Felons face the loss of some of the rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. Among these are the right to hold public office. Those felons who are interested in serving the public by holding office may think about running for mayor.
This blog post will cover the question of whether or not a felon can become a mayor.
- State Requirements to Hold Public Office
- Having Civil Rights Restored
- What is a Mayor?
- Becoming a Mayor After a Felony
- Making a Case to Become a Mayor
State Requirements to Hold Public Office
Having a conviction record means having to overcome significant challenges. Under the state election law in many states, convicted felons can vote and run for public office unless they are incarcerated or guilty of fraud-related crimes or offenses involving a breach of public trust.
Many states indicate that no person convicted of embezzlement of public money, bribery, perjury, or other infamous crime shall be eligible to hold any office of trust or profit in the state. Being judged guilty of a felony will often disqualify someone from holding any office of trust.
The question of whether felons can hold public office depends on the state. Some impose restrictions on those with a felony conviction and some don’t.
There’s a wide variety of responses from individual states in how they handle this. For example, in some states, felons whose conviction was older than 10 years may hold public office while in others they cannot.
Other states maintain that anyone convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude may not serve in any elected position. Moral turpitude includes:
- Fraudulent receipt of public funds
- Breaking financial responsibilities
For example, Texas specifies that anyone convicted of bribery, perjury, forgery, or other high crimes shall be excluded from any elected position.
In Georgia, anyone convicted of a crime of moral turpitude may not hold public office unless their rights have been restored and at least 10 years have passed since the completion of the sentence. Also, they must not have been convicted of a subsequent crime of moral turpitude.
Having Civil Rights Restored
A major factor in being able to run for public office after a felony conviction is having one’s rights restored.
To have their civil rights restored, felons must have:
- Completed all parts of their sentence, including probation
- No pending criminal charges
- Paid all restitution
If they meet these criteria, they may seek to regain their rights through the process of clemency. Clemency will not establish innocence, and the record will remain. However, a felon’s rights will be restored, allowing them to hold public office.
Federal elected positions are different from state offices, mainly because the U.S. Constitution takes a minimalist position, leaving many decisions up to individual states to establish.
What is a Mayor?
A mayor is someone who has the highest rank as an officer in a city or town. A mayor serves as the chief executive officer of a municipality and is responsible for overseeing financial decisions and local planning.
Typically, a mayor oversees a city’s main departments, including:
A term of office ranges from two to four years. In some areas, the election is based on popular vote while in others it rests with the city or town council members.
Typically, application guidelines to run for mayor include confirming being a registered resident of the city through the municipal city court. An application and petition with signatures along with paying a filing fee is also necessary.
There are four main options for a city’s local government structure with different mayoral duties.
One type is the council-weak mayor. This gives the majority of the city power to the council members with the mayor acting as more of a ceremonial leader. The mayor may have final authority over financial matters and will be the presiding member over all council meetings.
The council-strong mayor has more authority. Council members are in charge of legislative processes while the mayor is responsible for all administrative duties. The mayor of this type of city government is responsible for:
- Hiring and firing staff
- Having veto power
- Implementing legislation passed by the council
A third type is the council manager. A mayor in the council manager system is the symbolic head of the city. The mayor is actually equal to other city council members.
The fourth type is the commission system, which is similar to the council manager system.
Becoming Mayor After a Felony
Perhaps the biggest challenge for a felon wanting to run for mayor is the effects of the felony conviction on the public’s perception of trust. To many people, no felon is to be trusted, as all felons are believed to be dishonest and untrustworthy.
Once felons’ civil rights have been restored, and they decide to run for mayor, it helps to have a plan to deal with the felony conviction. It’s part of the public record and cannot be hidden.
The key is in how it’s handled. It shouldn’t be hidden but neither should it be a headline. In the course of telling one’s story, it can be part of the details. It was a part of their life when they made mistakes. Then they came to a decision to live their lives differently, with public service being an essential part of it.
During a campaign, while the criminal record is there, it’s part of the past. It doesn’t have to define felons. When the issue is raised, it’s important to be open and honest without being defensive or dwelling on the mistakes of the past.
They should put it out there for what it is, but once that is accomplished, they should leave it alone and not draw even more attention to it. Let it die out and remain focused on the election.
Making a Case to Become a Mayor
It’s a big challenge, but it might be worth it for a felon wanting to become a mayor. Having his or her civil rights restored through clemency and having his or her record expunged could make the essential difference in a felon succeeding in becoming a mayor.
Having their felony expunged can give them the chance needed to begin with a clean record and succeed in becoming a mayor. Expunging a criminal record allows anyone to honestly state on an application that he or she has not been convicted of a crime.
There are stories of success in the Guide to Becoming Employed.
Having support from family, friends, or previous employers can make a huge difference. A felon doesn’t have to be defined by his or her crime. We’re not defined by our mistakes but by how we recover from them. He or she can begin again and live an honest life no matter how difficult it might seem.
What do you think about this blog post? Have you or someone you know been in the situation of trying to become a mayor with a felony? What was that like for him or her, and how did he or she achieve success? Please tell us in the comments below.