USA: How to Choose a Candidate for Public Office 101

USA: How to Choose a Candidate for Public Office 101

“I know nothing about politics.”

“I just don’t have time to vote.”

“The person who I wanted to run didn’t make my party’s ticket, so I’m not voting.”

“They’re so-and-so’s friend, so I’ll vote for them.”

“My one vote won’t make a difference!”

These are quotes that I’ve heard too many times by intelligent women. Are you surprised to hear them, or perhaps you have heard them, too? Maybe, like me, you have even said one in the past. I understand.

Politics gave me a headache when I turned 18 and was first eligible to vote. I asked friends for advice on who they were voting for. I often felt like it seemed to be something that other people just knew more about. I had stances on issues, but wasn’t sure which candidates would vote for what I supported. I really didn’t know what to ask the candidates or how to engage. I felt insecure about the whole thing. That was way back then.

I had to look at it like this — if I was giving a job interview for a position, would I ever hire someone because someone told me to, or because they were nice or because they were my neighbor’s cousin? Or maybe because they had more signs around town? No, way! As a voter, my job is to help fill government positions.

It didn’t take long until I realized that politics wasn’t something I should be running from, but rather, running toward. Over the years I have gone to Capital Hill to lobby Congress; picked up the phone to call the offices of my Governor, Senators and Representatives; sent e-mails; and tweeted to let them know what issues I wanted them to vote on. Have I ever voted outside my party? Yes. Remember, it’s all about the job interview and who the best candidate is to support the issues that you care about most.

With election day around the corner in the U.S., I’ve started a list of general questions that can be tailored based on the issues that you support.

1) Why do you want this job?

Every candidate should have a quick “elevator speech” about why they are running. Hear them out.

2) Who is funding your campaign?

Knowing what organization or people a candidate is accepting campaign funds from is important. Look out for candidates who may choose to act based on their top donors’ best interests. And see if those interests are aligned with what you value.

How to Choose a Candidate 2015

3) How well do you work across party lines?

Asking a candidate to explain a time in which they helped achieve success when working across party lines will tell you a little about how comfortable they seem working with people who think differently from them. It’s important that they work to get things done for the best interest of the people, not just in the best interest of their party.

4) Where do you stand on the issues?

This is homework you, yes YOU, have to do. Figure out the top 5 issues most important to you. What do you want to see changed, supported or kept in place? Next, ask or find out where the candidates stand on those issues. Here are some of mine:

How do you stand on the national/local environment? Can you provide examples of when you sought change to keep our environment clean or protected?

How do you stand on issues concerning women and girls?

Can you provide some examples of when and how you championed equality efforts?

What plans do you have to help disadvantaged children?

What is your track record on supporting global health programs?

5) What charitable organizations have you volunteered for or donated to this calendar year?

I’d like to know this about a candidate. It helps me get to know where their interests and passions lie.

6) What sets you apart from the other candidates for this position?

This is an important question. Your candidate knows what makes them different, so hear them out. Ask for working examples of how they stand apart. But remember, when they tell you that their opposition stands or doesn’t stand for x, y and z, follow up, and fact check.

Help me add to the list! What would you ask?

And, tell us the issues that you value most when voting!

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Founder and CEO, Jennifer Burden. 

Related post: Have you read Mama B’s post about the first time women in Saudi Arabia will be voting in December 2015?

Jennifer Burden

Jennifer Burden is the Founder and CEO of World Moms Network, an award winning website on global motherhood, culture, human rights and social good. World Moms Network writes from over 30 countries, has over 70 contributors and was listed by Forbes as one of the “Best 100 Websites for Women”, named a “must read” by The New York Times, and was recommended by The Times of India. She was also invited to Uganda to view UNICEF’s family health programs with Shot@Life and was previously named a “Global Influencer Fellow” and “Social Media Fellow” by the UN Foundation. Jennifer was invited to the White House twice, including as a nominated "Changemaker" for the State of the World Women Summit. She also participated in the One Campaign’s first AYA Summit on the topic of women and girl empowerment and organized and spoke on an international panel at the World Bank in Washington, DC on the importance of a universal education for all girls. Her writing has been featured by Baby Center, Huffington Post,, the UN Foundation’s Shot@Life, and The Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists.” She is currently a candidate in Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs in the Executive Masters of Public Affairs program, where she hopes to further her study of global policies affecting women and girls. Jennifer can be found on Twitter @JenniferBurden.

