Project Wonderful

Monday, December 30, 2013

New York Proposal To Move September Primaries to June, Like Normal People

From Capitol Confidential:

In symmetry with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins has introduced a bill that would move the state primary from early September to late June, currently the court-ordered home of the primary for Congressional races.

In a statement, Stewart-Cousins calls the move “a common sense and good government approach to save our local taxpayers at least $50 million and will help increase voter turnout, giving more people a voice in the electoral process.”

The June timetable is opposed by Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos, who believes it would complicate the end of the legislative session.

This bill is carried by Silver in the Assembly.

The current June federal primary is required by the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act, which sets early deadlines for absentee ballots to accommodate service members overseas and other Americans living abroad.

Sen. Cecilia Tkaczyk said sticking with the September state primary “will deprive military members serving overseas of one of our most fundamental rights — the right to have their vote counted.”

Update: Eric Soufer, spokesman for Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein, says the lawmaker concurs with his chamber co-leader: “Sen. Klein does not believe we should hold a primary during the busiest and one of the most important stretches of the legislative session.”

UpdateX2: In a statement, Silver says he’ll take up the Assembly version of the bill toute de suite after session convenes:

Moving the state primary day to June to coincide with the federal primary day is a practical solution. Combining the two elections will encourage voter turnout. It will eliminate the administrative burden on local governments across the state and save taxpayers nearly $50 million annually.

It is imperative that the June primary is finalized quickly, and we intend to take up this legislation (A.8198) early in the 2014 session. We look forward to working with our partners in government to do the same, providing municipalities sufficient time to implement this common sense, cost-saving measure.

How NOT to Canvass

This wonderful instructional video from "Freedom University," which supports such "freedom-loving" candidates as Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, gives some interesting advice on how to knock doors such as "go in groups of two to five people" and "make sure offer them a yardsign" and most importantly, "dress like you are in a 1992 after school special." I feel really good if this where the right is learning how to do its ground game.

Advocate from Where You Stand: Climate Change Edition

As I stated earlier this week, I am very afraid of climate change. One of the most frustrating aspects of the problem is that fact that certain politicians will put our entire planet's future in jeopardy in order to score political points (shocker) or even more upsetting are actually so ignorant that they believe rhetoric that flies in the face of science. As you know, I am a big fan of accountability and of creative organizing. So I was thrilled to discover this BRILLIANT plan from Change350 to rename tropical storms caused by climate change after the climate change deniers themselves. But don't take my word for it! Check out the video above!

Mentorship vs. Sponsorship

I've wanted to write about the difference between Mentorship and Sponsorship for quite a while, but I haven't known what to say mostly because Sylvia Hewlett owns it so perfectly. Sylvia is the President and CEO of the Center for Talent Innovation and also runs the Gender and Policy Program at Columbia University, a program from which I recently graduated. Sylvia (literally) wrote the book on sponsorship. So I'm just going to share Sylvia's words from this Forbes Magazine interview with her.

In short, mentors advise; sponsors act.

Mentors shine as you start to define your dream. They can see and put into words for you what you may not see about yourself or be able to articulate. They can help you determine your strengths: what you do exceptionally well and what sets you apart.

...Research from the Center for Talent Innovation (CTI) shows that the vast majority of women (85 percent) and multicultural professionals (81 percent) need navigational help. Mentors can help you understand the unwritten rules, provide a map for the uncharted corridors to power, and reveal “the business behind the business.” Most important, by assisting you with this essential assessment, they prepare you to attract sponsors.

If mentors help define the dream, sponsors are the dream-enablers. Sponsors deliver: They make you visible to leaders within the company — and to top people outside as well. They connect you to career opportunities and provide air cover when you encounter trouble. When it comes to opening doors, they don’t stop with one promotion: They’ll see you to the threshold of power.

Hewlett also points out that women tend to be overmentored and undersponsored. When we talk about networking and advancing our careers, we tend to talk about the value of mentors, but not of sponsors. In 2014, I challenge you to find a sponsor or better yet, sponsor someone else!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

CampaignSick AMA

Better late than pregnant? Sorry, guys. These are the FAQ's from Rootscamp weekend that I promised I'd answer on my blog.

