Can a Felon Become a Mayor?

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After their release from prison, many felons look for ways to reenter society and once again become a productive citizen. Some may have had previous political aspirations while for others this may be an entirely new idea.  

Holding public office as a way of contributing to society may be a possibility. Some may think about becoming a mayor in their local city.

Let’s take a look at the possibilities for a felon becoming a mayor.

In this article, we’ll cover the following:

  • Can A Felon Run For Mayor?
  • Can A Felon Run For City Council?
  • State Requirements to Hold Public Office 
  • Challenges To Running For Office As A Felon

Can a Felon Run for Mayor?

Yes, it is possible for a felon to run for mayor. While this is not a simple process, those who are interested in this possibility have a chance.

Once again, let’s take a look at what is involved.

What Is a Mayor?

The mayor is the highest ranking officer in a city or town. He or she is the chief executive officer responsible for overseeing financial decisions and local planning.

Typically, a mayor has many duties, overseeing the main departments of a city, including:

  • Police
  • Fire
  • Education
  • Housing
  • Transportation

The mayor is elected to the position for a term anywhere from two to four years. Certain requirements must be met to become a mayor. Anyone wanting to run for mayor must be a registered resident of the city or town. An application and petition with signatures must be filed, including a filing fee.

The exact duties of the mayor depend on the type of government structure that is in place in that location. The degree of authority that a mayor has will vary.

Let’s take a look at the different types of city government, and how that affects the authority that a mayor will have.

Among the options a city has for local government structure are such things as the council-weak mayor.  This allows the city to maintain laws with the mayor being more of a ceremonial position. A mayor in this situation has the final authority regarding financial matters and will preside over all council meetings.

A council-strong mayor has more authority. Council members are in charge of legislative processes while the mayor takes responsibilities for administrative duties, like hiring and firing staff, veto power, and implementing legislation that council has passed.

The council manager is another type of mayor. The mayor in a council manager system is just a symbolic head of the city. The mayor is equal to other city council members.

The last type is the commission system similar to a council manager system.

Can A Felon Run For Public Office?

Before being able to run for mayor, we must consider whether a felon can even run for an elected office.

Yes, a felon can generally run for public office. Of course, it will depend on a number of factors.

But, the important point here is that it is a possibility.

Those felons interested should not give up hope of serving in public office. Let’s take a look at exactly what is involved.

Can a Felon Run for City Council?

Now that we are aware of the potential for a felon to run for office, let’s look at whether a felon can run for city council. The office of the mayor heavily involves interaction with the city council. Felons who do not run for mayor may consider running for city council.

What do we need to know?

Yes, a felon can run for city council. The question is what the requirements are exactly. Let’s look into the important factors to consider.

First, we need to know what the city council is.

What Is City Council?

The city council is a group of officials elected by the public to serve as the legislature for a city. The city council proposes, passes, and establishes laws and ordinances.  

A city council member is anyone who functions as part of the city council. A city councilman is an active member of that city’s legislature. He or she is responsible for representing the interests of his or her district. A city councilman has certain residency requirements to meet in or to be able to run for city council. 

State Requirements to Hold Public Office

Whether felons can hold public office depends on the particular state. Some have restrictions and others don’t.

In some states, felons with a conviction more than 10 years old may hold public office while others may not be able to.

Crimes of moral turpitude are prohibited for felons in a number of states. Moral turpitude involves:

  • Lying
  • Deceit
  • Fraud and receive public funds
  • Breaking financial responsibilities

In many states, election laws allow felons to vote and run for public office. This may not be true if they are convicted of any type of crime involving fraud or a breach of public trust.  

These are issues that may be difficult to overcome. A number of states do not allow anyone who has been convicted of embezzling public funds, bribery, perjury, or other infamous crime to be able to hold office of public trust or profit in the state.

Some states, like Texas, deny anyone convicted of any of these types of crimes from holding any type of elected position. Some states, like Georgia, state that felons’ rights can be restored if at least 10 years have passed since completing their sentence.

Among the expectations for being able to have civil rights restored are such things as:

  • Completing all parts of their sentence, including probation
  • No pending legal charges
  • No outstanding restitution

Felons meeting this criteria may seek clemency to allow them to regain their civil rights. The record will remain, however.  

This will restore civil rights and allow felons to run for public office. Federal positions are different from state offices, as the U.S. constitution leaves many decisions of individual states to establish.

Challenges to Running For Office As A Felon

While felons may be able to run for a public office such as mayor or to serve on the city council, it will not be easy. Let’s look at the challenges felons may face in making the decision to run for office.

Among the challenges for a felon to run for public office are the effects of the felony conviction on public trust. Many people see felons as not being trustworthy and consider them to be dishonest.

Having a plan to deal with a felony conviction after having civil rights restored in his/her work. The public record will remain regarding any criminal conviction. A felony conviction has happened and should not be hidden. Report the fact as a result of having made mistakes. Public service may become a critical part of a felon’s reentry into society.

When campaigning for office, it is important to be honest and open about a conviction but not be defensive and dwell on these mistakes. After it becomes public, you should leave it alone and not draw any more attention to the fact.

Having your civil rights restored through clemency and having your record expunged can make a critical difference to succeed in becoming a mayor. This begins by having a clean record.

What do you think about this article? 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.

About the author

After earning his MBA from Benedictine University, Ron was looking for a new challenge and stumbled on the idea of helping the formerly incarcerated.

Using what he learned, Ron developed this website as a free resource and has worked with his team​ to continue answering questions for those in need.

1 thought on “Can a Felon Become a Mayor?”

  1. Usually, its the other way around… the mayor becomes a felon (prime example: Marion Barry- Washington DC). LLLOL


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