How to run for office at any level of government

Think you want to run for office? Great!
Scroll down for resources to help you find your path as a candidate.

Basic first steps

  1. Decide what level of office you want to run for. There are MANY positions in municipal, county, state, federal, parties, schools and boards and commissions. Scroll down to find out what options are available to you and how to run for that office.
  2. Figure out who you are as a candidate. What issues do you care about and why? What is good messaging to suit you and your audience? Action Utah’s Advocacy Bootcamp is an ideal place to start.
  3. Get candidate training. Real Women Run, Emerging Leaders Initiative and Women’s Leadership Institute offer resources and trainings for candidates. Or search online for candidate resources and trainings.
  4. Beef up your knowledge about our political and elections systems. Still need more info? Check Action Utah’s Events to see what upcoming seminars or workshops might help you get a better understanding of how things work in Utah. Or visit our online Resources.
  5. Create the basic framework for your campaign. Who will be your biggest initial supporters? How will you announce? Will you need marketing materials and a website? Who will run your campaign? Are you willing to run more than once if you don’t win the first time around? These are just some of the big questions you might consider before announcing your run.
  6. File for candidacy. 

Get started at any level of government

To run for neighborhood community council:

Find your local NCC online or go to your NCC’s meeting to inquire about running for a seat.

How to run for municipal office – City mayor, council, city government officers and special service district reps:

Municipal Offices are nonpartisan elected in odd years. These positions are within your local level of government such as a city or town. These offices include Mayor, City Council, City Officer and Special Service District positions. Municipal Elections are run by your City Recorder’s Office.

POSITIONS

Mayor

The Mayor acts as chief executive and oversees their city’s main departments and is responsible for implementing legislation passed by the council.

City Manager

Some cities may have a City Manager instead or in addition to the City Mayor. Managers are generally appointed by the council or Mayor. Managers are administrative heads who, like Mayors, oversee the city departments, and implement legislation by the Council.

City Council

The City Council acts as the legislative branch of the city government. The council looks to the city’s goals, major projects and infrastructure improvements.

Special Service District Positions

Special service districts provide specific services that are not being provided by existing governments. Most perform a single function, but in some instances, legislation allows them to provide several, usually related, types of services. Positions may vary by municipality as new districts can be formed to suit the needs of the municipality.

  • Parks and Recreation Board of Trustees – The Parks & Rec Board coordinates recreation activities throughout their municipality.
  • Sewer Board of Trustees – The Sewer Board of Trustees is responsible for providing wastewater collection and treatment for homes and businesses within the boundaries of their municipality.
  • Water Board of Trustees – The Water Board of Trustees ensures that water facilities for their municipality meet Utah state standards to deliver safe, clean, reliable, drinking water
  • Fire Districts – Fire District Board members determine general fire protection and rescue programs for the municipality.

ELIGIBILITY

Mayor, Council, Manager

    1. Candidate must be a registered voter in the municipality.
    2. Be a resident of the municipality for 12 months immediately preceding the date of the election, and in the case of Council member, be a resident of the council district 12 months immediately preceding the date of election
    3. Have no other compensated employment with city Corporation
    4. Register a Personal Campaign Committee before receiving any political contributions or spending any money for campaign expenses
    5. File periodic Campaign Finance Statements

Special Service Districts

    1. A district board member may not be employed by the district either as an employee or under a contract. There is an exception to this requirement when:
      1. fewer than 3,000 people live within 40 miles of the primary place of employment, the job opening has had reasonable public notice, and the person employed is the best qualified candidate for the position.
      2. Or if the district treats a board member as an employee for income tax purposes and complies with the applicable compensation limits.
    2. A district board member must also be a registered voter and a resident within the boundaries of the district. There are two exceptions to the residency requirement:
      1. For districts with a large number of part time residents (seasonally occupied homes),
      2. For basic local districts with less than one residential dwelling per ten acres of land.