1) You work on CampaignSick? What do you do for them?
Everything. Well, basically everything. CampaignSick is just me, Nancy, army of one. I write the articles, curate the GIFs and answer the questions submitted to the blog. I also accept submissions from the fabulous campaign community, without which CampaignSick would just be me laughing at myself, which I do enough of anyway.

2) How do you make money from the blog?
I don't really, but I am hoping to change that. Last year I made $73 dollars from Passionfruit ads which you see at the top of the blog and Tumblr. I am hoping to create a sponsorship program and add a PayPal button over the next couple of weeks, but don't worry. CampaignSick will always be 100% free for the poorganizing community.

3)What campaign do you work on?
It's usually not hard to figure out where I work by doing some very light social media stalking, but in most cases I don't like to write about specific campaigns I'm working on. Even though I try to make it very clear that I am not writing or tumbling about my current projects (and unless otherwise specified, I'm really not) I don't want there to be any cause for confusion or for something I say to reflect negatively on my campaigns. The first rule of field organizing, after all, is don't talk to the press. I have worked on campaigns for seven years on everything from Presidential (John Edwards=oops4lyf) to City Council. I currently work at a DC based organization that advises candidates across the country at every level of elected government, so I get to have my hand in a lot of pots.

4) Have you ever worked for OFA?/What do you think of OFA?/ What do you think of Organizing for Action?/It seems like you love OFA./It seems like you hate OFA./It seems like you get a lot of your stuff from OFA.
Your OFA questions revealed!

I did work for OFA briefly during the 2010 election cycle when it was Organizing for America. I also worked with OFA in 2008 when I worked for a State Democratic Party electing a US Senator and we coordinated with OFA for the last couple months. And of course, I volunteered in 2012 and got to advise, talk to and be on conference calls with a lot of OFA field staff in various non-official capacities.

The reason it seems like I get a lot of my stuff from OFA even though I spent relatively little time working for them is that OFA was born out of a long and prestigious organizing tradition of which I am a part. Mitch Stewart, for example, who was part of the birth of the OFA field program, was my Coordinated Director in 2006. (I don't know why the Wikipedia article doesn't mention that...or why Mitch Stewart has a Wikipedia Article.)

When it seems like I "hate" OFA it is usually because I'm reacting to the misconception that the OFA created field or that it was the best/only thing that's ever happened in campaigns. Obviously neither of those are true. OFA was the best campaign possible...for electing Barack Obama. I think sometimes people who have only ever worked for OFA don't have an appreciation for the fact that smaller or less glamorous campaigns face different obstacles. No one wants to hear your personal story on a State Leg. race. You cannot send an email about an event featuring a City Council candidate and expect people to attend.

I love, love, love a lot of OFA-ers and am eternally grateful for the people OFA has brought into my life and to the general organizing community. In my mind OFA's biggest and most applicable contribution to the campaign community is creating a culture that invests in and values its low-level staff and volunteers. That isn't to say no one had done this before, but especially in 2008 (Respect, Empower, Include) OFA articulated and emphasized it in a way that felt pretty revolutionary and jived with my organizing ethos. I myself was an organizing newbie at the time. OFA's social media/web team is also incredibly innovative and has really redefined the limits and created a new standard for integrating media, web and field.

I really don't know a lot about Organizing for Action, and I'm hoping someone will agree to write about it for me soon!

5) How/why did you start your blog?
When I left campaigns to go to grad school I wanted a way to stay connected to what was going on in the organizing/elections community. I also wanted to put it on my grad school applications. In December of 2011 when Feminist Ryan Gosling was sweeping the Internet, I made a corresponding Tumblr as a joke for myself/my friends. It took off and the rest is history.

6) Why is your blog called CampaignSick?
My intention was for CampaignSick to be like homesick for campaigns, but it is definitely also a sickness.

