How to be a political candidate in Wise County
By D. A. Sharpe, 2018
Many citizens don’t know exactly how to become a political candidate in Wise County. This article is intended to help citizens decide if they should make that commitment for public service. The article is written from a bi-partisan perspective, so it’s of use for candidates either in the Republican Party or the Democratic Party.
The primary elections in Texas for the Democratic and the Republican parties of Texas are the second Tuesday in the even numbered years. On the horizon, the next dates are March 9, 2020, March 14, 2022 & March 11, 2024. Yet preparing to run often begins more than a year earlier. You may have already seen several public announcements from incumbents and intended challengers.
Any qualified citizen (registered voter residing in Wise County) who aspires to an elected office probably should begin planning at least a year in advance of the Primary date in which you want to run. This article can serve as a road map for becoming a candidate.
Of course, the Primary Elections merely are elections in which each political party determines who will represent each party as its single candidate in the General Elections, which are held in those same years on the first Tuesday that follows the first Monday of November.
First, you should be interested in the compensation paid for the office for which you want to run. Realize that elective service is partially a contribution, income-wise, as most office holders are qualified to earn more income in the private sector. Determine if you have enough financial resources or other income to supplement the Wise County compensation to support your living and that of whatever family you may have.
The longevity increase begins after five years of service and increases $100/year thereafter.
The first official act to register as a candidate is to file a Campaign Treasurer Declaration with Wise County Elections Administrator, Ms. Sabra Srader, Office at 940-626-4453,
Texas Election Law requires a form that declares your candidacy and names a person who will be your campaign treasurer. You absolutely may not receive or expend any campaign funds before filing this document, naming a treasurer. The form, “Appointment of a Campaign Treasurer by a Candidate,” is available from the Texas Ethics Commission at P.O. Box 12070, Austin, TX 78711-2070 or on the Web at:
The Wise County Elections Office (200 South Trinity Street, P. O. Box 1597, Decatur, TX 76234-0200) also has the forms.
By filing this form early, a candidate does not name the position for which he or she is running, nor is the Party identified yet.
There are no requirements in the Election Code to be a candidate’s treasurer. In fact, a candidate can be his or her own treasurer, although, typically, it is someone else. Incidentally, spouses are permitted to serve in this role. Even though treasurers do the periodic financial filings with the Elections Administrator, it is the candidate ultimately who is responsible that the filings be done on a timely basis. It is the candidate who is penalized (pays the fines) in the event of late filings or errors.
The campaign treasurer filing usually occurs close to the same time that you provide a public news release to the media that you are a candidate. The news release is written by the local party or may be issued directly by the candidate. If the release is issued by the local political party, the County Chairman will notify the state party headquarters as well at a prescribed time. If the candidate issues the news release, the Party Chairman should take notice and notify the state party headquarters.
The Texas Ethics Commission has a form entitled “Code of Fair Campaign Practices,” which is an optional form to file with the Wise Election Administrator at any time.
It basically pledges that the candidate will run a clean campaign and will deal directly only with the issues. There are no teeth in the law to warrant against any perceived abuses of that promise. It’s just a public relations asset that you have stated the value in a clean campaign. Here’s an article written for the 2018 Party Primary season:
The next official act is to file the form “Application for a Place on the (Democratic or Republican) Party General Primary Ballot” with the County Party Chairman. It is available from the Texas Secretary of State’s Office from the Web site, http://www.sos.state.tx.us.
There’s a narrow range of dates for filing that form. Typically, those dates are early December till early January. The website above will indicate for whatever is the current Primary Election term.
When you file this form, and pay the fee to the Party Chairman, you also should submit copies of your voter registration card (make sure it’s signed) and your driver’s license, to confirm your residency and registered voter status. You should submit a copy of your Treasurer’s appointment form. The check for the fee should be drawn from your campaign checking account, payable to the Wise County (Democratic or Republican) Party. It should not be paid with a personal check. It may be paid in Cash.
You may not have received enough political donations yet to pay your filing fee. You may contribute any amount yourself to your campaign checking account, or make it a loan from you to your campaign checking account, which may be repaid to you as contributions come. To be realistic, most local political campaigns at the county level are paid primarily by the candidate.
The fees paid are to underwrite the cost of the Primary Election expenses, which are paying for poll workers, county elections offices’ expenses, etc.
Party County Chairmen are supposed to be available at the courthouse up to the 6:00 PM deadline on the January deadline, the last day for filing, or have a notice posted on the official Wise County Courthouse bulletin board to indicate where he or she is available in the County. That board is on the first floor on the east side of the Wise County Courthouse. Usually, the Party chairman is contacted at his or her home or office, and the candidate calls for an appointment to insure the chairman is home or in the office.
What are the requirements to be a candidate? All Wise County offices require that the candidate be at least 18 years old, be a United States citizen, have been a Texas resident at least a year before the date of the November general election of your race, and a resident of the county or the district precinct the office serves for at least six months from the date of the general election. County court-at-law and district judges, county attorneys and district attorneys must be licensed attorneys. Justices of the peace and the county judge do not need to be licensed attorneys.
Here are the requirements for being a Precinct Constable:
Local Government Code 86.0021 (Qualifications)
Š (a) A person is not eligible to serve as constable unless:
Š (1) the person is eligible to be licensed under Sections 1701.309 and 1701.312, Occupations Code, and:
Š (A) has at least an Associate's Degree conferred by an institution of higher education accredited by an accrediting organization recognized by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board;
Š (B) is a special investigator under Article 2.122(a), Code of Criminal Procedure; or
Š (C) is an honorably retired peace officer or honorably retired federal criminal investigator who holds a certificate of proficiency issued under Section 1701.357, Occupations Code; or
Š (2) the person is an active or inactive licensed peace officer under Chapter 1701, Occupations Code.
