Candidate Toolkit - Getting Started

Congratulations on your decision to run for office. Whether you are running for your local school board or the State Senate, there are laws and regulations you will need to know. The purpose of this toolkit is to help you learn the rules that ensure transparency and accountability in California's elections.

The tabs in this section will provide more information on Getting Started.

  • The Tools and Resources tab contains informational material on how to begin a campaign.
  • The Laws and Regs tab contains legal resources relating to campaign rules.
  • The Local Ordinances tab contains links to campaign ordinances in California cities and counties.

In addition to the Getting Started section of the toolkit, other sections help explain rules that every candidate must follow. These other sections answer questions on the items noted below.  Click the links to the left to find information on these topics:

  • Statement of Economic Interests for Candidates (Form 700)

What is a Form 700?

How do you file your Form 700?

Where do you file your Form 700?

  • Fundraising & Reporting

What do you need to do once you start fundraising?

Which campaign statements and reports do you have to file?

What are the important deadlines?

  • Campaign Advertisements

What do you need to know before you send out mailers?

What are the rules about making commercials?

What are the rules about campaign signs?

  • After the Election - Local Candidates

What are your requirements after the election?

Which campaign statements or reports do you still need to file?

How do you terminate a committee?

Forms

Before beginning your campaign, you must declare which office you are seeking.  You must also set up and register your commitee, and disclose information about your personal income and assets. To get your campaign started, complete and submit the following forms:

ID Number

Once you have submitted your Form 410 to the Secretary of State (SOS), you can visit their website to find your committee ID number.  Enter the name of your committee in the search bar of the Cal-Access database.  If your ID number has been issued, the search results will show it next to your comittee name.  If the system cannot find your ID number, the SOS may not have had time to issue it yet, or there was an error on the Form 410 and they have sent you a letter via USPS asking you to correct the error and re-submit the form.

 

Filing Reports

Throughout the campaign, you must file statements to report contributions and expenditures.  Find the filing schedule for your campaign on our website.

 

Resources

Campaign Disclosure Manual 2 for LOCAL Candidates, including Judges

Campaign Disclosure Manual 1 for STATE Candidates

Campaign Rules page

Training & Outreach page

On Demand Video for Candidates & Treasurers

Campaign Advertising Disclaimer Chart

Campaign Activity FAQs

 

Next Steps

Our Candidate Toolkit also provides information on Fundraising & Reporting.  Click the Tools & Resources tab of that section to learn about completing campaign reports and where to submit them.

The following are the key statutory references relevant to running for office, which are all found in the Government Code.

  • Campaign Disclosure - Sections 84100 through 84511
  • Limitations on Contributions - Sections 85100 through 85802

Also, it is in your best interest to complete your campaign reports accurately and in a timely manner. Government agencies are required to review the documents. Below are the relevant regulations highlighting a filing officer's duties, found here.

  • Regulation 18110 - Duties of Filing Officers - Campaign Statements 
  • Regulation 18115 - Duties of Filing Officers and Filing Officials - Statement of Economic Interests

Additionally, your opponents, the press, and even concerned citizens may review the statements for accuracy.  If any of these finds errors or omissions, you may be subject to penalties for late filings and/or fines for specific violations of the law  

Depending on the city or county holding the election, there may be additional rules and requirements you must follow. You must review the appropriate city and county websites, or contact the local clerk, to verify whether there are other rules to follow, or additional election documents you must complete 

City and County ordinances.

This toolkit provides guidance and a general overview of the rules for campaigns, but it does not replace any requirements under the Political Reform Act or Fair Political Practices Commission Regulations. Information here should be used in conjunction with a careful review of the applicable law.