7) How come my GIF didn't get posted on the tumblr?
I post everything unless it is offensive or the GIF is broken so...if you keep submitting and not getting published, you might want to get someone to help you with the formatting. (It's hard! Tumblr changes the rules like every day!)

I think that's it! Feel free to keep 'em coming.

Campaign Love and Mine,


Friday, December 27, 2013

Today in Voter Suppression: Voting Rights Round Up, 2013

The Brennan Center for Justice (fan girl!) does an amazing job of summing up laws to both restrict and expand voter access. You'll be happy to learn it's not all bad news! Click here to find out more.

Today in Voter Supression: Well, Duh.

Political scientists at Cambridge University have concluded that laws supposedly aimed at preventing voter fraud (for example voter ID, and bans on same day registration) are actually partisan, specifically Republican, efforts at voter suppression.

In an effort to bring empirical clarity and epistemological standards to what has been a deeply-charged, partisan, and frequently anecdotal debate, we use multiple specialized regression approaches to examine factors associated with both the proposal and adoption of restrictive voter access legislation from 2006-2011. Our results indicate that proposal and passage are highly partisan, strategic, and racialized affairs...

Rather, we argue that the Republican Party has engaged in strategic demobilization efforts in response to changing demographics, shifting electoral fortunes, and an internal rightward ideological drift among the party faithful.We situate the most recent round of electoral reforms--far from historically unique--among other measures trumpeted as protecting electoral legitimacy while intended to exclude the marginalized for a particular political party's advantage.

Devotees will note my disdain of political science for complicating and restating that which is obvious to everyone who works on campaigns and then passing it off as new findings, but there you go voter fraud liars, in addition to lying about voter fraud and climate change, you can now also lie about the findings of this study.

6 Simple Rules for Not Being a Jerk to Your Interns

A couple of weeks ago I got a message on my blog saying “you need to speak more highly of interns.” Someone picked the wrong day to mess with me because I had just spent 3 hours in traffic trying to move to DC. It did remind me however of the movement to pay interns and the critical differences between an internship and just free labor.

As much as I would love to say that all campaigns should pay their interns, it’s just not going to happen. The value that interns add to a political campaign is that they are skilled and invested workers who do not take (much) money out of the budget. At the same time they are not working for “free.” Interns are not indentured servants nor are they drones programed to make 7 hours of phone calls every day. Here are some best practices for valuing your interns so that you both have a rewarding experience.

1)Thank them! This is beyond basic, but often forgotten. Like volunteers, interns do not HAVE to be there. For whatever reasons they may come in to the office, they keep coming back for you. You could not run your campaign without them and need to treat them as such. Treat them with appreciation, kindness and respect always. ALWAYS.

2)Pay them in experience.People take internships to gain experience in a field and learn whether a specific job is the right fit for them. This is a key distinction between an intern and a volunteer. A volunteer may already have a career or be retired, an intern probably not. This is not to say interns will never do grunt work. On a campaign everyone does some grunt work. It is pretty expected in a college internship that 50% of time will be spent on menial but meaningful tasks. For us, this might include voter contact, data entry, or assembling walk packets. BUT not only is it inhumane to plop someone down in front of a phone for 7 hours, it is not a good way to keep them coming back. Take the time to show your interns how to do staff level tasks. How to cut turf, pull lists, write a script etc. They are there to learn.

3)Empower your interns. Since you’ve trained your interns well, they are able to take on more responsibility. For interns or for staff, goals help create a sense of growth, accomplishment and accountability. For example, interns can recruit for and run their own phone banks, deploy a canvass or coordinate a smaller size house party. Less work for you, more experience for them!

4)Explain why. Don’t just train your interns HOW to do a task, explain WHY. This is important for all your volunteers but critical for interns. If your interns walk away from their internship without the ability to explain how and why a campaign office works you have failed them.

5)Create clear and reasonable expectations. How much of a time commitment do you expect the and when—are they committing to a certain number of early mornings or call times? Discuss the kind of work they will be doing (it’s not all fundraisers and rallies). Remember that not everyone can afford a full-time unpaid internship. Hold yourself accountable to these agreements as well.

