Project Wonderful

Sunday, August 12, 2018

How To Be An Ally To Your Woman Campaign Manager

We talk a lot about why it's important to have women in seats of power when it comes to elected officials but it's just now that we're starting to talk about why we need women in roles like Chief of Staff and Campaign Manager--the power behind the power. Hat tip to this Teen Vogue article (can we talk about how Teen Vogue is slaying it these last couple years?) by Erica Sagrans. These women are setting the culture of their operations and influencing policy and priorities often more so than their candidates/elected officials.

I'm going to write more about this too coming up but I genuinely believe that men in our industry need help catching up and really understanding on a fundamental and practical level what it means to support women in our industry and for that matter women need to think critically about supporting each other. Now, I want to put out a disclaimer that by and large I love the men I work with (so much so that I married one). I really struggled with this post because I want to use specific examples and call out some behavior I have seen as a Campaign Manager but I don't want to shame anyone. When you know better you do better and I know that the smart, progressive guys in our community want to do better. So here we go.

1) Notice when there aren't women or people of color in the room. Managing my first campaign back from 3 years in DC I was shocked but not surprised by the level of just obliviousness to soft sexism that still exists on the ground on campaigns. There was one particular incident in which I was not invited to an important meeting about the future of the campaign despite being, you know, the Campaign Manager and that incident really crystalized what had been bothering me since day one. When I pointed out to the rest of the team that not only was I not included but no women from any of the groups attending the meeting had been invited, they simply hadn't noticed. This cut me even closer than the original slight. The fact that it was natural and unremarkable to my colleagues that a group of 10-15 people should be comprised entirely of men underlined a complete lack of appreciation for the challenges I face as a professional woman. So the first thing you can do is just notice. Begin to notice how often women are left out, spoken over and sidelined and you will gain a deeper understanding of why your choices and actions impact our professional relationship in ways you hadn't considered.

2) Bring me with you/Don't be a gatekeeper. Great, so you've noticed that women aren't invited. The next step is to invite them. No one in the progressive community (I hope) puts together any sort of conversation and thinks "let's not have any women/people of color/working class people/LGBTQ+ people etc there." What we do think is, "Who do I know? With whom am I comfortable? With whom do I already have a relationship?" And the problem is that the answer tends to be people who look and think like us. Even if it this weren't a scenario in which I should have already been invited by dint of my position (and I absolutely should have been and eventually was) it would behoove our movement in similar situations to actively seek out appropriate women to include. You may say "if a woman doesn't hold a position of power then why should I just bring one along?" To that I say, "why am I the only woman in a position important enough to (eventually) be included?" Part of the answer is that these are the rooms in which relationships are built and those relationships often put people in positions of power. So if you make an effort to insist on having a woman to the table, the next time we're asking the questions "Who do I know? With whom am I comfortable? With whom do I already have a relationship?" The answer will be "her." (No, not Egg.) Not only does diversity lead to better outcomess but it interupts a self-perpetuating cycle.

This is especially important in an industry where our currency is relationships. Sometimes we want to be the gatekeeper to powerful people or conversations because we think it makes us valuable. I would submit that preserving our privilege isn't the best way to build that currency. Instead being a connector is a wonderful way to build our personal power and improve our community. As I always say, this cycle you might be at a committee and I might be managing one of your races, but next cycle I'll be at that committee and you'll be a consultant wanting me to connect you to my races. So do what's good for you AND our community and make sure you are advocating to have women (and other traditionally marginalized people) at the table.

3) Speak respectfully, whether I'm in the room or not. I attended a gathering recently where a high-ranking official light-heartedly called someone "a pussy" then turned to me, the only woman in the room and apologized. There's a lot to unpack in that particular backpack but let's suffice it to say the following.

I have a zero tolerance policy for the word "pussy" on my campaigns and it's a policy I've had to enforce, a lot. Every time a male colleague refers to someone as a "pussy" I calmly and firmly interject, "we don't use that word on this campaign." (BTW I totally recommend adopting this.) My policy is not about cursing or even about off color jokes--I revel in both with great frequency and enthusiasm something I've had to keep an eye on as I've moved up the ranks-- but about the misogynistic root of the word itself. It's the same reason I had to side with Twitter about Samantha Bee calling Ivanka Trump a feckless cunt. I would never defend Ivanka Trump but when you use a gendered word like "cunt" or "pussy" to refer to someone in a derogatory fashion you reinforce the stereotype that women are weak or that our sexuality is dangerous. Whether you realize it or not you are essentially claiming your own power by reducing women to physical form or reproductive function. You are not insulting one woman (or man) in question, you are insulting ALL women. Moreover it is imperative that we never behave as if women's dignity and the moral high ground are at odds in zero sum game.

One joke or slip of the tongue isn't going the crumble empire but it does contribute to a toxic culture. So don't say something when I'm not there that for which you feel you'd have to apologize if I were. I love campaign people because we are smart, funny, and ambitious. Surely we can come up with some more creative curse words.

