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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:

NEW ZEALAND: Little Events, Big Moments

NEW ZEALAND: Little Events, Big Moments

With no definitive family religion, it’s been one of my conscious parenting decisions to create and maintain family rituals on which my kids can hang their memories.

One that began five years ago, when my youngest was just over a year old, was sleeping in the lounge (family room) for a night. It’s one of those times the kids love, and I enjoy because they get so much pleasure from it. It’s a little event, in the picture of raising them, but it’s become really important for our sense of togetherness.

Last night, we had our first sleep in the lounge in our new home. To tell the truth, I’d been avoiding it. I’ve been working three part-time jobs for the past few months and our clocks have just changed to Daylight Savings Time, here, in New Zealand. Being a solo parent has been fine, but it requires a lot of concentration, no zoning-out hoping that someone else will share the load: there is no-one else around.

I was exhausted and in need of the best night’s sleep I could get. But it’s also school holidays and if it hadn’t happened now, it was unlikely we’d have it before Christmas.

2015 WMB Quote Karyn Wills

The boys were great, they organised a queen sized mattress for the youngest and I, and pulled out piles of duvets and pillows. The excitement level was high, and there were no complaints about wifi turning off and devices going away. The fun began with pillow fights and giggles, wrestling, cold feet being placed on the warm backs and stomachs of others and, eventually, somehow, naked boys and intense belly-laughs.

It was fun. Great fun. And I could feel the sense of comradeship increase over that half hour or so. Then I turned out the lights and called a halt to the shenanigans.

We began to chat in the dark. I told them anything said would be held in confidence and was not to leave the room. I asked the first question: “What scares you and what excites you?” My eldest followed up with, “What’s a thorn from this week and a rose from this week?” These were great starters, all three responded openly and age-appropriately. As did I. Then the magic happened.

I asked my boys if there was anything I needed to know.

Their responses to that were phenomenal: open, vulnerable, honest and real. Their authenticity blew me away and long after they were all sleeping, I lay awake considering what they had shared. It truly was one of those big moments in life.

And when three alarms went off at 6.30am I found I had slept the best I had all week. Go figure.

Do you have family rituals? Have you had small events that have turned out to be big moments in your parenting?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Karyn Wills of Napier, New Zealand. 

Image credit to World Moms Blog. 


Karyn Wills

Karyn is a teacher, writer and solo mother to three sons. She lives in the sunny wine region of Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand in the city of Napier.

More Posts

NETHERLANDS: 5 Children’s Requests I Usually Give In To

NETHERLANDS: 5 Children’s Requests I Usually Give In To

406623767_850e9146c3_zSometimes I think I’m too permissive. Sometimes I think I’m too strict. Most of the time, however, I think I’m just right. I try not to say “no” without having a good solid reason for it, although I am not afraid to use it when I feel something isn’t safe. Sometimes, when I’m cranky and tired, you will hear more “no” coming out of my mouth than I would like to admit. But there are many things that will most likely elicit a big, happy resounding “yes” from me.

1) Hugs and kisses

I must confess that I always fall for these. I love it when my big girl puts her arms around me, the way my little girl’s body feels soft and warm in my arms, the soft smell of my baby’s head when I hug him. Yes, yes, yes, to all of them. Bring on the hugs and the smooches! Sometimes I don’t want to be touched and that’s OK, but when I’m in the mood, kisses are the best!

2) Singing songs together

I love singing, and my children seem to enjoy it, too. When we’re outside, running errands or walking to the playground and they ask me to sing “Let It Go”, I do what I’m told even though I can’t reach these higher notes. Singing gives us a lot of pleasure and besides, with some more practice (and since children love repetition, I get a lot of that), I’ll be able to sing it Idina Menzel-style in no time. Just watch me!

3) Reading books

To call me a bookworm is an understatement. I have a very serious reading addiction, and if you ask me, it’s the best of all addictions to have. Our house is full of books. We have recently given away some toys, but the books are not going anywhere. And if my children ask me to read to them I’ll drop anything I’m doing in order to do just that. I am also teaching my 5-year old to read and write so that she can also read independently. But I want to give them my love of reading and hope they will find joy and solace in books.

4) Independent play

I must admit that I don’t entirely enjoy playing with my children. I am just not that good at playing. So I will do anything to get out of playing with my kids. But I do love reading my book, and catching glimpses of them playing together. Seriously, the less I intervene here, the better they play. And if, once in a while, I make a suggestion that we all play together and they say, “No, we want to play by ourselves”, who am I to argue? It’s back to my book, then. Thanks, kids!

5) Answering their questions

The number of questions a child asks is endless. “What is this?” “What is that?” “Why did that happen?” “How do you know that?” It may seem annoying to some, but I actually enjoy answering my children’s questions. Some of them are simple or funny: “Why can’t I have ten legs?”. Others are more educational: “Where did the dinosaurs live?”. Yet others are hard: “What happens to us when we die?”. But I believe it is extremely important to answer these questions in an honest, but age-appropriate manner because they serve many functions, such as learning and managing difficult situations. Not to mention the fact that it teaches them that asking questions is always a good thing! So, children, ask away. You won’t hear, “Because that’s how it is” from me! The only exception I make is when they actually know the answer to the question.

It’s OK if I don’t respond to every need and every request. The children need to learn that their parents are individual human beings whose primary purpose isn’t necessarily connected to them. And there is a lot I simply refuse to do (like help them put on their clothes when I know perfectly well that they can do that themselves).

But there are things that I will always do for my kids, or at least as often as possible. I don’t think it’s a good idea to do things I don’t like doing for the sake of the kids. I also think there are some things I absolutely despise doing but the kids need them so it has to be done. The important thing I guess, is to find the happy middle ground.

What are some of the things you never say “no” to?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Olga Mecking of The Netherlands. Photo credit: Jesslee Cuizon. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.

Olga Mecking

Olga is a Polish woman living in the Netherlands with her German husband. She is a multilingual expat mom to three trilingual children (even though, theoretically, only one is trilingual since she's old enough to speak). She loves being an expat, exploring new cultures, learning languages, cooking and raising her children. Occasionally, Olga gives trainings in intercultural communication and works as a translator. Otherwise, you can find her sharing her experiences on her blog, The European Mama. Also take a while to visit her Facebook page .

More Posts - Website

Follow Me: