CFB Spotlights is our new blog series dedicated to interviews with various staff members from the New York City Campaign Finance Board (CFB), the home of NYC Votes. The CFB is a nonpartisan, independent city agency that empowers New Yorkers to make a greater impact on their elections by increasing voter engagement and participation, enhancing the role of small contributors in funding campaigns, reducing barriers to running for city office, diminishing the corrupting influence of money in city elections, and informing the public about candidates and elections. Learn more about us at www.nyccfb.info.
Do you want to give back to your community? Learn how to make an impact? Focus on the issues that you care about in your neighborhood?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you might want to consider running for local office. Local elected officials can have a huge impact here in New York City, and starting at the local level is a great way to learn more about and serve your community.
This summer, the New York City Campaign Finance Board is launching a series of trainings for anyone interested in running for New York City office. And here to talk about the resources and guidance that the CFB offers candidates is Senior Candidate Services Liasion Samantha Perez!
How did you get your start working in Candidate Services at the CFB?
I volunteered on my first campaign in the 2009 citywide election and became fascinated with the intricacies of political campaigns. I continued to volunteer on campaigns at the city and state level, and in college, I also interned for a few elected officials. I knew that I wanted to remain involved in NYC politics, and after graduating, I landed my first job here at the CFB. The rest is history.
What’s a typical workday like for you?
The start of my day often starts by responding to emails—you would be surprised to see the times at which campaigns send questions! In addition to daily correspondence with candidates, liaisons also work on publishing resources, testing our internal and external systems, and conducting trainings, so no day is ever the same.
Which parts of your job do you find most rewarding, and which do you find to be the most challenging?
I’ve had the opportunity to guide candidates and their campaign staff from the start of their campaign to the very end. Throughout this process, I’ve learned from my campaigns as much as they’ve learned from me. At times, campaigns will come to me with interesting questions for which we do not have prepared guidance, so things can get tricky (especially when the campaign expects a response immediately). However, these situations are good learning experiences for me and the agency to help us answer these questions in the future.
What are some of the most frequently asked questions you get from new candidates or campaign staff?
In addition to asking about how to get their campaign started, new candidates and campaign staff ask me for my “top three” tips to remain compliant. We have a checklist of best practices and recommendations, but I always emphasize the importance of remaining organized, attending a Compliance and C-SMART training, and asking questions as they arise. In the beginning, campaigns are also eager to fundraise, so they ask about the matching funds program and what they need to do to become eligible for public funds. They also ask how to set up NYC Votes Contribute, the CFB’s credit card platform, for their online fundraising.
Why do you think New Yorkers should care about their local elections?
Voting in local elections is a chance to choose to who will best represent your interests and needs. The decisions made by your local elected officials have the most direct impact on your life and are responsible for crucial aspects in your community, such as the quality of schools and public transit. Simply put, if you want your voice heard, go vote!
Do you have any advice or recommendations for people looking to run for office someday? Create your support system and don’t fear the process. A campaign is very much like a small business—you will need to have the proper internal controls in place, fulfill legal requirements and learn to maintain a budget. This all may seem overwhelming at first but can be manageable with dedicated campaign staff or volunteers. In addition to your staff, Candidate Services is here to help guide campaigns through the nuts-and-bolts of campaign finance requirements, so give us a call, shoot us an email, or stop in for an appointment. If this is your first time running for office, I would also recommend attending one of our New to the CFB trainings, which are now available at local libraries across the five boroughs!