What are the terms of office? All local offices are four-year terms. The winners in the 2018 November General Election will take the oath of office Jan. 1, 2019. They will serve through Dec. 31, 2022, and may file for re-election in 2022. There are no term limits by Texas state law.
Why are elections in March and again in November? The Political Parties conduct the March primary elections. By state law, the Party Primary Elections are held the same day, which is the first Tuesday in March of the even numbered years. It is the way for parties to determine which candidates will represent the party on the November General Election ballot. The party primary election is the first place where incumbents may be challenged. In November, you always have only one choice from each political party for each office. That election is conducted by Wise County, under the management of the Elections Administrator. Any number of Independent Candidates may be on the ballot, but often they have no presence on the ballot. The General Election held in November is on the first Tuesday following the first Monday in November.
How does a candidate run a campaign? There are lots of resources to help candidates. Both the Republican and the Democratic parties offer candidate and campaign schools. Each candidate should create a campaign committee of friends and supporters. You would want people who will bring together particular segments of the voters. Candidates need to seek every opportunity to appear and speak to organizations in the County. Here are the state party websites for the Democratic and the Republican Parties of Texas to find theses recourses:
Your campaign committee should have people on it whose positive reputations in the community are assets for your efforts. However there also needs to be people who will help perform physical labor – stuffing and mailing campaign literature, phoning voters to allow political signs to be posted in their yards, and then posting those signs.
All political signs are supposed to be taken down within a few days after the election, another task for the candidate and supporters. You should ask each person who gets a sign posted to be responsible to remove it after the election on a timely basis. You will also need people who can help you ask for financial political gifts. You will need help and be a strong presence in conducting fund-raising events.
You need to have someone of writing prowess who can edit your material before it goes public. You need someone who knows grammar and the differences about splitting infinitives and ending sentences with prepositions. Don’t say, “On these issues, here’s where I’m at.” Say, “On these issues, here is where I am.” Or “where I stand.” Here’s a document to help, “Speaking & Writing with Effectiveness:”
The electronic age in which we live is important in how you communicate digitally. The following ideas are my recommendations, but are not requirements.
You should purchase your own internet domain name. Some thought should be given to the name chosen so that it can be used in the future, especially after you’ve won office. Don’s say “Jones4Judge.” That’s just good for while you’re running. Use your own name. My web site is www.dasharpe.com. That form can be used anytime for multiple purposes in the future. Chose a provider to give good graphic web design and service to represent your web presence on the internet. It’s worth the investment. If you chose a “free” internet presence, such as on Facebook, this presents a cheap approach to expenses. Also, not everyone on the internet has chosen to have access to Facebook.
Create E-mail addresses using your domain name. Avoid using personal E-mails, such as google.com, yahoo.com, gmail.com. They signal to the public that you are cheap in choosing the free addresses. Also, these services sometimes do things you don’t want. For example, in the striving to divert spam, some services will not deliver messages you send that are blank in the subject line. You will not be aware that your message(s) did not get delivered.
How much money will you need? A countywide race typically costs between $7,000 and $20,000. A precinct level race may take $2,000 to $5,000. There are strict reporting requirements that your treasurer must file periodically with the Texas Election Commission and the Wise County Elections Administrator. That is public information. So, the people who contribute to your campaign may see their name in the newspaper as a contributor. You need to make sure your donors understand that political gifts are not tax deductible from their income tax filings.
The filing fees that you pay to your local political party primary fund are listed on the Texas Secretary of State’s Web site.
Filing fees are used to help pay the expenses of conducting the primary election in the 25 voting precinct locations in Wise County. Most of the funds go to pay the election judges and election clerks.
You can file without paying a fee by filing a petition. You must secure a “Petition In Lieu Of A Filing Fee” from the Secretary of State’s office or Web site. The petition requires a specific number of signatures of registered voters to endorse your candidacy. It must be the lesser of 500 signatures or 2% of the number of votes for that party’s gubernatorial candidate in its last race for that precinct or district. There are strict requirements for those who sign the petition – the voter registration number must be included, and you should collect substantially more signatures than you think you need. Usually, after the petitions are turned in, a number are disqualified for one reason or another. Also, these petition signers may not sign for any other candidate in that race, nor may they vote in the other party primary election. There are many negatives associated with trying to get filed without paying money. However, the efforts are many and very time consuming. In my opinion, it’s hardly ever worth it. Pay the filing fee. It helps pay for the election in which you hope the people will like you.
What role does the party county chairman play? The law requires only that the Chairman receive the fees and filing applications. In addition to receiving the filing forms and fees for candidacy, the Chairman should to be a source of information and help for the candidates – help in knowing how to organize and how to learn what is needed to conduct a campaign.
The chairman should be available as a mentor and encourager. That is why usually you do not see Party County Chairmen endorsing one candidate over another in the primary election. However, the law does not restrain the Party County Chairman from primary election endorsing. It’s just not wise to do so. If it is done, it should reflect only very unusual circumstances. The Party Chairman also is responsible to manage the budget and finances of the primary election. They are cited on the Wise County Election Administrator’s web page:
You are now equipped to become a candidate for local political office. Give it your serious consideration.
Dwight Albert (D. A.) Sharpe
805 Derting Road East
Aurora, TX 76078-3712
Web Site: http://www.dasharpe.com/