6)Hire your interns. True you are not paying interns a salary, but as we discussed above, you are paying them in time, your most precious resource. Interns will be representing your campaign in an official capacity and will ask you for recommendations later. (Recently I had the unfortunate experience of having to tell an “intern” who I did not hire that I would not serve as a reference for her.) Putting your name or your candidate’s name behind someone is a big deal and is an honor that should not be bestowed on just any college student who wanders into your office. Ask why they want to be there. Someone without a real interest in elections or your campaign is not going to be worth your investment. Once you invest, make that investment real and make an internship with your campaign mean something.

And for Godsakes, feed them!

Intern love and mine,


Windmills Do Not Work That Way!!!!

In case you needed any more reason to roll your eyes at the average "independent" voter, new research shows that independents tend to believe, or not believe, in man-made climate change depending on the weather that day. Also, Republicans still don't believe in it. Because you know, who listens to things like facts and science?

ARE YOU KIDDING ME? You guys know we're almost definitely going to die from climate change, right? It is one of my biggest fears besides improvisational comedy.

Voting population, I cannot with you sometimes.

RIP Jason Chambers

"The idea of eating horse doesn't really bother me. They would do it to you. Horses are assholes."

How could I not want to help honor the author of this quote? Within minutes of reading about Jason Chambers, a 27 year-old OFA Virginia alum who died of cancer this month, I was crying at my desk at work. He sounds so much like someone I would have been friends with. I keep imagining him having the experiences that every organizer has; getting told that making phone calls doesn’t make a difference and doing it anyway, staying up until the middle of the night making walk packets,never imagining that that would be his last job. So many of us justify giving up our 20’s to campaigns with the knowledge that when we are older with steady paychecks and families we will get to look back on a youth without regrets. Jason never got that opportunity.

Below is a tribute to Jason written by one of his friends from the Obama campaign, Justin Spees. Please help honor his memory by taking a moment to read it and contributing to his funeral expenses if you can.

On the night of Thursday, December 19th, Jason Chambers passed away after a months’ long struggle with Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare and very lethal type of bone cancer. He was 27 years old, and like so many readers of this blog, a 2012 OFA field organizer.

Jason started as an intern for OFA in January 2012 in his hometown of Danville, Virginia. He was hired that summer to take over a large, rural part of southern Virginia called Pittsylvania County. He was quiet, and naturally acclimated to the hard work of a campaign. He was also ferociously intelligent and jaw-droppingly funny. He was the kind of guy who would offer you his coat and then tell you he was only doing it to get you to stop complaining about the cold—-someone who was so humble about his decency that he’d pretend it was something else. If you ask anybody who met him, even if it was just once, they’d tell you a story about how selfless he was, and how kind. They’d also tell you about how he’d mask that kindness with an acid sense of humor you envied as you were laughing your ass off.

Two quotes, that give a sense of what he was like:

1.“You know what a Mitt Romney Presidency would be like? ‘Hi, I’m Mitt Romney, welcome to the first day of the Republican congress. We’re going to talk about jobs, jobs, jobs….No just kidding, more anti-abortion stuff.’” [followed by a half hour of the rest of us laughing]

2.[After our intern Laura telling us that the first word she ever spoke was “duck.”]
Jason: “God damnit.”
Laura: “What?!”
Jason: “That’s fucking adorable.”

Jason and I worked side by side in the Danville field office. I’ve lost count of the amount of times he had my back, or the amount of times he talked me down when I thought I was going to lose my mind. He and I singlehandedly kept half the bars in town open that year, just talking about sports, or girls, or the job we recognized even then was changing our lives.

Being a campaign person is a lot like being in a fraternity. Losing Jason feels like losing a member of the family. Most of us who do it for a living know what it’s like to have your life changed in a badly air-conditioned field office with a scrappy group of overfed, underfucked kindred spirits. Jason was one of the best of us. His story deserves to be told.