4) Don't go to strip clubs. I really wrestled over whether to include this one both because it seems so painfully obvious and because I don't want to give any ammunition to anyone who might use my words to defame Democratic campaigns. On the other hand...ayfkm?

Not too long ago, I wanted the phone number for a mid-ranking person in the Democratic infrastructure and I knew a colleague of mine had his number because that colleague had told me a story where he had lent this person money when they were at...a strip club. You know why I didn't have the guy's number? Because I sure as heck wasn't at a strip club. You see my issue here?

I don't want to give the impression that is a regular occurrence or the favored pastime of off duty operatives--if it ever was I think we've moved past that. But it happens enough that I could take my three best straight male friends in this industry and think of three separate unrelated incidents I could have used as the above example.

Look, this is not a point about the morality or feminism of strip clubs. I know there are arguments on both sides. But regardless of what side you fall on surely you can appreciate that this is not appropriate in a professional context. I know, and love, that the line between personal and professional is often blurred as we work long hours together in unfamiliar destinations. If you are at a bachelor party, gross in my opinion, but fine. If you are blowing off some steam with your new coworkers after going out on the road for GOTV...ask yourself who isn't there and why.

5) Validate my frustration. At its best working on campaigns can be absolutely exhilarating. At it's worst it can feel like having your soul slowly chipped away by an ice pick. You know what else is a lot like that? Being a woman. This work is hard. Life is hard. Being a woman is hard, especially in this industry, and especially now. I can't tell you how much means to me when I tell a male colleague a story like the ones above and they respond, without me have to prompt them, "that's not okay." By contrast of course, when male colleagues bend over backwards to deny the gendered aspects of an unpleasant work situation, it only compounds my frustration. There are a thousand little slights (some might call them "microaggressions") that come part and parcel with being a woman in a professional position of power and when we recognize them and call them out, that load gets a little lighter.

6) Understand that I'm doing this backwards in heels. The corollary to point 5 is that I'm asking you not to express your disappointment or displeasure with me when I don't handle an unfair situation the way you would or think that I should have. Please understand I've been socialized to be sensitive to the reactions my actions provoke and that those reactions are often different because I'm a woman. Where you might demand to be included in a meeting and be seen as sticking up for your candidate, I'm seen as egotistic and not being a team player. Where you might flat out reject someone's idea and be seen as decisive, I'm being a bitch. Speaking of socialization, the quiet but constant self-doubt I suffer as I struggle to balance when to push back against these norms versus when to suck it up for the sake of efficiency (even if that "efficiency" means placating egos for an extra 10 minutes in a situation where a man wouldn't have to) and the guilt and impotence I feel regardless of which path I choose is quite enough to drag me down all on their own.. Though your disappointment may be well-intentioned, please give me the benefit of the doubt that I thought of that, and keep it to yourself.

Writing this took it out of me but I have lot more to say on the subject. Shout out to all the badass men and women who make it a pleasure to do this job.

Campaign Love and Mine,


Sunday, June 10, 2018

California's Top Two Primary Is Bad and Should Be Abolished

I'm back, babies! Well, back because I lost a primary. But that's okay. I have actually never felt so okay after losing an election first because I am so incredibly proud of the job that we did and second because I was prepared for the possibility of going right into the general election so I'm still raring to go to take back the house and take on actual Republicans (I hate primaries.)

Anyway I have been itching to write a post about the top-two primary system for a while but for obvious reasons was holding back until I was not currently at its mercy. For those of you who have not been following the political pants-peeing Twitterverse the top two "jungle" primary means that the top two vote-getters, regardless of political party, advance to the general election.

At first glance, a jungle primary seems appealing if you do not go in for the two party system. The problem is that we currently live in a dangerous political reality and not a cloud made of unicorns. It may also seems appealing if you live in a solidly red or solidly blue district where you would like to have an actual choice in the general election. Again, that would be fine if there weren't several swing districts in California that could determine the fate of the house and therefore of whether many Americans have things like visas for their family and healthcare.

Take a district like mine which has an EVEN Cook PVI. When incumbent Ed Royce was running for re-election, no problem. He would easily get the bulk of the Republican vote and advance to the general election with the top Democratic vote-getter. But when Royce announced his retirement, all hell broke loose. We had 21 candidates and 17 who ultimately filed, but let's say for the sake of simplicity there are 6 viable Democratic candidates (Bert, Ernie, Grover, Elmo, Big Bird, and Cookie Monster) and 3 Republicans (Reptar*, Rodger Klotz and Mr. Bone).

We could end up with a result like this:

Big Bird-14%
Cookie Monster-13%
Mr.Bone- 9%

Klotz and Reptar, both Republicans, would advance to the general election even though 60% of the electorate voted for Democrats.