FILING DEADLINES

  • Early June: Declaration of Candidacy over a short 4 day period
  • Early September: Last day to qualify as a write-in
  • Mid-August: Primary Election
  • The Tuesday following the first Monday in November: General Election

For a more complete to-date list of dates and deadlines, which may vary each year, please check with your County Clerk or City Recorder’s Office.

ELECTION PROCEDURES

  1. Candidates must file for candidacy at their City Recorder’s Office. Your City Recorder’s information can be found easily on your city government’s website.
  2. Candidates must pay a Filing Fee, or submit a Filing Fee Waiver Petition.
  3. Register a Personal Campaign Committee before receiving any political contributions or spending any money for campaign expenses.
  4. File periodic Campaign Finance Statements.

RESOURCES

County Offices are partisan offices elected in even years. Positions include Mayor, Manager, Commissioner, Clerk, Council, District Attorney, Sheriff, Recorder, Auditor, Treasurer, and Surveyor. County Elections are run by your County Clerk’s Office.

POSITIONS

Mayor

The Mayor oversees their county’s main departments and is responsible for implementing legislation passed by the council. The Mayor is the County’s Chief Executive Officer.

Commissioner

Some counties may have a County Commission instead of a Mayor-Council, such as Beaver and Utah County. Commissions typically consist of 3 members, including a Commission Chair and sometimes a Vice-Chair. The Commissioners act as both the legislative and executive branches and function like the Council and the Mayor.

County Manager

A County Manager is the County’s Chief Executive Officer, or, in the case of Summit County, may also be the Chief Financial Officer. The County Manager, like a County Mayor, implements legislation passed by the Council. This position is typically appointed.

County Council

The County Council acts as the legislative branch of the county government. The council looks to the city’s goals, major projects, budgets, and infrastructure improvements.

Clerk

The County Clerk directs countywide elections, Marriage and Passport Divisions, and Council Clerk agendas. Sometimes the position of County Clerk, Recorder, and Auditor are held by one person. The County Auditor administers the financial functions of the County.

Assessor

The Assessor determines the value of properties for the purpose of taxation.

Recorder

The Recorder keeps the official records of the county, including mortgages, deeds, and other documents involving property.

District Attorney

The D.A. represents the county in all court cases and performs legal duties for the county.

Sheriff

The Sheriff’s Office protects and serves the community through law enforcement, corrections initiatives, and court services.

Surveyor

The County Surveyor provides surveying and mapping services.

Treasurer

The Treasurer bills and collects all property taxes, refunds tax overpayments, and distributes all taxes collected to local tax entities.

ELIGIBILITY

Qualifications may vary depending on your county and each specific position, basic requirements include, but are not limited to;

    1. Candidate must be a U.S. citizen at the time of filing.
    2. Be a registered voter of the municipality for at least 12 months immediately preceding the date of the election.
    3. Be a resident of the County for at least 12 months prior to the date of the election.
    4. Candidates for District Attorney must also be an attorney licensed to practice law in Utah who is an active member in good standing of the Utah State Bar.
    5. Candidates for Sheriff must also be Qualified to be certified as a law enforcement officer and a correctional officer.
    6. Candidates for Assessor must also be a state-licensed or state-certified appraiser

More information for Salt Lake County office eligibility, or visit your County Clerk.

FILING DEADLINES

  • Early March: Declaration of Candidacy period (one week only)
  • September: Last day to declare as a write-in candidate
  • Late June: Primary Election
  • The Tuesday following the first Monday in November: General Election

For a more complete list of dates and deadlines, which may vary each year, please check with your County Clerk’s website or office.

ELECTION PROCEDURES

  1. Candidates must file for candidacy at their County Clerk’s Office.
  2. Candidates must pay a Filing Fee, or submit a Filing Fee Waiver Petition.
  3. Register a Personal Campaign Committee before receiving any political contributions or spending any money for campaign expenses.
  4. File periodic Campaign Finance Statements.

