Tacoma City Councilmember Olgy Diaz Shares Strategies for Running for Office

Tacoma Councilwoman Olgy Diaz shared proven strategies for winning campaigns in a podcast interview, covering motivations for running, budgeting, fundraising, authentic messaging, and policy priorities post-election

Tacoma City Councilmember Olgy Diaz Shares Strategies for Running for Office

In a recent interview on the "Hacks & Wonks" podcast, Tacoma City Councilmember Olgy Diaz provided an insider's guide on how to prepare and run for elected office. Drawing from over a decade of experience in political campaigns and advocacy, Diaz offered detailed advice for prospective candidates.

Diaz stressed knowing your "why" for running as a motivating force. "Think about what problems you're trying to solve or what communities you're trying to represent," she said. Align your passion with the appropriate position, whether school board, city council, or state legislature.

Assembling the right team is critical, according to Diaz. This includes identifying trusted people to handle key roles like communications, field operations, fundraising, and campaign compliance. Diaz advised being intentional about building a team that reflects the diversity you want to see. 

Once committed, assemble a "kitchen cabinet" of trusted family, friends, and community leaders to comprise your core team, Diaz advised. "You need to figure out who's going to help with what, and be really comfortable asking for help."

Budgeting is crucial, and Diaz recommended using unionized vendors and allocating at least two-thirds of funds for direct voter communication like mailings and advertising. "Yard signs don't actually vote," she quipped.

On fundraising, Diaz's top tip was simple: "You don't get any money that you don't ask for, so ask everybody unabashedly." This includes calling personal contacts like friends, current and former colleagues, as well as adversaries of your opponent.

Authenticity in messaging is paramount. "Be authentically who you are all of the time and be willing to own where you might disagree with people because I think that matters as much in governing as it does always agreeing with people. People respect you more.”

But running for office is just the first step – Diaz also offered advice for translating campaign advocacy into tangible policy actions through ordinances and legislation. She recommended focusing first on achievable goals to start delivering wins while getting accustomed to the new role. Throughout, Diaz emphasized building bridges and bringing more people from underrepresented communities into the process as future leaders.

Diaz also emphasized building a diverse campaign team that creates opportunities for mentorship. "The more of us there are … the better our policies can become."

About the Guest

Olgy Diaz

Born and raised in Pierce County, At-Large Council Member Olgy Diaz grew up in a military and union household that valued hard work, humor, and family above all else. Her parents immigrated to the United States from Guatemala in the 1970s and worked multiple jobs to help realize the American dream for themselves and their three children. With their hard work and sacrifices, she became the first in the family to attend and graduate from college with dual bachelor’s degrees in Latin American Studies and Women’s Studies from the University of Washington.

Throughout her career, she has worked to foster a more reflective democracy and expand access to power through work with local non-profits like OneAmerica and Planned Parenthood, the Washington State Legislature, and candidate campaigns across Pierce County. Over the last 13 years, she has talked to voters in English and Spanish all over Washington and even a few in Iowa in 2012. Her passion for social justice stems from her devastatingly common experience of often being the only person of color in rooms where decisions impacting our communities are decided.

Council Member Diaz is a longtime government affairs and political campaign professional. She spends most of her spare time building up future civic leaders through key leadership roles. She is also passionate about conservation, tribal sovereignty, and wildlife, and serves as the vice chair of the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition. She served as a gubernatorial appointee to the state's Pharmacy Quality Assurance Commission from 2015-2021 and knows more than the average non-pharmacist about pharmacy Washington Administrative Codes (WACs) and licensing. She served on the City of Tacoma’s Human Rights Commission from 2011-2016, ran for office back before it was hip for young women of color to do so in 2013, can tell you what legislative or congressional district you’re in at any moment on a road trip, and worked in the Washington State House of Representatives and Senate for five years, in addition to a two-month stint as a Congressional Intern in 2007.

Council Member Diaz lives in South Tacoma with Pepita, her Chiweenie. They are surrounded by her vast collection of houseplants.

Find Councilmember Olgy Diaz on Twitter/X at @Olgy.

Podcast Transcript

[00:00:00] Crystal Fincher: Welcome to Hacks & Wonks. I'm Crystal Fincher, and I'm a political consultant and your host. On this show, we talk with policy wonks and political hacks to gather insight into local politics and policy in Washington state through the lens of those doing the work with behind-the-scenes perspectives on what's happening, why it's happening, and what you can do about it. Be sure to subscribe to the podcast to get the full versions of our Friday week-in-review show and our Tuesday topical show delivered to your podcast feed. If you like us, the most helpful thing you can do is leave a review wherever you listen to Hacks & Wonks. Full transcripts and resources referenced in the show are always available at officialhacksandwonks.com and in our episode notes.

The Washington legislative session for this year just ended and we've received news about several legislators who are not running for re-election. This opens up opportunities for new candidates to run this year to represent their communities in the legislature, in addition to hundreds of local elected positions across every community in our state. So we thought this was a great time to talk with Tacoma City Councilmember Olgy Diaz about how to run for office. Olgy was born and raised in Pierce County to parents who immigrated from Guatemala. Throughout her career, she has worked to foster a more reflective democracy and expand access to power through work with local nonprofits like One America and Planned Parenthood, in the Washington State Legislature, and in candidate campaigns across Pierce County. Over the last 13 years, she has talked to voters in English and Spanish all over Washington. Olgy is passionate about conservation, tribal sovereignty, and wildlife, and serves as the vice chair of the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition. She served on the City of Tacoma's Human Rights Commission, worked in the Washington State House of Representatives and Senate for five years, and is the Immediate Past President of the National Women's Political Caucus of Washington. She spends most of her spare time building up future civic leaders through key leadership roles and has trained hundreds of political candidates across our state. We both serve on the board of the Washington Institute for a Democratic Future, an organization that does just that. Olgy has been effective in advocacy, productive in governing, and successful at winning elections, which is why I'm so thrilled to welcome her to this show about how to prepare for a successful run for office. Welcome back to the show, Councilmember Olgy Diaz.