How primaries should work in general is a topic of contentious debate. Should they be closed (meaning you have to be a registered Dem to vote in the Democratic primary) or should they be open (meaning anyone can vote in any party primary, thus expanding participation) or somewhere in between? But whether you argue for the former or the later this accomplishes neither goal. A top-two primary robs the Democratic electorate of choosing their nominee and weakens the power of the Democratic party. Neither does it enfranchise the broader electorate. In the example above, most voters preferred a Democrat but will now be stuck with the choice of two Republicans as their representative.

An ancillary problem is that this system favors Republicans, who are more consistent primary voters. I can't tell you how many Dem or Dem-leaning Decline to State voters I spoke with were not planning on voting the primary because they figured they would just support the Democratic nominee in the general election, not realizing if they didn't vote now they might not have that option. (This part is ultimately a problem of both turnout and voter education but I felt it was worth mentioning here.) Dedicated Democratic voters had the opposite problem of being forced to choose not their preferred candidate, nor even the candidate who they felt had the best chance of winning a general election, but the candidate who was best positioned to make it into the general election, not always the same person.

Furthermore, the jungle primary leads to poor distribution of resources. Because there is no true Democratic primary, the California Democratic Party (CDP) engages in a series of caucuses for their nomination process. The rules and especially list of participants in these caucuses are (despite the best efforts of many dedicated people on the CDP staff) byzantine and amorphous respectively, much to the frustration of anyone who has managed a primary campaign in the state. The caucus- goers are local Democratic party delegates and their alternates which means that an extremely disproportionate amount of a candidate's time in the early and even mid months of a primary is spent talking to 30 to 60 voters who may or may not represent the will of the actual electorate. It is a questionable process to say the least but it is also the only way for the state party infrastructure to exercise its power in a top-two primary system.

But it gets even more convoluted. Unlike the Minnesota caucuses, which are a whole other kettle of lutefisk, voting is not open to the general public and candidates and stakeholders do not as a rule abide by the endorsement** although state and local party leaders argue that they should. To wit, in California's 48th District the CDP endorsed Hans Kierstead and the DCCC endorsed Harley Rouda. As of writing, that race remains too close to call.

Speaking of the DCCC, the other massive waste of resources caused by the top-two primary system is the DCCC's involvement. Wounds are still fresh, but although I vehemently disagreed with and at at times felt personally victimized by the DCCC's choice to get involved in my race, I still totally get why they did it. In general, I am of the opinion that rather than invest in altering the outcome of Democratic primaries, the party should spend that money figuring out how to win general elections. However, in the case of California's top-two primary system the DCCC has not just a right, but an obligation, to ensure that at least one Democrat makes it to the general election. The result, however ham-fisted, is millions of institutional dollars spent necessarily meddling in primaries when that money could, should, and mostly likely was intended by donors to be spent fighting Republicans. One can only imagine the ill-will and distrust generated between national and local parties thanks to the jungle primary system.

So what to do? If one believes that the impetus for California's top-two primary system is to create greater choice for voters in deep red or blue districts (and not, as has been suggested to me, to create greater opportunities for lobbyists) then my suggestion is instant runoff primary voting. Under such a system, Californians would have the opportunity to express their preferences among their party's candidates without causing a general election shutout, except in cases where the majority of the electorate really did skew heavily red or blue. It's a system that, like all other electoral systems, could be gamed but would still be a marked improvement. Ranked choice voting has the added benefit of discouraging intra-party negative campaigning since you still want your opponents' supporters to put you second, but more on that another time.

There you have it. This was almost as exhausting to write as it was to live through, but I hope not so to read. What other topics do you want to see? I've got loads of opinions and a moderate amount of free time and it's great to be blogging again.

Campaign Love and Mine,


*Yes I know Reptar was from Rugrats and the other two were from Doug. Don't @ me, bro.
** I see you, Tim Walz.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Campaign Workers Guild: Your Questions Answered!

Randy Bryce's campaign was the union-ization heard 'round the campaign world. As soon as this article was published, questions about Campaign Workers Guild came flooding in. As an 11 (gulp) year veteran of electoral politics I had seen efforts to unionize campaign staff come and go but never catch fire like this. I had the same questions that many of you did: how would this work? Would this hinder the way we do politics?

When you've been part of a system for so long it's hard to accept that there's a better way of doing things. Ultimately, however, I fell in love with the idea. CampaignSick is based on a firm belief that working on political campaigns is a skilled and specialized profession and one that is worthy of respect. So doesn't it follow that we are also worthy of the same protections we fight for for other workers? In addition to fair wages and reasonable work hours, I was especially happy to see that Campaign Workers Guild advocates for a redress system for sexual harassment--an issue that has long been ignored and is just now coming to light in our community.

I am so freaking excited to share this post with you. And based on tweets and messages I know you are excited to read it! Thank you Griff Hibbard-Curto and the rest of the organizers at Campaign Workers Guild for taking the time to tell us more about this exciting movement!