RESOURCES

State Offices are partisan offices elected in even years. These positions are Governor and Lt. Governor, Attorney General, State Auditor, State Treasurer, State Senator, and State Representative.

EXECUTIVE BRANCH POSITIONS

These positions are created and defined by Article VII of the Utah Constitution.

Governor

The Governor signs or vetoes bills passed by the Legislature and can convene special sessions. The Governor also acts as the commander-in-chief of the state’s National Guard and military forces. The Governor is popularly elected every four years by plurality.

Lt. Governor

The Lt. Governor is the second-ranking officer of the executive branch and the first officer in line to succeed the Governor of Utah. Statutory duties include the oversight of state elections, all notaries public, the legal authentication of documents, maintaining oversight and regulation of registered lobbyists, certifying municipal annexations, and serving as the “keeper” of the Great Seal of the State of Utah. The lieutenant governor is popularly elected every four years by a plurality and is not subject to term limits.

State Attorney General

The mission of the office of the attorney general is to uphold the constitutions of the United States and of the state, enforce the law, provide counsel to state agencies and public officials, assist law enforcement, and protect the interests of the state, its people, environment, and resources. Attorney generals serve for four-year terms.

State Auditor

Provides Utah taxpayers and government officials with an independent assessment of the financial operation, statutory compliance, and performance management for state and local government. State auditors serve for four-year terms.

State Treasurer

As the custodian of public money and the “central bank for state agencies,” the state treasurer oversees the collection, safeguarding, investment, and disbursement of state funds. State treasurers serve for four-year terms.

LEGISLATIVE BRANCH POSITIONS

State Senator

Like representatives, State Senators represent their constituents by introducing, debating, and voting on legislation to create, modify, or update laws. Senators serve 4-year terms.

State Representative

State representatives introduce and vote on new bills to best represent the interests of their constituents. They create, modify, and update laws and serve on committees within the state’s legislative branch. Representatives serve 2 year terms.

ELIGIBILITY

  1. Be at least 25 years of age (State House & Senate, Attorney General, State Auditor and State Treasurer), or 30 years of age (Governor and Lt. Governor).
  2. Resident of Utah for 3 years; 6 months living in the Senate/House district prior to the last day of filing (State House & Senate), or resident of Utah for 5 years (Governor, Lt. Governor, Attorney General, State Auditor and State Treasurer).
  3. Be a U.S. citizen.
  4. Be a qualified voter of Senate/House District.

FILING DEADLINES

  • January-March: Declaration of intent to file as a petition candidate
  • March: Declaration of Candidacy period
  • Two Weeks Prior to Convention: Petition signatures due
  • March: County Conventions (by party – check your party website)
  • April-June: State Nominating Conventions (by party – check your party website)
  • June: Primary Election (Candidates who receive 60% or more of the votes from delegates in the nominating convention skip a Primary Election and move directly to the General Election)
  • 65 Days Before the General Election: Last day to declare as a write-in candidate.
  • The Tuesday following the first Monday in November: General Election

These dates are for the 2019 Election. For a more complete list of dates and deadlines, which may vary each year, please check the Lieutenant Governor’s website or office.

ELECTION PROCEDURES

Convention Path

  1. Candidates must file for candidacy with their County Clerk in their county of residence.
  2. Pay a filing fee or provide proof of inability to pay the filing fee due to financial hardship.
  3. Attend your party’s statewide convention (check your party website), State Conventions are typically late-April after County Conventions.
  4. Contact your party to determine any additional processes or paperwork.