[00:02:38] Councilmember Olgy Diaz: Hi, Crystal. How's it going? 

[00:02:40] Crystal Fincher: It is going well because I'm talking with you this morning - thought this would be a good opportunity to talk about how to prepare to run for office, what the most important things are to consider - because a lot of people don't have any exposure to this - the things that are visible about campaigns aren't necessarily the most important things. Lot of times when people think about running, they think about yard signs and parades and delivering speeches, or they have this picture of the West Wing in their head, or Parks and Recs, or Veep or whatever it may be. But a lot of times it's just not reflective of what running a campaign, particularly a state or local campaign, a local government or legislative campaign looks like. So just starting out, Olgy, what do people need to do to prepare to run for office? 

[00:03:33] Councilmember Olgy Diaz: I think the biggest things that folks can do to prepare are really sort of reflect - think inward - and think about what problems you're trying to solve, or what communities you're trying to represent, and where that is needed. So the thing that's going to get you through the hard days - the days where you feel betrayed or left behind or just generally out of energy on a campaign - your why is what's going to get you through. And so you've got to really think about - if I am deeply passionate about making sure that kids have access to classrooms that don't have moldy walls or leaky ceilings, and that they've got a curriculum that makes sense, and that they've got maybe some access to after-school services, that's probably someone who's deeply passionate about running for school board, not Congress. So making sure that your interests align with what you're wanting to govern over - I think is the deepest and hardest part of getting ready to run for office - because a lot of people will gravitate towards some of those offices that look shiny or feel like they are name in lights, really sexy. But really, if you're deeply passionate about climate change, you might be the best fire commissioner and not the best state legislator. And that's not to push people out of some of the bigger races, but it's also helpful to start at the ground level and work your way up - makes it much easier to have been elected to something else before you go and run for governor. It really is a nine, ten month, however month long you're running for office job interview. And actually in any good job interview you're doing, you're going to want to see what this job actually does - read the job description, read the budget, read the minutes, read the notes of what the people who are doing this job already do - so you can prepare yourself for that work. A lot of offices, I would say more offices than not, in Washington state don't have staff. So you're going to be the expert in your thing - so be prepared to be savvy, be researching. And get ready - so think about, if I've never served on a board, even my little PTA board or my nonprofit board - go sign up. I don't know of a single government who doesn't have a board or commission that they're looking for volunteers who are passionate about work. And that's where you can meet people in the community, it's where you can build a network, it's where you can learn about different topics. Sure, a lot of these positions are unpaid, so you've got to find the volunteer time to do it. But running for office is also unpaid, unfortunately. So at some point, you do have to be wanting to serve the public - so I think it's really helpful to try to start serving on boards or commissions at any level of government to try to just get that - How do we work together? Understanding - How does this governing body work? How do you organize? It can be one of those early tools of learning how you put your teams together and how you build coalitions. 

[00:06:30] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, I think you raise a number of important points. I really do want to underscore you talking about - just know why you want to run, what is motivating you. It's always a bit dismaying to have someone come and be like, Yeah, I really want to run. I really want to be on the city council. Then you asked, Okay, so what do you want to do? What do you want to accomplish? What do you want to do to help the community? And they haven't thought that far yet. All they have thought about is that they want to be elected. That is a red flag for me. It's a red flag for a lot of people. Know how you want to help. And like you said, it should be something you're passionate about. And then you have to align that with different positions. There are so many jurisdictions and positions up for election - city councils, school boards, parks districts, port commission, state legislature, county council, all of these different things - and they're very different positions at different levels of government. So are you interested in public and community safety and want to do that? That's probably going to happen more at the local level. Are you interested in intervening with climate change? That may be something you can impact a lot at the port. Or like you said, it doesn't have to be statewide lands commissioner - could also be fire commissioners, different things like that. Know if the role is a legislative position or an executive position - those are two very different types of roles. Are you going to be making decisions together with a team? Are you the one who the buck stops with and you're doing that yourself? Those are all things to consider and you have to think about - do your interests and skills align with that particular position? 

So for someone who has thought about - Okay, I am really fired up about this specific set of issues, I have identified what positions seem like they match best for me. I think I do want to run. I think I do want to do this. What's the next step that they should take? 

[00:08:32] Councilmember Olgy Diaz: They should absolutely get sign-off from family and friends - whoever that chosen family is, whoever that internal family is - because it's going to take everyone. And sometimes, especially in smaller races, you don't have the ability to get a high-paid consultant. And so your mom might also end up being your speechwriter. I think oftentimes folks do the best when they have someone who is closer to a normal voter as opposed to a political junkie actually listen to their speeches, listen to their answers, really listen to whether or not you're giving jargon or whether or not you're giving something that really resonates with the average person. And so your kitchen cabinet of folks that you assemble is going to be some mix of family and friends, plus people in the community - prominent folks and leaders and activists - I think those are some of the best assets that you can have, especially in these smaller races where you're not going to have a bunch of paid staff. Because somebody might have a friend of a friend who knows how to do graphic design and they can do all your Canva stuff for you. You're starting something very grassroots, very deep and passionate, and you need to figure out who your people are so that you have them with you in the trenches. And sometimes if you're busy, like a lot of us are working and running for office, you need to figure out who's just going to do the laundry - just the little things that make sure that you're able to keep going through the campaign cycle really, really matters. And so start assembling that list of who's going to help with what, and be really comfortable and ready to ask for help. I think that's one of the things that I have seen really knock down candidates - is an unwillingness to either ask for help, ask for what they need, or say no. And any mix of those things can really tank your campaign, so you got to be really secure in what you need, where you're trying to go, and how you're going to get there. 