What is Campaign Workers Guild? Who are you as an organization? How did this come about? Why is it necessary?
Campaign Workers Guild is a national union for campaign workers. We are composed of active and former campaign staffers, and we organize non-management campaign staff on electoral and issue campaigns. CWG is necessary because the typical working conditions found on campaigns make it an unsustainable field to remain in for long, and we believe not only that campaign workers deserve better working conditions, we think that campaigns and movements will thrive when they take care of the people fueling them. Too often, staffers are not afforded the quality of life that they organize for, and are expected to work 80+ hour work weeks, shoulder campaign expenses with no hope of reimbursement, and have no protections from sexual harassment, discrimination, or being laid off on a moment’s notice.

Who are YOU (the individuals behind CWG)? Are you full-time employees of the organization?
There are currently no employees of CWG, our membership and leadership is completely made up of volunteers. We are a mix of current campaign workers and past campaign workers, some of whom currently work in the labor movement. I’m an at-large member of the Executive Council, which governs the union.

Who can be a member and what does that entail?
Any current or former campaign worker (so not just field! Digital, data, comms, etc) who likes what they see in our letter can sign on to become a member. We also welcome allys, candidates, activists, volunteers, and elected officials to sign on in support of our message and our movement. In order to be a member of a bargaining unit on a campaign, you need to be an employee, not a contractor or 1099.

How is CWG similar to and different from a traditional union?
CWG is similar to traditional unions in that we are bargaining for workers and attempting to provide basic protections in their workplaces. In terms of structure, we’re fairly similar to the actors or writers guilds. We’re different because of the nature of our work - campaigns are transient, and workers routinely hop around the country moving from race to race. Because of this, it’s fairly unlikely a campaign worker who stays in the field will be able to stay in the same area for more than a few years. It’s definitely a different type of union, and we’re really excited that we’re able to tailor our union to fit our unique needs.

This isn't the first attempt to unionize campaign staff. Why do you think you're seeing success where others haven’t?
Recent changes in our body politic have split the Democratic party and the nation as a whole with those who are comfortable maintaining the status quo, and those of us who are unable to sit by and watch things stay the same. Since 2008, Democrats have lost over 1,000 state and federal elected positions, including many governorships and the presidency. In 2018, folks are realizing that we have to walk the talk; rhetoric is not enough. The workers we talk to are just plain fed up. We’re seeing enormous amounts of interest in the CWG — for many, it’s because they’re sick of the candidate they work for stumping about a living wage and healthcare when they earn $2000/month to work 80 hours per week. We’ve been organizing this for a while, but the recent #metoo movement has brought broader awareness to the pervasiveness of sexual harassment and assault, regardless of workplace.

A friend sent me an article about CWG with the comment "Oh, great. So now we're going to unilaterally disarm." What do you say to critics who say that unionizing will make Dem campaigns less competitive?
First off, our goal isn’t to make campaigns more competitive. Our goal is to protect workers. We are non-partisan. And here’s the thing: if a candidate can’t afford to pay their staff a living wage while campaigning for a $15 minimum then sorry, they shouldn’t have staff. We are completely fed up with candidates and parties talking the talk and not walking the walk. Although we’re fighting for the workers, not the campaign or party, there’s no denying that in our current organizing climate, workers typically burn out after a cycle or two, tops, which means that when big moments like 2016 roll along, campaigns have to start fresh with brand new organizers. We believe in calling campaign work what it is: skilled labor. Campaign work will be more sustainable when we protect workers, and talented, experienced organizers will be able to stay in Democratic politics for the long run. Instead of having to worry about where to find health care, how to recover from workplace abuses, sleep deprivation, and a grueling work schedule, organizers will be able to focus on organizing their campaigns to the best of their ability.

I find on campaigns there's a fair amount of "when I was an organizer I had to walk uphill in the snow both ways." Have you gotten pushback of that nature and if so how do you respond?
Of course there are those who will speak up to turn the spotlight on themselves and the hardships they’ve endured doing this work in the past. We get it. The “I paid my dues, it isn’t fair if you don’t have to” is not an unusual mentality. We certainly hope that those folks recognize that we are organizing because of them, not in spite of them. We want to make the career track sustainable for everyone who has the passion, skill, and desire to get involved in progressive politics. Our collective struggle in the past is what has motivated the organization of CWG and the progress we’ve made so far, and those tough stories will continue to fuel us moving forward.

I get a lot of questions on my blog about what the prevailing wage for organizers and other campaign roles is/should be. Do you have a stance on that?
When we bargain with campaigns, we establish a minimum salary requirement for organizers that is more in line with the value of the work they provide their campaigns. Since the contract comes from what the actual workers want, it really depends on how they feel. Workers know their own campaign and its finances best. We definitely believe no candidate should be campaigning for wages or benefits that they don’t even give to their own staff.