Petition Path

  1. Declare intend to gather signatures before gathering any signatures. Declare between January-March with your County Clerk in your county of residence.
  2. You will be given your materials for your petition packets when you declare intent. You are responsible for printing/binding materials. Petition packets must be bound across the top in at least 3 places using either staples or spiral binding. Your packets must include cover, signature, and  verification sheet.
  3. Candidates for State Senate must gather 2,000 valid signatures and candidates for State House must gather 1,000 valid signatures.
  4. Valid signatures require all signers to be registered to vote in Utah, live in the district of the office you are seeking, they must not have signed a petition of another candidate running for the same office, and must be allowed to vote in your party’s primary election (Democratic candidates can collect signatures from registered voters of any party, while GOP candidates must only collect signatures from registered Republicans).
  5. Circulators gathering signatures must be at least 18 years of age and sign the verification sheet of each packet they use. Gatherers may be paid, volunteers, or you may use a company that offers signature collection services.
  6. All candidates must declare candidacy with their County Clerk in March. Declaring Candidacy is not the same as declaring intent to gather signatures.
  7. Pay a filing fee or provide proof of inability to pay the filing fee due to financial hardship.
  8. Submit signatures no later than 2 weeks prior to your party’s nominating convention.

RESOURCES

Federal Elections are partisan elections held every even year in Utah and are run by the Lt. Governor’s Office. Federal offices include President, U.S. Senator, and U.S. Representative.

POSITIONS

President

The President is the head of the United States government. The president directly oversees all agencies of the executive branch of government and is considered the commander-in-chief of the United States Army.

U.S. Senate

Two Senators from each state are elected to serve 6-year terms. Within the legislative branch of the government, a senator’s job is to represent the people living in his or her state and write and vote on new bills.

U.S. House of Representatives

Representatives serve two-year terms, representing the people of a specific congressional district. Representatives introduce bills and resolutions, offer amendments, and serve on committees in Congress. Utah currently has four congressional representatives.

ELIGIBILITY

    1. Candidate must be a citizen of the United States for 9 years (Senate), 7 years (House), or natural-born (President).
    2. Must be at least the age of 35 (President), 28 (House), or 30 (Senate).
    3. Must be a resident of the state in which elected (House and Senate), or resident of the U.S. for at least 14 years (President).

FILING DEADLINES – PRESIDENT

  • Spring of the year before an electionCandidates announce their intentions to run and file through the FEC.
  • Summer of the year before an election through spring of the election year: Presidential primary debates begin
  • January to June of an election year: States and Parties hold Primaries.
  • July to early September: Parties hold nominating conventions
  • August 15 of an election year: Independent candidates for presidency must file with the Lt. Governor
  • September and October: Presidential Debates
  • Early November: Election Day
  • December: Electoral College casts votes
  • January 20: Presidential Inauguration

FILING DEADLINES – CONGRESS

  • January-March: Declaration of intent to file as a petition candidate
  • March: Declaration of Candidacy period
  • Two Weeks Prior to Convention: Petition signatures due
  • March: County Conventions (by party – check your party website)
  • April-June: State Nominating Conventions (by party – check your party website)
  • June: Primary Election (Candidates who receive 60% or more of the vote from delegates in the nominating convention skip a Primary Election and move directly to the General Election)
  • 65 Days Before General Election: Last day to qualify as a write-in
  • The Tuesday following the first Monday in November: General Election

These dates are estimates. For specific dates and deadlines, which may vary each election, please check the Lieutenant Governor’s website or office.

PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION PROCEDURES

Filing and Reporting

  1. Federal law requires all presidential candidates to file a statement of candidacy to the FEC within 15 days of receiving contributions or making expenditures that exceed $5,000.
  2. Within 10 days of filing the candidacy statement, the committee must file a statement of organization with the FEC. In addition, federal law establishes contribution limits for presidential candidates.
  3. Presidential candidate committees are required to file regular campaign finance reports disclosing “all of their receipts and disbursements” either quarterly or monthly.

Party Nomination Process

  1. Political Parties determine their own guidelines in the Presidential nominating process, contact your party officials to find out the specifics for your party.
  2. State-recognized parties conduct state-wide caucuses or primaries to determine a preferred candidate.
  3. The formally nominated candidate of a party is determined at the National Nominating Convention where delegates vote to select one nominee.