[00:10:18] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely - think you're 100% correct - you do need to sign off and negotiate how all of the people in your life are going to function during the time that you're running. And also with work - really important - for most of the people who are probably going to be listening to this who would be considering running - probably are working. And running for office is a significant time commitment - much more of a time commitment as things get closer to the election. But it's something that you do want to talk with your job about, talk with who you're reporting to about - make sure that they understand that you may need some flexibility, or figure that out as time goes on. It is really tough for someone to run while working an inflexible job. Unfortunately, there are things that both happen during the day, that happen during the evening - lots of demands on your time and resources at different times. And so understand what the road looks like - certainly something you're going to have to negotiate with and contend with and plan for.

I want to talk about putting together the actual campaign team, which is one of the first things that someone, once they do make a decision to run, is going to do. What should their considerations be as they look to put together a team? 

[00:11:40] Councilmember Olgy Diaz: Yeah, so as I mentioned, there are a lot of races - say you're running for city council in a small city or you're running for port commissioner - there might not be enough resources either in terms of your own fundraising capacity to bring in a high paid consultant. Or there might not be, frankly, consultants - there's not enough consultants for how many candidates we have in this state. One of the places where we're running really low actually is fundraisers. And so you got to think about what the major roles are in a campaign. And those are - traditionally - someone to help you, organize you, or keep you on task with fundraising. Someone to help you make sure that you can reach voters in a way that will actually reach them - and so that is either a communications professional or a general consultant who will do different kinds of mailings, or text messaging, or help you figure out which folks you want to talk to at the doors or on the phones. That can bleed into a little bit with what's called a field director, so that's someone who can look at the lay of the land, look at who traditionally votes, and figure out who you need to talk to and how many times you need to talk to them to make sure they hear your message. And I would say a lot of times folks often want some sort of a social media director or some sort of a comms professional who's not just deciding how they meet voters where they're at with the message and how they develop that message, but also who is actually just trying to help drum up support and excitement about your campaign with your followers and with potential new voters. And those are two different lanes from a similar - it all works very closely together - better communications can help you get more fundraising, more money, more volunteers. But it's really pivotal that you identify who can take those roles, whether or not it's people who you actually pay and hire to do that. All of those roles are jobs that exist in the political ecosystem, but they're all also jobs that someone who maybe just does social media work on their own can help you with if they're a volunteer. So making sure that you have a time when you're coordinating all these folks if you're doing it all with volunteers, or maybe you have money to pay a fundraiser, but not a general consultant, or vice versa - those are the two major roles that people will often pay people for. 

And then the big one that is, I think, the most worth money - because if you're doing illegal things, it's hard to win a race - is compliance. We have a state that has one of the best transparency in campaigns and elections. So you've got to make sure you have someone who's willing to go to the trainings or who just knows that work because they're a professional in that work, who's willing to file your stuff in a timely fashion, make sure that all your disclosures are done, make sure that everything that you're raising and spending is reported above board because that's something that can really ding you in a campaign by either your opposition or just by the public. You're not trustworthy if you can't be bothered to do the homework of telling people what you're up to in a state where that's really required of you. So I think those are the four major roles is comms, field, treasury, consulting, and fundraising. 

[00:14:37] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, absolutely. And that treasury piece is so important - just fundamentally - and would be one of the first people I locked down and put together. This is something that I often advocate, regardless of the size of the campaign - even if it's a small town or a big legislative or congressional campaign - have a professional paid treasury and compliance person. A lot of people don't realize that the campaign calls for a treasurer - you have to declare that when you file for office. And so a lot of times they think it is purely a financial thing. And so I have a friend who's a bookkeeper, I have a friend who's CPA who can totally do that - but that's actually the easier and simpler part. Alongside with treasury and built-in when we talk about treasury in a campaign context is that compliance - is the having to file all the required disclosures and reports, to follow the many campaign and spending regulations - everything from how you can accept money, maximum amounts that you can accept, how you track that, how you keep track of and collect cash and deal with that, the information you have to collect from all of the donors to report, how long before an election you can accept gifts of a certain size. All of that is a ton of rules and regulations. The PDC does a very good job in providing classes for people who are not professionals. So if you did want to have someone in that role who wasn't already doing it - start early, have them prepare by going to those trainings and doing that. But the compliance part is the most important part of that - I just cannot underscore that enough. 

Also, it's probably good to talk about the difference between people here, these positions - okay, so campaign manager and consultant - What is the difference? What do they do? In the campaign context, usually a general consultant is handling strategy and communications usually. The details of that can vary based on what your needs are, who's on your team, what is contracted - but make it a point to be clear on what those roles and responsibilities are, have a contract so that there's no confusion about who is responsible for what. Sometimes a consultant is just going to do paid communications like mail, or digital video, or ads, or things like that. Sometimes they're very involved in strategy and day-to-day preparation for interviews, or helping with endorsements, or all of that - those are pretty normal things that come with professional political consultants, at least. What I would say most of all is that whether or not you officially hire someone in that role or not - usually if you can, I advocate hiring that - of course, I am a political consultant, but I don't work with candidates, so it's not self-interest - it's important to have someone who has navigated campaigns and races like yours. There's lots of stuff that is specific to the campaign world. It is not just like marketing. There's a whole different cadence. There's lots of intricacies and relationships that are useful and valuable - and they know how to negotiate through that. They know how to put together a campaign plan, how to target voters. You want someone who has experience doing that - if it's not a paid consultant, someone who has shepherded, successfully, candidates through that whole thing before. And usually consultants are more on the strategy end of things - so helping to construct what the messaging is, helping to construct what the plan is. Campaign managers are usually more on the operational side of things - so implementing the campaign plan, putting the field plan into work, working with other volunteers, working with the rest of the team, and leading the crew there - from everything administrative to all of that. Sometimes in small local races, all you can afford is - and a very valuable thing in addition to a treasurer - is a campaign manager. And then you're working with your team of people to handle the rest and to do the strategy. It's helpful to look at what people who have run in that jurisdiction before and who have been successful have done - how they've constructed their campaign - you can see what people have spent and kind of reconstruct what their teams look like through public disclosure reports through the PDC - make use of that information. This doesn't mean you have to mimic that, but it is useful to know so that if you are deviating from it for a reason, you understand what the pros and cons of that are and what the implications of that are. What other considerations would you suggest? 