Is there a danger that if FO's unionize they will be replaced by volunteers?
Anyone with campaign experience is both acutely aware of the awesome power of volunteers and also knows that field organizers are held to a much higher standard. Organizers are responsible for building power in communities, bottom-lining event scheduling, volunteer training and recruitment, as well as a laundry list of miscellaneous campaign necessities. The responsibilities shouldered by organizers could sometimes be taken on by some stellar volunteers, but without the built-in demand for accountability that comes with employment, not to mention the training and skillsets built on several cycles of experience, there’s no way to compare the utility of a volunteer to an expert organizer.

Are you actively trying to organize campaigns or waiting for organizers to approach you? If the former, who are you targeting?
Both. There are a few campaigns that we are looking at organizing, based primarily off of conversations with their staffs. But the impetus of our organizing comes from the workers’ needs and demands, and we’ve seen a huge response from workers following our public launch, so we’re currently focusing on those campaigns whose workers have reached out to us directly.

If someone wants to organize their campaign what do they do?
Come to our website! We’ve made it easy to sign our letter, get in touch with us, get your staff members paying dues, and start the bargaining process.

Given the universe of people we are talking about, I can imagine the idea to unionize coming from a candidate or manager. What are your thoughts on that?
We’ve definitely seen some managers and candidates talk about getting associated with CWG and unionizing their campaigns. We want to remind and reinforce that our power, our bargaining agreements, and our voice comes directly from the workers. It’s great when candidates and managers want to voluntarily recognize their employees as a bargaining unit, but it’s critical that the organizing is coming directly from the workers. Again, we’re here for the workers.

What is your vision for the future? Do you see every Dem campaign unionizing and if so how quickly?
We know it’ll take time for our movement to proliferate and touch the majority of Democratic campaigns, but we’re seeing great growth already and anticipate many major campaigns joining our movement soon. Our goal is to get to multiple-employer contracts, or a contract with the whole Democratic Party (and other parties as well). We’d like there to be work standards in place, regardless of whether you’re working on a city council race or a presidential primary. We want the CWG to provide training to its members, and we’re also giving our members the chance to see job postings first before they’re posted elsewhere.

What else do you want us to know?
This is a movement. People have been abused on campaigns either directly or through the circumstances of their work. The problems have culminated to a point where we’re standing up and creating a union to protect ourselves and each other.

Again to learn more about Campaign Workers Guild visit

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Did Doug Jones Win Because of Yard Signs? CampaignSick rates as "True but Misleading"

There are two articles that I've had posted on my Facebook, tweeted, texted and emailed to me at least a dozen times each in the past two weeks. One is about unionizing Democratic campaigns (more on that soon- so excited to post my interview with Campaign Workers Guild.) The other is this provocatively titled "How Yard Signs Helped Beat Roy Moore and Could Elect Red State Dems."

For the uninitiated, yard signs are the bane of every Field Director and Campaign Manager's existence because they suck up an inordinate amount of resources and are generally considered ineffective. Every time an article like the one about Doug Jones is published it is cited by hacktivists and candidates alike who believe it to be proof that their terrible gut instincts are now backed by scientific data.

Let's look at what the article actually says. First, it's important to remember that no actual test was done. If Jones' campaign had utilized yard signs in only some precincts but not in others with similar makeups we might be able to draw more reliable conclusions about what effect if any the yard signs had. Second, no one, even proponents of this strategy are claiming that yard signs are responsible for Doug Jones' win.

Of course, he doesn’t think Jones won because of yard signs. No campaign is won or lost because of a single decision, especially in a race with circumstances as unique as the Alabama special election, in which Moore, the GOP candidate, was accused of child molestation.

Rather, the philosophy behind employing yard signs was that it would help convince traditionally Republican Alabamans that it was socially acceptable to vote for a Democrat.

Their realization: the campaign needed to show Republican voters — some of whom hadn’t voted for a Democrat in decades — that it would be OK to support one this time around...“I remember sitting with Giles and talking about neighbor-to-neighbor legitimization,” Perry told McClatchy. “And how this race was different in that signs were going to matter.”

In that regard the move totally makes sense. Let's be honest, Doug Jones won because Roy Moore is a cartoon parody of a dumpster human. (Unlike Donald Trump, Moore did not have the benefit of running against a woman who had already been publicly maligned for the past 20 years.) People needed permission to break the assumed social code and vote Dem. So yes, yard signs work if your opponent is an actual pedophile/child rapist.

The final important point in the article is how the yard signs were distributed.
Perry was most proud of how the campaign handed out its signs, a process he says was never-before-done in Alabama politics. Anybody who wanted one first had to give his or her name, address, telephone number, and email address. The Jones supporter could pick one up from a neighbor, too, but only if he or she could also supply contact information.

To Perry, this was the yard signs’ most important contribution. The data became a resource for the campaign, helping it organize and then mobilize its dedicated supporters and volunteers.

Which supports what operatives have always said, which is that IF yard signs are distributed they should be used to collect volunteer support or information.

