Randy Yohe Published

Running For Office Involves More Than Rules, Regulations

A blue and red sign for early voting posted in front of polling station.
The decision to run for political office comes with rules, responsibilities and reflection.
Kamil Krzaczynski/Getty Images

We’ve heard political campaign rhetoric for a while now, but as of Monday, Jan. 8, West Virginia’s official candidate filing period is now underway.

Candidates for local, state and federal offices can file for the May 14 Primary Election until midnight on Saturday, Jan. 27. The decision to run for political office comes with rules, responsibilities and reflection.

The introduction to the 2024 Running for Office Guide, put out by the Secretary of State’s office, outlines what the decision to be a candidate involves. It discusses eligibility, residence requirements and time commitments. But when you ask campaign veterans about making that decision to run, they answer with how strong that desire for public service beats in your mind and heart.

Former two-term Del. Lisa Zukoff, a Democrat from Ohio County, said she was inspired to follow in her mother’s footsteps of political activism and giving back to the community.

I was already involved in several organizations, specifically interested in children’s education, animal rescue, and childhood cancer awareness,” Zukoff said. “I saw ways that my knowledge from being involved in the community could serve me at the state political level.”

84-year-old Bob Bailey said he’s in his final term as Huntington city councilman. Bailey has held a variety of city and county offices over the past half century. He said his inspiration to run for Cabell County sheriff as a young high school teacher came from wanting to expand a one-man battle against substance abuse. 

“I wasn’t getting anywhere, and a group of parents came to me and asked me to run for Sheriff of Cabell County in 1980,” Bailey said. “I stayed there for eight years. We fought the drug problem hard in Cabell County. It gave me the nickname as a drug fighter.”

Two-term Gov. Jim Justice is now running for his second office, U.S. Senator. Justice said others told him to take his business acumen, personality and state passion and pursue politics. 

“I would tell politicians everywhere, If you’re seeking or thinking about running for public office, I would say first and foremost, search your heart,” Justice said. “It’s not gonna be easy, and you’re gonna catch a lot of stones. And don’t ask anything for yourself.”

Zukoff said it was tough at first to ask people for contributions and difficult to campaign in general. She said she learned it was important to be herself on the campaign trail.  

“I was always honest with my answers, even if they didn’t agree with me,” she said. “Everyone will tell you what to do, people that are involved in politics. You have to get your own rhythm, and you have to feel comfortable with who you are.”

Bailey said he learned that campaign promises made need to be promises kept.

“A lot of candidates don’t do that,” he said. “They tell you what they’re gonna do. And once they get elected, they do just the opposite. You can’t do that. If you’re in politics, and you make a pledge, you have to fulfill that pledge.”

Justice said in campaigning and holding office, it’s more important to listen than to talk.

“Get out and talk to the people,” Justice said. You’ll be amazed, you’ll be amazed how much they know. And you’ll be amazed a lot of times how in the dark we are in Charleston.”

Zukoff said with women making up more than half of West Virginia’s population, women need more than token representation in state government.

“I think that our voices get left out of the equation when rules are coming down, when laws are being made,” Zukoff said. “I think it’s critical that the government do more to involve ladies across the board.”

Bailey said if you have office holding in your head, you need to have public service in your heart.

“If you don’t like the people telling you what to do, then you’re in the wrong business,” Bailey said. “And you’ve got to pray hard.”

Justice said your constituency will appreciate and embrace you if you tell them the truth.

“It’s a great, great, great, great, great, you know, opportunity and profession, but it’s gotten rotten in a lot of ways,” he said.

Just some of the campaign tips that are not mentioned in the 2024 Running for Office Guide. 

The West Virginia candidates that have filed for office can be found here. Voter registration and a 2024 election calendar can be accessed here. The state’s online Campaign Finance Reporting System provides detail into West Virginia candidates’ finances.