[00:19:16] Councilmember Olgy Diaz: Yeah, I would say the Public Disclosure Commission website has some of the best free information that you can get for your campaign just by looking through it - because you can find both what past campaigns have done, what they've paid for, what kind of budgets that they've had in the past based on how much they've raised. You can also see lists of lobbyists. So if you're really interested in doing health care reform, you might call through all the health care lobbyists and they might be a good pot of money for you, once you start thinking through what your lens is on that - are you going to call the folks who are interested in it in the way that you are interested in it? Probably. I think sometimes lobbyist is a bad word, but more often than not - there are good ones and bad ones. So making sure that you call the ones who are lobbying for the things that you care about - I think those are great ways to build your network and build more allies in the work that you're trying to achieve by running for these offices.

[00:20:06] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, definitely. And that's a good point that you raise - just the alignment with the team, which sometimes is underrated. And unfortunately, there's a shortage of political professionals in the state in many areas - we're working on that. It can be hard when there's a limited pool of people available, but it is critical to have people who are generally aligned with who you are, what your priorities are - and who back that, and who are consistent. Otherwise, we get to a situation - and unfortunately, we've seen quite a bit of this lately - where one, someone may not know how to really communicate with voters about who you are, what you care for, and what you believe. If someone is used to messaging the opposite - if someone has advocated against renter protections, has advocated against more housing, has worked for interests that you traditionally have opposed or competed with - they're going to be more used to and skilled to working with and messaging things in that characterization. They oftentimes struggle to communicate outside of their own alignment and their own experience. And there's also the problem of consultants working with multiple candidates who have one candidate positioned in one way - hey, there's a progressive here, but there's a more moderate or conservative over there. And unfortunately, the messaging that they're pumping into the environment, into the community is directly refuting what you're doing. We've seen that a few times- 

[00:21:38] Councilmember Olgy Diaz: Too many times. 

[00:21:38] Crystal Fincher: -in the very recent past. It's a problem. Or someone just doesn't have the types of networks or connections in the community that are useful to you, that are relevant to who you are, and are not able to put together and really understand and communicate with the coalition that you need to build in order to be successful - that may look different than coalitions that they've successfully built before. Do they generally work with candidates like you? Are they generally communicating and really making the vision clear, and being successful reaching voters with candidates like you? Those are very important considerations. And I think people ignore that and - Oh, well, they're the only person available, or just they were cheaper. - that backfires all of the time. 

[00:22:26] Councilmember Olgy Diaz: Way too many times to count. 

[00:22:28] Crystal Fincher: Yes, yes. So the alignment is really important, and I think it's getting more important as we go on in years here. So, okay - they're putting together the campaign team - a couple of tips and things to look out for when it comes to some of the general areas of the campaign. When it comes to a budget, how should they approach a budget? 

[00:22:51] Councilmember Olgy Diaz: I like to say - you should approach your budget of your campaign the way, if you've ever run a small business, you might think about it like that. Because you are mostly seeking donations - unless for some reason someone here is wealthy enough to self-fund their campaign - you want to be a good steward of money that's coming into you, either from friends and family or from organizations that value your values and want to see you in. Because all those resources are finite, you want to make sure your budget reflects your values. So if you're running as a progressive person who values workers, you're going to want to make sure that you use union printed materials, union workplaces. Or if you're doing an event in a hotel for some reason, use a union hotel - don't use a non-union hotel. Those kinds of things that really make sure that what you're doing and what you're paying for aligns with the kind of values of your campaign really, really matters - both because it sets the tone for your values and for how you might govern, and it helps put money back into that same ecosystem that's helping support you. 

You also want to make sure that you've got enough money for the essentials. So we all tend to know that using labor materials - because we're paying people what they're worth - is a little bit more expensive than non-union materials. It's worth it, but you just got to make sure your budget reflects that if you're going to spend a bunch of money on printed mail pieces that you've got the money to do so. And that might mean less yard signs. Yard signs are one of the most visible things that people love to spend money on, but they're really expensive and they don't actually really equate to votes. Most people who see yard signs driving by - they're for visibility, they're for sort of creating the buzz - and they're for donors, I like to say. But they're not really for getting out any votes - yard signs don't actually vote. But mail pieces are much more likely to land in a mailbox with someone's ballot - they're more likely to see it as they're filling out their ballot. Digital is huge and important, and it helps get your name out there. General advertising rules say that you should probably see someone's name or see someone's face seven or eight times before it sort of sticks, especially in a big campaign year when everybody else is also doing the same thing. So the more touches you can get on a voter, the more likely they are to remember your name. So your budget should reflect how you're going to try to reach the voters - it should be very heavy on direct voter contact opportunities and possibilities. And some of that will be if you're able to fund a campaign staffer - because they'll help you get to more voters, or help you get through more endorsement questionnaires, or maybe help you schedule if your schedule is really busy. And your budget should make sure that it reflects, like we mentioned earlier, that priority of having someone who can do the compliance. Even if you're giving your friend 50 bucks to make sure they're up on whatever rules are coming out of the PDC, I think it's really important to make sure you fund that. 