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SOCIAL GOOD: Breathing into Relationships

SOCIAL GOOD: Breathing into Relationships

Breathe RockBreathing into Relationship:

The Dance Between Diversity and Unity 

The highest form of intimacy is love that does not annihilate difference. Evelyn Keller

I recently had dinner with some new friends from Nepal, a husband and wife and two younger children. My husband and I and our two children showed up to the apartment where chicken wings were frying, dal was bubbling in a silver pot and fried pakora was placed neatly on a plate.

As we sipped warm spicy chai tea, we talked in short sentences, learning to understand each other. I heard stories of loneliness and isolation in a new land, adventures to the mountains and the sand dunes of southern Colorado, and stories of the gods Sita and Ram from the Hindu tradition.We took pictures together and laughed and ran around the small apartment, playing hide and seek with a pink Nepali scarf tied around our heads.

Ajita, the Nepali woman, spent most of her time in the kitchen cooking, remaining very quiet and eating by herself in the living room. I felt discomfort arise at what seemed to be a cultural tradition, the woman preparing and serving the food but not participating in eating the meal.

When we sat down to eat, we were served with solid copper plates that are used only for “special guests.” We were asked if we wanted forks or if we wanted to eat with our hands and we all opted for the latter. Giri taught us how to eat properly with our hands as we tried to master this surprisingly difficult task.

He said to us, “I have tried to eat with a fork here, but I just do not feel nourished when I do.” After a delicious meal and nourishing fellowship, we left bowing saying namaste to one another. Giri said, “You are like family to us.”

On the way home, my family and I had a conversation about difference. My children shared how great it was to eat with their hands and asked if they could do that all of the time. We talked about the children’s names and how they were different from any names they had ever heard. We then talked about cultural differences that felt uncomfortable, like Ajita not eating with us or speaking very much. (more…)

World Moms Blog

World Moms Blog is an award winning website which writes from over 30 countries on the topics of motherhood, culture, human rights and social good. Over 70 international contributors share their stories from around the globe, bonded by the common thread of motherhood and wanting a better world for their children. World Moms Blog was listed by Forbes Woman as one of the "Best 100 Websites for Women 2012 & 2013" and also called a "must read" by the NY Times Motherlode in 2013. Our Senior Editor in India, Purnima Ramakrishnan, was awarded the BlogHer International Activist Award in 2013.

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INDONESIA: To Miniskirt or Not?

INDONESIA: To Miniskirt or Not?

Lately in my country of Indonesia there have been two ‘incidents’ where women were being pretty much criticized for the way they dressed.

Last year, much to everyone’s shock, our very own governor of Jakarta said women should not wear mini skirts to avoid being raped after a woman was raped in minivan in public. This outrageous comment led hundreds of women to take to the central streets of Jakarta – yes, wearing their miniskirts —  and they demonstrated against censorship of their clothing. I highly saluted these women for standing up for what’s right.

I love my miniskirts, and when I pair them with my wedges they accentuate my legs. Of course, I don’t go with the super miniskirts, ahem, but I do wear them once in awhile. Why do I wear them? Because it makes me feel good about myself, it shows off my legs, and I do love my legs. But do I wear it to attract the opposite sex? Never even crosses my mind, to be honest.

Then just a day ago I saw yet another article of a police officer reprimanding a young teenage girl because she was wearing shorts – the reason? To avoid “pornography.” (more…)


Founder of Single Moms Indonesia, community leader and builder. Deeply passionate about women empowerment.

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