strengthening local campaigns at the community level. Sole Strategies experts have helped candidates like India Walton access reliable campaign resources at reasonable rates.

Feeling the heartbeat of the local community, whatever position a candidate is looking for, is at the heart of the strategy that Sole Strategies brings to its clients.

“Some of the advice we give our clients is to avoid creating a platform on trendy national issues,” says Amani. “Instead, you need to take the pulse of the community and see where its pain points lie. When your platform can address these issues directly and provide solutions, you’re really going to get someone to vote for it.

Zee Cohen-Sanchez, founder of Sole Strategies, points to environmental concerns as an example of a political issue mistakenly viewed as a national issue.

“Nothing will solve climate change displacement better than local politics,” says Zee. “No one outside of New York cares about the Queens flood. Local politics can have a significant impact on issues like climate change that are generally considered national issues. People considering running for office need to be more realistic and really understand how government works before they come in. We can help them do that.

Being connected to the local political community, whatever seat you are looking for, is also something that Sole Strategies considers essential for a successful campaign.

“You can’t run for office if you don’t attend local meetings,” says Zee. “Even if you are running for a federal seat, you should attend local meetings because you need to network. You need to be in touch with your local city council members, state senators, and assembly members. You need their support if you want your campaign to succeed.

Amani points to Beto O’Rourke, who is currently running for governor of Texas, as an example of a politician who understands the power of focusing on local issues.

“If you go to the ‘Issues’ page on his website, it’s very Texas,” says Amani. “It deals with the power grid and the Big Freeze that happened last year in Texas, the border and immigration and how it can be solved, and the skyrocketing cost of living in Texas. He presents how he will attack these problems of Texas from his political ideology. That’s how you do it the right way. You don’t just throw general ideologies at your community, you show how your ideologies apply to community issues.

Politicians aren’t the only ones who need to understand the power of local politics. Voters also often underestimate the importance of local politics. In 2018, The New York Times reported that only 27% of eligible voters typically vote in municipal elections.

“It is extremely important that we pay attention to our elected officials at all levels, as many of these positions have unique responsibilities and abilities that people are unaware of,” says Amani. “When you let these elections go by and don’t pay attention to who’s in that seat, you’re going to start to see ramifications for these bigger elections.”

For voters who care about their communities, staying in tune with the local political community is essential. As Amani explains, “I know it’s a cliché to say, but voters need to get involved. Local communities have council meetings and education council meetings, and things happen at those meetings. Voters should ensure that those attending these meetings represent the community. It’s important that we take this time to attend to these things, even if it’s only once a month, because something might be good while you’re there.

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