And like governing, budgets are our values documents. You want to make sure that it just reflects what you're trying to accomplish and how you're trying to accomplish it. And make sure that it is scaled for roughly how much of a budget people have spent on your race in the past. It helps, as you're shopping for a consultant, to know that - Hey, I'm running for school board. I've seen people in the past spent between $40k and $80k on this kind of race and this kind of school board size so that when the consultant says, Oh, your budget should be $200k, you kind of have a sniff test of whether or not that's real or not, so you know whether or not you want to hire that person. So you have done a little bit of your own research to know what kind of ballpark - because when something costs you $40k versus $120k, that's literally money that you're going to have to help find. So you got to be sure that you're willing to bite off what you can actually chew in terms of the kind of race you want to run.

[00:26:27] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, absolutely - that all makes sense. I also want to caution people against spending too much, especially on people, too early. This is about being a good steward of resources. And unfortunately, what I have seen happen too many times from afar is running out of money basically mid-campaign or spending way too much money on staff and overhead. And then when it comes time to communicate with voters - which is basically the most important thing that you're going to be doing - not having enough money to do that, which is basically just sabotaging your own campaign. A good rule of thumb is that at least two-thirds of what you raise should be going towards direct voter contact. So that's not going towards just paying the salary of your campaign manager or the retainer of your consultant, your fundraiser retainer - those can all add up really quick. Or as you go to assemble a team, you're like - Okay, I've got the best team of people. Yes, it's going to cost me $8,000 a month, but I'm sure we'll get it. You've got to go beyond just the hope and vibes to - is that really a level of expense that you can sustain and build on top of to have the war chest needed to communicate with voters? I see that wind up really backwards - people spend 75% on staff sometimes - and that's when we're talking behind the scenes, months before the end of the election, going, This actually is not possible for them to do. They don't have any money to do that communication that's so necessary because voters - most voters just don't pay attention, which is also just a really good thing for people to generally know. People generally don't read news articles - most people don't read them at all. The 20% who do mostly just read headlines. People don't pay attention to politics. Most people learn that there's an election coming because they get their ballot in the mail. People like us are in the middle of campaigns for months and months and months, and it seems like everyone in our circle knows, so this must be things that most of the community is paying attention to and aware of. That is so not the case - you have to communicate with people. And unfortunately, so much of that is paid. Like you said, the mail, the advertisements that you see in newspapers, the digital ads, the videos, social media pushes - which are somewhat limited politically in Washington state - but just doing all of that is critical to winning a race. And you're doing that the heaviest late in your campaign, which is why we see all of the ads and the stuff generally happen around the time you get your ballot until Election Day. So have enough money for that. Fund that stuff first - that's always been my rule. Fund communication, direct voter communication first - and then as you can afford other things, when you get money in the door, it's looking pretty consistent, then you can add on to there. But be very realistic about that. And be realistic about your fundraising and take those early cues seriously. If you start fundraising and you're pulling in $3,000 a month and you're spending $5,000 a month, you need to quickly reorient things, reorganize things in your campaign, redo your budget so that it fits with what you're doing. And you either need to trim expenses or see how maybe you can fundraise more. But that's also going to rely on you, and your discipline with fundraising is another thing that's going to be really important. When it comes to raising those funds, what are the biggest tips that you have? 

[00:30:05] Councilmember Olgy Diaz: Ask. Ask everyone you know - your pastor, your second grade teacher, your former intern colleague three jobs ago. I like to joke that your phone is your best weapon in a campaign - it's where your list is going to come from, it's who you're going to be calling and texting and asking for help and money and all of the things. Anybody who you don't ask and knows you're running - quite frankly, might be a little bit offended that you didn't ask if they're a political person. I have run years and years and years of candidate trainings. And every year I tell the people in our cohorts, call me for money - if you're running and you didn't call me for money, I don't know that you actually listened to the training I gave you. And I think in the time that I've been doing it - of the hundreds of women and people of color I've trained to run for office - I think 10 tops have actually asked me for money. And I give them my cell phone and my email. Make sure that you actually ask everyone in your life. Anybody who sends you a birthday text - those are people to ask for money, they're thinking of you. Anybody who puts on your Facebook wall - Happy Birthday - those are people who are thinking of you. Anybody who you've had a meaningful relationship with, who knows your values, knows your heart, knows your drive, is someone you should ask. And those are the first people you should ask. And then you start building out from there to some of the other folks you should ask. There might be folks who are diametrically opposed on values or otherwise to whoever you're running against, and those are also people who you should ask for money - much later in the campaign. There's also oftentimes people who are really interested in seeing folks who look or have your values run for the seat that you're running for, and there's oftentimes people who are interested in just changing the way democracy looks - and so those are also sometimes people who you might ask for money from. 

