What advice would you have for women in law enforcement who are considering a run for office?
Law enforcement and politics are very different. There’s nothing political about being a law enforcement officer, so you have to switch hats when you are running for office. It is important to find a balance so that you don’t bring politics into the workplace, and you don’t betray your values on the campaign trail.
Some advice that I have to offer is the following:
#1. Put family first! Sit down with your family and get their input and support. This will go a long way to help you, especially in tough times.
#2. Find a trusted advisor! Meet with people that have run for office and managed campaigns. Their knowledge, skills and abilities will help guide you. Learn as much as you can about what qualifications you need to run an effective campaign and also to assume the responsibilities of the office.
#3. Prepare, prepare, prepare! Your background and personal experiences are key to connecting with voters. Be sure you have a purpose, strategy and plan. You have to demonstrate why YOU are the BEST choice and why people should vote for you.
#4. Run a clean and dignified campaign! People are tired of nasty campaigns. If you decide to go negative, remember that there is a cost associated with this behavior, especially for a woman. A well-respected advisor told me, “Don’t let them see you bleed in the water.”
#5. Engage with the community! Go to as many community events as you can manage, and then listen and learn. It is extremely important that you establish personal connections though schools, professional and civic associations, volunteer groups and charities.
#6. Sell yourself! Never, ever, ever let anyone tell you that you cannot be who you want to be or that you cannot do something you want to do. Stand up for yourself! Tell the world what you have accomplished.
#7 Run like you are losing! Do not think for one second that you will ever be on an equal playing field with men, even if you are. You have to work twice as hard as a man. In the mind of many voters, the likeability factor is as important in a woman candidate as her qualifications.
#9. Get used to fundraising! As a law enforcement officer, asking for money does not feel natural unless you are doing so for a cause, such as Life with Cancer or the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics. Since you have decided to run for office, you will have to ask a lot of people for money unless you can self-fund your campaign. Adapt and overcome because it costs a lot of money to run for office, especially county or statewide.
#9. Be strong and tough! Being an elected official is not as glamorous as people think it is. It takes hard work, commitment, sacrifices and tough skin. Your feelings will get hurt. People will judge you and say unkind and hurtful things. You will have horrible days! Shed a tear in private and vent to someone you trust. Always remember that social media is a constant presence. It can be your best friend and your worst enemy.
#10. Be yourself! Hold you head up high even when you make mistakes… and you will make mistakes. It’s okay to not take yourself too seriously once in a while. Inject humor into your campaign because it can help ease your own stress, and people don’t expect it. At the end of the day, exercise self-care. Take a break. As my mother said on many occasions, “This too shall pass.”
In 2013, Stacey Ann Kincaid was sworn in as the first woman to lead the Fairfax County Sheriff’s Office in its 271-year history. The sheriff serves Fairfax County, the City of Fairfax and the Towns of Herndon and Vienna.