So there you have it: yard signs can be used to motivate supporters or defeat pedophiles. But the main point that even the campaign manager in this article would agree with is that they are not a substitute or even a valid supplement for good old fashioned voter contact.

Sharing a Powerful Message From Heather Colburn

News broke yesterday that yet another Democratic/progressive consulting firm is in hot water because of sexual harassment.

Although I absolutely love the men I work and have worked with (so much so that I married one) I've been finding myself overwhelmed by the maleness of our industry lately. Not just the brogressives who attend women's marches but deride "identity politics" and fail to identify the hypocrisy in the incidents like the one at Revolution Messaging but the very paradigms on which our industry is based. When I read Heather (who is EMILY's List's chief fundraising trainer and partner in her own firm)'s Facebook post on the matter it so perfectly articulated something I've been wanting to say that I asked if I could share it here. Please read below:

I need to get something off my chest. This is the second digital firm in two weeks to have women come forward about terrible acts of sexual misconduct by male partners in firms. There is no way that we will ever have more power if we just change the faces in Congress, we must change who has power in politics in this country and Congress is just the beginning .

Women managers, fundraisers, staff and consultants are the ones who weigh in on how messaging should be done, what legislation we should prioritize and what women say on the campaign trail. When they are surrounded by men, how can decisions that reflect our values be presented? The bottom line is they can't. But if you read this and work in politics, this is on YOU to solve. Does your consulting team have women on it? And not the fundraiser, who is typically a woman. I mean a decision maker.

Second- where there is smoke there is fire. Please stop defending these men. WHY are these men anonymous in these stories? I know their names. You should too. You know why they are? Because they have lawyers- lawyers you paid for when you hired these firms or contributed to these candidates. Lawyers who know this is true and are trying to contain the damage.

Third, this isn't about you, male consultant, who I love. You should be prosperous and I hope you are. But we paid for this table, its our goddam table and we're going to sit at it. So hire a female consulting firm, promote women managers, mentor females and make them named partners, do sexual harassment trainings at your workplace and stand with us. And never, ever, decide what's best for a woman, without a woman in the room.

Thank you.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

NGP That Works Like VAN? Yes please! (Interview about NGP 8 with Lou Levine)

When I learned there was a way to make NGP work like VAN I was all YES PLEASE. Then my finance director came on and made me change it back. Nevertheless, I am stoked about this new development and couldn't wait to share it with you! See below for my interview with NGP's Lou Levine about the new, great NGP 8!

First things first tell us about yourself. What's your position at NGP VAN and what were you doing beforehand?
I’m the Sr Vice President and General Manager for Political Fundraising and Compliance. I’ve been at the company for 18 years now, and started back when it was just NGP. I wear a lot of hats, but my main role here is to be the person generally in charge of the traditional "NGP" side of our business. Before joining the company, I was in college at Claremont McKenna in California. [Editor's note: Dang. 18 years in the same job is a campaign person's eternity.]

Okay now tell us about NGP 8. What is it and why should we be excited?
NGP 8 is the latest iteration of our industry-standard fundraising and compliance toolset, and it's the culmination of years of work. There is a ton to be excited about in NGP 8. We've already added a lot of new functionality around call time, including custom call sheets, enhanced mobile call time, and the ability to run call time from within the application. It works seamlessly with our amazing digital tools - Digital 8, allowing you to have an full view of your supporters both online and offline, and interact with them the way that best works for them.

And of course, NGP 8 still has a tightly integrated compliance functionality, so you can take care of all aspects of the campaign from one place. The thing i'm most excited about is that we've built it on top of the same underlying database as VAN - the Action Platform. So what that means is that as we've been making improvements to NGP 8, we've also been making improvements to VAN. And when someone learns how to use VAN, that means that they can look at NGP 8 and immediately know the basics of how that system works. And over the long term, we expect that to be a big win for the progressive movement as a whole. (Click here to listen to more of why Lou’s excited about NGP 8.)

What has the reception been so far?
We've seen a lot of positive reaction so far to NGP 8, especially from down-ballot campaigns. I'm pretty excited to say that in the few short months that we've had it up, we have over 300 campaigns already using it. We've also acknowledged many people’s fear of new and different things, and that change can sometimes be challenging. That said, we always try to listen and respond to our users' feedback.

As a field person turned manager I love NGP 8, but I know some finance directors and compliance firms still prefer NGP 7. Are there some things 7 can do that 8 can't or are these just growing pains?
A lot of it is growing pains on the part of the user and the fact that changing your workflow is hard. It's not an exaggeration to say that many finance and compliance directors spend the bulk of their day in NGP, so naturally any change is going to be a disruptive one, and take some getting used to.

I'm hard-pressed to think of things that NGP 7 can do that you can't do in 8. In general, when building features in NGP 8, we used the criteria of "the user needs to be able to do what they were able to do in 7". But as you said, there are some users that still prefer 7, and it's just going to be a steady process of listening to their feedback and winning them over. Having been around here as long as I have been, we've successfully navigated that process with users a number of times, and i'm confident we'll be able to do it again.