But really, really, really make sure that you're talking to your folks that are closest to you first - that includes your parents, if you have them, that includes your grandparents, your kids, your cousins. Everybody who's closest to you and loves you probably is going to give you at least 50 bucks or something - because they love you. Even if you have a parent who is deeply opposed to your politics, they care about you, they love you - if you still have that relationship, you should ask. Let them say no. And I think that's the number one rule for fundraising is - You don't get any money that you don't ask for, so ask everybody unabashedly. I found this last campaign cycle that texts were actually a really great way of getting people to give, as opposed to - we used to call it call time. We still call it call time, but you don't have to make as many phone calls as we did in the past. You definitely have to make phone calls, but it can also be text time, it can also be Facebook Messenger time. And be really detail-orientated - keep a list or keep track of who you're asking so you're not asking the same person five times that are ghosting you. Let them ghost you, but make sure you do ask once. And then I would say also make sure that you're asking for an amount - it's really helpful if you're calling your uncle who's very wealthy, ask him for a max. And if you're calling your cousin who delivers pizza, maybe ask him for 20 bucks. Make your ask appropriate for who the person is, but don't try to undersell anybody - it's kind of a difficult science to finding the right amount to ask people.

[00:33:11] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, and the better you do with the people who you do have an existing relationship, the people who do love and care about you, the easier it's going to be later on down the line when you're talking to people who you don't yet know - people who you may just know that you're politically aligned with or they're passionate about an issue that you plan to take action on. It's going to make you look more credible if you start out with a solid fundraising performance, and that's going to build momentum down the line. I think those are great tips. One I would add would be - Don't make excuses for people. Let them say no to you. A lot of times, and I think even more with women and people of color - as the trainings we've done have really illuminated this - there's different relationships with money among many communities, People from communities who traditionally haven't grown up with as much wealth as we see in most of the political class. And that obviously impacts the approach to things, and the way we think about things, and even the way we prioritize - Oh, they have so much more important things going on, I don't want to bother them with that. And that feeling is coming from a place of caring, but it is also an act of caring - and people are happy to support someone who they are confident is the right person for the job and who's going to help people in their community and people like them. And so sometimes - I've sat in call time with a number of people, and they'll be like, Oh, this person's never, never going to give, or they don't have anything, or they're in this tough position. And a lot of times, those are the people who are happiest to give. Now, you don't ever want to break anyone - like you said, asking for an amount that is doable and appropriate - you don't want someone to wind up in a bad financial position. But also, they're the ones who know their financial position best. And it's real easy to get presumptive about that - you may not know. And people have money set aside to give to various causes - they might have that money already available to do that. So don't ever assume someone can't give. It's okay if they say no, but you should absolutely ask. And you should make a strong case and ask with confidence. Sometimes people are much more confident in raising money for a different cause, but it's much more complicated and there's a lot of self-consciousness around asking for it for yourself. But that's a very important thing, and we have to get better people into these elected positions, people who are more aligned with their communities. And the only way that happens is by going through this. I wish we were in a political system where money did not matter. Unfortunately, we are - and so we do have to deal with this and contend with it. And it would be a shame to put all of the time and energy into running a campaign without doing all you can to fundraise and give yourself the resources necessary to win. 

I also want to talk about just tips for messaging and how people can be authentic. I think sometimes people feel conflicted - they're used to seeing politicians give non-answers, avoid taking stances and positions on a wide variety of things - that being authentic is risky. What advice do you give to someone who is passionate about issues, who really wants to help, but is questioning - How do I communicate with people in an authentic way? 

[00:36:49] Councilmember Olgy Diaz: I think really being yourself matters. I have seen, especially I think with candidates of color or first gen candidates, this want to sort of cosplay white, or do a thing that isn't really authentic, or be a Leslie Knope when you're really not Leslie Knope - you're probably more like somebody else who is more uncouth. Be that person. People really appreciate the authenticity of how you show up, what you look like, in addition to what you're saying. If you're not comfortable in a suit jacket all the time - unless it says that you're required to wear that, don't wear that. Wear what makes you comfortable. Be confident in who you are. And that's all going to come out in your answers and in your voice. And really be willing to own and accept that you don't know everything. You're not an expert in everything yet. Most elected officials aren't an expert in anything, quite frankly, before they get there. And then they get there and they learn a lot and they grow and they do more. But even if you are an expert in something, accept that there's going to be things that you're not an expert in and be willing to own that as well. If somebody can ask you a really tough political question that makes you uncomfortable, just be honest with people about - Hey, I might step in this a little bit, but here's my answer. Or, be willing to say - You know what? I don't know the answer to that right now. Let me do some research and get back to you. And just make sure that you do actually follow up with people - follow up matters - no one expects you to have every answer. I can't tell you the amount of times I would knock on a door and talk to someone who's deeply concerned about some minutia of city government that I was like - I have been in government for decades and I don't know what you're talking about. I'm going to have to go research that, come back with an opinion on it - because I don't know what my opinion is on it yet because I just learned what this issue is. And so just be willing to do the follow-up when people ask you things - I think that really matters, it really helps. And be ready to be brazen and be standing who you are and what your values are - it's going to make you a better candidate, it's going to make you more authentic, and it's going to make you more relatable. Because even if you are not what you think a candidate or politician should be or look like, you are because you're doing it. So just be that person. And especially if you have an opinion that is different from what you think the room wants - I've also seen candidates fall into the trap of showing up at an endorsement meeting for an organization where they're only loosely aligned with the issues - be authentic to that. Because you don't want to lie to people and tell them what they want to hear, and then go and tell a different room of people the opposite - that also messes with your authenticity. Be authentically who you are all of the time and be willing to own where you might disagree with people because I think that matters as much in governing as it does always agreeing with people. People respect you more. 

[00:39:24] Crystal Fincher: Yes. My approach in advising candidates has followed that path. And really, it's because you're running in order to govern. And if you don't run as who you are and authentic to who you are - just trying to give the right answers and not give the wrong answers - when you do get elected, people don't know what you stand for, people have different impressions of what you would do, and you basically paint yourself into a box when you govern. You didn't run on anything, so you don't have a mandate for what you're going to do, which makes you afraid to do something because then people might get mad at you - because what you spent your campaign doing was trying to prevent people from getting mad at you. No one has a good time with that. No one is served with that. You don't govern effectively like that. And there are many examples we can look around at right now and look at how people who avoided taking stances on issues are now struggling to deal with those issues when they're elected. And so you have to be authentic to yourself in order to give yourself a shot when you are elected at accomplishing the things that are so important to you for the community. 