Independent Candidate Process

  1. Independent candidates must submit a petition with 1,000 signatures to the Lt. Governor in order to get on the general election ballot.
  2. Independent candidates must also pay a $500 filing fee.
  3. Under Utah state law, an unsuccessful primary candidate cannot run for the same office as an independent candidate in the general election

Write-In Procedures

  1. A write-in candidate must file a declaration of candidacy with the Lieutenant Governor no later than 60 days before the general election.

CONGRESSIONAL ELECTION PROCEDURES

Convention Path

  1. Candidates must file for candidacy with the Lt. Governor’s office and also with the FEC.
  2. Pay a filing fee or provide proof of inability to pay the filing fee due to financial hardship.
  3. Attend your party’s statewide convention, where your party’s state delegates will vote on party candidates for the primary election (check your party website for dates). The top two candidates will face off in the primary election. If any candidate receives 60% or more of the delegate vote, that candidate will skip directly to a general election and no primary will be held for that seat.
  4. Contact your party to determine any additional processes or paperwork.

Petition Path

  1. Declare intent to gather signatures before gathering any signatures, between January-March, with the Lt. Governor’s office.
  2. You will be given your materials for your petition packets when you declare intent. You are responsible for printing/binding materials. Petition packets must be bound across the top in at least 3 places using either staples or spiral binding. Your packets must include cover, signature, and verification sheet.
  3. Candidates for U.S. Senate must gather 28,000 valid signatures and candidates for the U.S. House must gather 7,000 valid signatures.
  4. Valid signatures require all signers to be registered to vote, live in the district of the office you are seeking, and they must not have signed a petition of another candidate running for the same office.
  5. Circulators gathering signatures must be at least 18 years of age and sign the verification sheet of each packet they use. Gatherers may be paid, volunteers or you may use a company that offers signature collection services.
  6. All candidates must declare candidacy with the Lt. Governor in March. Declaring Candidacy is not the same as declaring intent to gather signatures.
  7. Pay a filing fee or provide proof of inability to pay the filing fee due to financial hardship.
  8. Submit signatures no later than 2 weeks prior to your party’s nominating convention.

RESOURCES

How to run for school community council:

Find your local SCC on your school district’s website or go to an SCC meeting to inquire about running for a seat.

How to run for local district school board:

Local School District Board positions are nonpartisan and are elected on even years. The Local Board is responsible for policies that promote educational quality within a school district.

LOCAL SCHOOL DISTRICT BOARD POSITIONS

Board Members

A School Board Member must, together with their State School Board representative, select their district’s superintendent, create and revise education goals, and annually adopt their school district’s budget.

Chair

The chair is chosen within the Board Members. They can call special meetings or cancel meetings, designate board members to committees, and conduct meetings, among other tasks.

Vice Chair

There can be between 2 and 3 Vice Chairs, also chosen among the existing Board Members.

LOCAL SCHOOL DISTRICT BOARD ELIGIBILITY

  1. Candidates must have lived in the education district they are elected to represent for at least one year before the day they are elected,
  2. Candidates must be registered voters in the education district they are elected to represent
  3. Candidates must be a U.S. Citizen [Utah Code 20A-9-201(1)(a)]
  4. Never have been convicted of a felony unless the individual’s right to hold office is restored in accordance with Utah Code 20A-2-101.5.
  5. Never have been convicted of a grievous sexual offense against a child, as defined in Utah Code 76-1-601(6).
  6. Members of the board must remain registered voters in the education district they are elected to represent for the entirety of their time in office
  7. Members of the board must maintain their primary residence in the election district they are elected to represent
  8. Members of the board may not also be employees of the board

LOCAL SCHOOL DISTRICT BOARD FILING DEADLINES

  • Mid-March: Declaration of Candidacy period
  • June: Primary Election
  • 65 Days Before the General Election: Last day to declare as a write-in candidate.
  • The Tuesday following the first Monday in November: General Election

These dates are estimates. For specific dates and deadlines, which may vary each year, please check the Lieutenant Governor’s website or office.