Is the plan to eventually only have this NGP or is the old NGP here to stay?
Generally, we've taken the approach that we don't force people off a platform they are happy using. We still have people using NGP Classic, and we still have folks on NGP 7. I'd really like to retire NGP Classic in the coming years, and we'd like for the overwhelming majority of people to move to NGP 8 as soon as they’re ready. The long term plan is for there to be only one NGP. In a perfect world, I'd wave a magic wand and everyone would be using the most recent version of our tools.

Can a campaign go back and forth between the two?
Not really. We do offer a way to move online fundraising data from NGP 8 into NGP 7, but that's about it.

This is really exciting! What else exciting is on the horizon for NGP VAN?
We've got a lot going on right now! We're continuing to improve the NGP tools, coming out with further improvements to our fundraising and call time tools, and adding tighter integration with VAN.
We are on-boarding our first state party committees onto NGP 8 as well. We've got an improved, actual integration with ActBlue coming soon. Our EveryAction business has been growing rapidly, and pushing us to do even more innovation, which is really exciting. And we've been working with lots of the new companies that have sprung up out of the tech resistance. And let's not forget, we've got some big elections to win in 2018 and beyond - and we're already planning for that.

And the question I ask everyone on the blog. What is something you wish you had known earlier in your career?
I wish someone had told me just how long impressions, both good and not-so-good can last. I've been doing this for 18 years, and I've seen how good work that I did early on has continued to pay dividends now, and missteps over the years have been hard to get folks to forget. I've been fortunate in that the good has heavily outweighed the bad, but people at all stage of their careers should keep in mind that people have long memories.

Thank you so much, Lou! If you are not using NGP First of all what?! Second of all, you can learn more here.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

When Campaign Staffers Become Candidates: Meet Richard Becker

When I found out Richard Becker was running for office I about flipped over in my office chair, not only because I think he will make an amazing State Representative, but also because he was my intern in Iowa in 2008! Having known and worked with Richard in his younger days I was already all about his candidacy, but after reading this I donated to his campaign again and I think you should too. You can learn more about Richard at

1.Who are you? Tell us a little about your life and career path up to now.

I live in Louisville, Kentucky with my girlfriend Jane, my dog Bernie, and a cat named Pancake. I work as a union organizer with Service Employees International Union (SEIU), based here in Louisville. I have been a union organizer for seven years. Prior to that, I worked on Democratic campaigns in Iowa, Kentucky, Arizona, and Ohio doing field organizing work at various levels. I'm a graduate of the University of Kentucky with a BA in History. I got involved in politics for the first time in 2004, volunteering first for Howard Dean and later for John Kerry in the general election.

When I got to college in 2005, my interest in politics really took off. I served as president of the UK College Democrats and later as state co-chair of the College Democrats of Kentucky. In 2008, I took a semester off from school to work in Ohio for the Obama campaign. I often tell people that I learned more about politics and life during that semester off school than I learned in all my other semesters combined. After finishing school in 2010, I worked briefly in Arizona for the Democratic Party before returning to Kentucky to work for Attorney General Jack Conway on his campaign for U.S. Senate against Rand Paul.

That campaign left me feeling deflated about electoral politics. I knew I needed to try something new. I’d interacted with labor unions a lot during my years on political campaigns, and it seemed to me like I could take my skills as a campaign organizer and put them to work on behalf of a cause, on behalf of a movement, rather than on behalf of a person on the ballot. So I made the leap into union organizing, working for AFSCME in Louisville and later, joining SEIU where I remain today. I love my work. Getting to help empower workers to make positive change in their workplaces and communities is so rewarding. All of the Democratic Party’s post-2016 talk about “connecting with the working-class” is not an abstraction for me. It’s literally what I do every day at my job. And I believe it’s made me a better candidate now that I’m running for office.

2.Have you always wanted to run for office? What made you want to run? Why now?

I often tell people that if you’d asked me a year ago if I’d ever be running for office, I’d have dismissed the notion outright. And that’s the truth. But I was there a year ago, in January 2017, when the new Republican majority in Frankfort passed their extreme raft of anti-worker, anti-woman, anti-public school legislation. I was there, with my union brothers and sisters, locked out of the committee rooms, when Gov. Bevin testified in support of so-called “right to work” in front of a room packed with lobbyists and donors from Americans for Prosperity. I’ve watched as Bevin has waged a war on workers, a war on women, and a war on my city of Louisville. I’m mad. And so are countless thousands of other Kentuckians. I believe that our current political moment demands that people of good conscience with progressive values must enter the fray. That’s why I’m doing this. As for why now?