Another thing on the point of governing, one thing that I see electeds struggle with - specifically sometimes those who come from more of an advocacy or an activism background - is how to translate that advocacy, the energy into policy. What tips would you have on navigating through that? 

[00:41:01] Councilmember Olgy Diaz: I would say - as much as being authentic on the campaign trails, you've got to be authentic as an elected official. So if you have made a lot of promises on the campaign trail, you got to make sure you follow through. I think when you're just starting out, there's a big learning curve. You got to figure out sort of where the bathrooms are, how this thing works - but take some of the low hanging fruit that is a little bit easier and start working on that. Start trying to figure out how you can deliver some wins that are doable so that you can start learning how to pass bills, and how to legislate, and how to govern on the easy things before you start biting off the hard stuff later. And really be ready to deliver for the folks who you made promises to if you did - otherwise, you're not really doing a service to the people who helped get you there, the people who are depending on you. And it might be something that you'll got to go back and say - Hey, this is going to take some time. Especially if you're from an advocacy position and you've got the ear of the folks who are asking for stuff - talk to them about what it looks like on the inside and how they can be helpful. Something that I learned working both at Planned Parenthood and One America organizing advocacy is that sometimes the push from the outside is as helpful for the elected official on the inside. It's not always adversarial. Sometimes it's just they need that extra nudge, and see how you can make your friends who helped get you there as helpful to help you pass things and be more effective for the exact communities we're all trying to help. 

[00:42:20] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, that's great advice. And then also just the nuts and bolts of - governing is action-based. People make a lot of promises on the campaign trail - really campaigning is talking, it's making a lot of promises, making a speech and saying that you care about something. Where really, once you're elected, it's the action that is the proof of the caring. So you're going to have to learn how to write that ordinance about the issue that you said you wanted to address. You're going to have to learn how to turn that into policy, how to speak to different impacted parties in your community, how to talk to people who you disagree with and who you may not placate as you develop your policy and write your ordinances or write your bills. But it's important to hear from them just to make sure that you understand what their perspective is, that you understand what the challenges they're having with it. You may not disagree with them, or you may learn something that - Hey, they're saying this is a concern. I can make this tweak without fundamentally altering the thing that I'm doing, and maybe I avoid some unintended consequences. That's all a really important process. But really it is now action-based - it's about what are you doing, whether it's allocating funding, writing an ordinance - but those are also things that are not intuitive and not easy to do. So people better work on getting familiar with what that process is, talk to people who are doing it, and learn how to get that done. Because you really should hit the ground running as much as possible and work on crafting that policy. 

[00:44:02] Councilmember Olgy Diaz: Yep, there's a reason the president comes in with a first 100-day plan. You don't have to have 100 things you do in your first 100 days, but you should definitely have one thing - seems doable. When I first got appointed, no one asked me to do it, but because of my background in choice and reproductive justice, the first thing I did was make sure that folks who were trying to get gender-affirming care and abortions were protected in our city. No one asked for that, but that was my value set - I came in, I did it, and we keep it pushing. We do the next thing that matters to us. So have a thing that you're ready to do if you get there, because then you can be talking about that on the campaign trail. 

[00:44:36] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely. Great advice. So that is number one with authenticity. And number two, over the past 15 years - have heard so many times from consultants or political people - Oh, this person is the ideal candidate. And so many times people who look like me, people who look like several people I've helped to elect, people who look like you, or have a background like people like us are not at all what people envision when they're saying - They're the ideal candidate. There is no ideal candidate. The ideal candidate is just someone who really cares about and is willing to serve their community. And that comes in so many different packages. And also what we see, which a lot of people are not aware of, is that when someone doesn't look like what they think of oftentimes as the standard politician - if they do have a different background, that's more exciting to voters, that turns out more people, and they are more successful on average than someone who is like the traditional candidates. So don't let people's expectations, don't let the current composition of whatever body you're looking to get elected to intimidate you from doing that. Like you said before, you are qualified. People are qualified in many different ways. For some people, that looks like a bunch of degrees or owning a business. For other people, that looks like having personal lived experience with the issues that you're trying to make a difference with and having a perspective that is missing but desperately needed in the body. I do think it's important to have been working in the community, to be able to demonstrate that you care about and are credible in the issues that you're talking about, that there is a connection with people in your community. If you run and people are like, Who the heck is that? And no one from anywhere knows where you are, I would suggest there should be more groundwork put into what you're doing. You should have a lot of people who do know who you are and can attest to what you have done, how you've helped in your community and all that. But don't let you feeling like you don't fit be what stops you. 

On the flip side of that, I will also say - be aware of when a body has excluded people like you. And that has to be a consideration that sometimes people are hesitant to talk about or it's - Oh, it's great. We need someone like that in that body. - and everyone's excited to get them there, without understanding that that there might be a hostile place currently, that that there may come with a lot of challenges for that candidate that other people may not have had to face. Also being realistic about what the history of the body that you're joining is, what the current composition is, why different people may not be there - and be prepared to contend with that, knowing that that may be a challenge when you get there. I think that's something we don't talk about enough that we need to talk about more. 