LOCAL SCHOOL DISTRICT BOARD ELECTION PROCEDURES

  1. Candidates must file for candidacy with their County Clerk in their county of residence.
  2. Pay a filing fee or provide proof of inability to pay the filing fee due to financial hardship.

Appointment

The remaining members of the board have the authority to appoint individuals to district school board when a seat is vacated early. The board advertises the opening, interviews applicants in a public meeting, and then makes the decision (per Utah Code 20A-1-511). Board members typically go through the election process, though some have been appointed.

LOCAL SCHOOL DISTRICT BOARD RESOURCES

How to run for the Utah State Board of Education:

State Board of Education positions are nonpartisan and are elected on even years. The State School Board consists of 15 members elected to 4 year terms. Members representing Districts 4, 7, 8, 10, 11, 12, 13, and 15 are elected in presidential election years, while members representing Districts 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 9, and 14 are elected in midterm election years. The State Board is responsible for policies that promote educational quality throughout the state and defining and developing the system’s long-range goals.

Utah State Board of Education POSITIONS

Board Members

A School Board Member must, together with their district school board members, select their district’s superintendent, create and revise education goals, and annually adopt their school district’s budget. State Board Members also jointly select the State school superintendent.

Chair

The chair is chosen within the Board Members. They can call special meetings or cancel meetings, designate board members to committees, and conduct meetings, among other tasks.

Vice Chair

There can be between 2 and 3 Vice Chairs, also chosen among the existing Board Members.

Utah State Board of Education ELIGIBILITY

  1. Members of the board must have lived in the education district they are elected to represent for at least one year before the day they are elected,
  2. Members of the board must be registered voters in the education district they are elected to represent
  3. Members of the board must remain registered voters in the education district they are elected to represent for the entirety of their time in office
  4. Members of the board must maintain their primary residence in the election district they are elected to represent
  5. Members of the board may not also be employees of the board
  6. Never convicted of a felony unless the individual’s right to hold office is restored in accordance with Utah Code 20A-2-101.5.
  7. Never convicted of a grievous sexual offense against a child, as defined in Utah Code 76-1-601(6).

Utah State Board of Education FILING DEADLINES

  • Mid-March: Declaration of Candidacy period
  • June: Primary Election
  • 65 Days Before the General Election: Last day to declare as a write-in candidate.
  • The Tuesday following the first Monday in November: General Election

These dates are estimates. For specific dates and deadlines, which may vary each year, please check the Lieutenant Governor’s website: elections.utah.gov.

Utah State Board of Education ELECTION PROCEDURES

  1. Candidates must file for candidacy with their County Clerk in their county of residence.
  2. Pay a filing fee or provide proof of inability to pay the filing fee due to financial hardship.

Appointment

Vacancies for local boards of education are filled by the remaining members of the board.  The opening is advertised, they interview applicants in a public meeting, and then make the decision.  Refer to Utah Code 20A-1-511.

Utah State Board of Education RESOURCES

There are over 300 Boards and Commissions for just about every subject, including Commerce, Law Enforcement, Natural Resources, etc. These entities are created by statute in Utah state law.

POSITIONS

Check the Utah Boards and Commissions website to find a complete list of boards, as well as any open positions and specific eligibility requirements.

ELIGIBILITY

There are many Boards that may have different requirements. However, a person wishing to become a board member should have experience in that particular subject, so that they can effectively provide advisory in that area (education, health care, housing, etc.). Check individual boards for requirements specific to that entity.

FILING DEADLINES

Board members are selected through an application process. Positions can open and be applied for at any time at the end of a current board member’s term or when a seat is prematurely vacated. Check current member’s term dates to see when positions will next open up.

PROCEDURES

  1. Find a Board that suits your abilities here.
  2. Review eligibility requirements specific to that Board.
  3. Find vacancies and open positions.
  4. Click, “Apply” and fill out the online application

You may also apply for Boards with no open positions, and your application will be reviewed when there is an available seat.

RESOURCES

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