In early November 2017, my state representative, Jim Wayne--for whom I have an enormous amount of affection and respect--announced he would not seek re-election in 2018. The day the news broke, I happened to be at a convention of the Kentucky AFL-CIO, surrounded by my labor union family. Word spread that I lived in the district, and one-by-one, leaders from our Kentucky labor movement approached me and urged me to run. After some consideration and some planning, I decided to file.

3.Tell us a little about your race

I’m running in a Democratic primary with two Democratic opponents, in a district that is about 60% Democratic by registration. I was the first candidate to file, and we hit the ground running from day one. Our message is simple: “our district deserves a fighting voice for working people in Frankfort, someone who will take the fight to Matt Bevin and not back down when the going gets tough.”

I respect both of my Democratic opponents and fully intend to support the nominee if I don’t win the primary. But primaries in districts like mine, where registration numbers suggest that a Democrat is favored for the general election, offer us the opportunity to decide who we want representing us. There are any number of good people who run for office who we can count on to vote the right way for the most part, or even to say the right thing from time to time. But with one-party rule in Frankfort that’s hellbent on destroying workers’ rights, dismantling our public schools, and implementing all kinds of backwards policies on women’s rights and immigrant’s rights, I believe our current political moment demands more. I believe we need bold, outspoken, fresh leadership in Frankfort. We need a new kind of politics that’s not afraid to speak up and speak out, and bring the people to Frankfort with them to fight for progressive values. In short, I think we need more organizers running for office!

4.What's the biggest difference between being campaign staff and a candidate?

Great question! I think the biggest difference is that when you’re the candidate, the buck stops with you. There’s no higher authority to turn to when a decision needs to be made. There’s no one to fall on their sword if something goes wrong. There’s only you. That can be intimidating at times, but it’s also a great opportunity to sharpen my instincts in a way that will hopefully help me once I’m elected.

I have marveled at how much of my experience and training as a campaign staffer translates to being a candidate. From recruiting volunteers, to developing a winning message, to targeting persuadable voters, all of the skills I’ve gleaned over the years have helped me tremendously in this new chapter of my political life.

Now if I could just get my campaign manager to use

5.Is there anything you've realized as a candidate that would have helped you when you were a staffer?

To be honest--there have been times on campaigns where I have had criticisms of my candidate that in retrospect were a bit unfair. I’m not running for president or U.S. Senate by any means, but running for state representative is still a demanding job, and realizing that, I can only imagine how stressful it must be to run at those higher levels. I think that it would’ve helped me as a staffer to have the full context of what being a candidate really means, because it might’ve made me more forgiving of the missteps and shortcomings of some of the candidates I’ve worked for over the years.

6.What's been the biggest surprise so far?

The biggest surprise so far has been seeing how many people are coming out to knock doors for our campaign, or give donations of five, ten, or twenty bucks, who I don’t even know. You expect your friends and family to pull out all the stops for you. You expect your former colleagues to chip in. But when people start investing themselves in your campaign simply because they’ve heard your message and believe you’re the right person for the job...that’s an incredible thing.

7.What are you most proud of when it comes to your candidacy?

I said to my team on day one that I wanted to run a campaign that we could all be proud of, a campaign that lives our values. That’s why we are paying our campaign intern. That’s why we’re using union vendors for all of our printing and merchandise. And that’s why when I talk to voters at the door, I tell them the unvarnished truth about my positions; I don’t equivocate or sidestep. It turns out that living your values is not only the morally right thing to do, though. It’s also good politics. People appreciate candor and honesty, and integrity. Even voters who disagree with me on a particular issue generally leave the conversation feeling good about our campaign. And that makes me proud of what we’ve built, and confident that we are going to win on May 22nd.

8. The thing I ask everyone...what do you wish you'd known earlier in your career?

I wish I’d known just how disappointing and cynical politics can be when the wrong people are in power. I started my career in politics at a young age, working first for a gubernatorial candidate in Kentucky, and later on two presidential campaigns in Iowa and later Ohio. I was “bright-eyed and bushy-tailed,” as they say. I thought that electoral politics was the Alpha and the Omega of how political change happens in this country.

Then I left electoral politics to become a union organizer.

I watched as politicians in both parties left working-class people behind in order to further the agenda of their millionaire backers. I watched as a movement dedicated to improving the lives of working-class people was beaten down by politicians bent on consolidating power for the 1%. And yet, through all of this, in spite of how demoralizing it can all be, I watched everyday, ordinary working people keep getting up and going to work in the morning. I watched them get involved in the process and fight for a better world in spite of politicians with a different agenda. And that has inspired me.

So the answer to your question is: I wish I’d known just how disappointing politics can be, but also wish I’d known just how inspiring it can be when you break out of the day-to-day of cable news and campaign chatter, and actually connect one-on-one with people on the ground. For candidates and campaign staff, politics is often talked about like it’s a game; but for working people, it can quite literally be life or death. And that’s a powerful lesson to learn, and one I know carry with me as I wage this campaign.

To donate or learn more about Richard's campaign visit