[00:47:40] Councilmember Olgy Diaz: Absolutely. It's funny you say that - that was actually my lived experience. So I ran for Tacoma City Council in 2013 - I didn't win. I did try to take out a very popular incumbent - we have a lot of political dynasties in Pierce County, so he was a son of somebody, like a lot of them are. But at the time, I would have been the first Latina elected to Tacoma City Council. I didn't win, and then 10 years went by and we got an open seat. And I was calling around to folks - because my favorite thing to do is help people run for office - and I was like, Who are we going to get to run for this appointment? And multiple people were like, You, man, what are you talking about? So I applied and then got the appointment and then ran for the seat. And now I'm actually the first Latina elected to the Tacoma City Council 10 years later because now was actually the moment that the city was ready for that, that people were pushing for that. And 10 years ago, that was less the case, even though it shouldn't have been - our Latino population hasn't skyrocketed in that time - but it's just what's for you hits you, what doesn't misses you. But it's also a matter of - I was willing to answer that call because it was still a need. And I think that that's part of it - is knowing what these environments are. And I am so grateful that I'm on the council I'm on now, as opposed to the one that was there 10 years ago - that would have been miserable. And now we have a majority women council, we have a majority BIPOC council - it's just such a better place to be a part of now. Not to say anything disparaging about prior council, because we had a great mayor who's now a congresswoman, but it's just a different time and it's a more fun time for me to be in office. Also, it's just a different place in my career, so I think making sure that you've got that conviction to keep following through because you may not make it the first time is also a big part about thinking how you run for office. 

[00:49:21] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, that's a really good point. There are so many people who run, unsuccessfully, their first time. And it's important to define what success looks like for you, even if you aren't elected. You were smart about that, there are a number of people I see being smart about that - and others not being so smart. There are so many people who are successful on their second run, and that's because of how they set themselves up in their first run. Are they building relationships? Are they growing their network and their coalition? Are they working together with people in positive ways? Are they finding ways to build with different people in different ways? I see things backfire and people set themselves back if they're bitter and negative. Politics is all coalition based - you may disagree with someone on something here and agree with them on something else. You work together on the something else, and then you just build a coalition with different people on the other thing that you're working for that you care about. You can do that while being true to yourself, while not doing things that are philosophically disagreeable to you. But it is about building bridges, maintaining lines of communication, building relationships, people being able to trust that they can count on you, that you are true to your word, that you are who you say you are, you'll do what you say you'll do. Or if that changes, that you clearly communicate that and why. Building those relationships throughout the campaign is important - it will help you if you are elected to govern. And if you aren't elected, it helps you to run again if you so choose. And even if you don't run again, they help you to make the type of change - even in an unelected capacity - that you were trying to make in an elected capacity. So really look at how you're setting yourself up, regardless of what the outcome is. Run the kind of race that you will not have regrets if you don't win - that has been a piece of advice that I've given, that I strongly believe. Do things that you can live with throughout the whole thing. If you sell yourself out - whatever that looks like to you - and do things you're uncomfortable with in the name of winning, and you don't, there's so much regret tied to that. And then you're looking to the community like someone who you aren't and nothing good comes from that. So again, being authentic, running a race that's true to you is very important. 

Any closing piece of advice that we haven't gotten to, or that you would want to leave people with? 

[00:51:54] Councilmember Olgy Diaz: Regardless of whether or not you're paying a campaign team, or you're getting volunteers, or truly anybody with a pulse who exists and is willing to help - make sure you're setting yourself up with a team of people you trust, you can depend on, and that you quite frankly want to spend a lot of time with because you're going to spend a lot of time with them - either checking in on them or actually literally with them. And really, I like to take it the step further and say, Try to build the team that reflects the kind of workplace that you want to have. So sometimes that means having unionized campaign workers. Sometimes that means having an all-BIPOC or an all-woman staff or team. Make sure that you're intentionally seeking out the folks who are going to round out your opinion. So you might not have everyone be of the same demographic - it might be helpful depending on what you're up to, what you're doing - you don't want any gaps in who's in the room helping you make decisions so that you're not making decisions that don't make sense for a big part of the community. And then mentoring and leadership building is a big part of what I've done before getting to office and to get to office. So I like to be mindful of bringing people in who can learn this stuff so that maybe they then want to go be a consultant, because we need more BIPOC consultants. Or maybe they want to go later on and be a policy writer. They want to run for office themselves. I like to try to make sure that we spread the wealth and keep giving back and pulling forward with people. I like to say - I'm the first one, but I'm not going to be the last one in Tacoma. And so making sure that we're building those bridges and opportunities for mentorship is really helpful and important. And keeping your eyes open for who the next leaders are and bringing them in and lifting them up - I don't think having more of us in the world, in the politics, in the progressive movement is detrimental. This is not a crabs in a pot mentality - the more of us there are, the better it is and the better our policies can become. I'm going to want somebody to the left of me as much as I deal with those on the right of me. And it really all helps push and pull and help us all be better and get us to better policy solutions, ultimately, in the end, which is what we want. So I think that those are the big things is - how you build stuff that's going to build and outlive and outlast you. 

[00:53:56] Crystal Fincher: Wise words from someone who has walked that path and helped many other people walk it. Thank you so much for spending the time with us today, Councilmember Olgy Diaz.

[00:54:07] Councilmember Olgy Diaz: Thank you. 

[00:54:09] Crystal Fincher: Thank you for listening to Hacks & Wonks, which is produced by Shannon Cheng. You can follow Hacks & Wonks on Twitter @HacksWonks. You can catch Hacks & Wonks on every podcast service and app - just type "Hacks and Wonks" into the search bar. Be sure to subscribe to get the full versions of our Friday week-in-review shows and our Tuesday topical show delivered to your podcast feed. If you like us, leave a review wherever you listen. You can also get a full transcript of this episode and links to the resources referenced in the show at officialhacksandwonks.com and in the podcast episode notes. 

Thanks for tuning in - talk to you next time.