Jason’s family is currently raising money to help with funeral expenses. If you’d like to make a donation to help them, you can do so at

My deepest sympathies to his friends and family.


On Mixed Relationships, Campaigners and Non-Campaigners (Or Part I of How to Date a Campaign Boy, if You Must)

Campaignsicles, meet Laura and Adam! Adam is a career organizer and Friend of Campaign Sick (FOCS) who was kind enough to let me stay with him and introduce me to his wonderful wife, Laura, when I was interviewing for jobs. I’d been looking for a non-campaign person to write about what it’s like to be in a long term campaign relationship (most of the campaign couples I know are both in politics) and Laura generously agreed to share her perspective below. Laura and Adam met at DragonCon in college (ask them about the story of how Laura proposed, it’s adorable) and she stuck with him not only through his stint in the Peace Corps but through several candidate and marriage equality campaigns!

After reading Laura’s advice, do yourself a flavor and check out the Briskin-Limehouses' amazing cooking blog, the Kitchen Chemist and the Cook! I can tell you from experience that Adam makes a mean pumpkin pie and that their collective bag of cooking tricks is continuously growing. You could learn a thing or two! Enjoy! Here's Laura:

Mixed-Relationships - Campaigners and Non-Campaigners

So, what’s it like being married to and having dated a political campaigner, when you yourself are not one? Sometimes it sucks. Sometimes it’s great. Just like any relationship.

Little bit of background on me: I believe in my partner’s causes, if not as fervently. I’d volunteer/be a politico myself, but down that path leads to ulcers – I care enough to get angry which makes my stomach churn, and thus too much acid. Yeah, ulcers or actually learning to divorce my emotions from getting the work done. But I’m also fairly low energy and really like my sleep, so political activism is not the best career path for me. I like to say that keeping Campaigner fed, in clean clothes, and keeping the house reasonably clean (clean sheets are wonderful to sleep on) is my contribution to the cause(s). My campaigner is my contribution to the movement.

My relationship with a campaigner is really feast or famine, both in time and finances. While on a campaign, he brings in the finances but has little time. Off a campaign, he has a lot of time, but is not bringing in the finances. Part of why this works for us is that he is really good about doing the majority of keeping the household going chore-wise while off campaigns (which I become the primary on while he’s on campaign), as well as being good about hearing ‘I love you and need introvert time’, even while on a campaign and when we haven’t really interacted in 3 days. Meanwhile, I am okay with making sure that introvert time is limited to about 15 really restorative minutes. He’s good about me not coming to every. single. f’ing. fundraiser or networking event and sometimes I suck it up and come to more than I have the energy I think I have for.

Look. Here is how I look at being a campaigner and dating – you’re a niche group in the dating world. You don’t fit some mold of “normality”, “mainstream”, or what dating ‘should' look like. Which, just to be clear, is FINE.

Fuck normativity.

And gender roles. This will screen out people who want you to fit that mold rather than wanting you for yourself. Probably saving you a few bad first dates over your lifetime. It does mean that you will have to look longer and harder for someone you’re compatible with, while having less time to do so.

Here are some things I think are necessary in a partner, especially so between a campaigner and non-campaigner:
1) Independence – neither of you can allow your ‘whole world’ to revolve around each other. There will be periods when you won’t be available because Campaign. There will be periods when they will suddenly be crazy busy with their own thing while you’re not on a campaign. Deal.

2) Flexibility – see the feast or famine thing. You need the ability to make the most out of opportunities, especially unexpected ones. Adhering to a rigid plan doesn’t work when an invite to an awesome event can happen the day of, or you could have an evening together because something got canceled. Who does what around the apartment/house (assuming y’all live together) should change and change again as who has time changes.

– seriously, if y’all don’t communicate, including about emotions, ambitions, needs, and boundaries, DOOOOOOOOM - fastest way for miscues or expectations of what’s happening to spiral out of control. Eventually, that ends up with y’all in parallel but different relationships. Campaigners are already ‘off script’ of our culture’s dating script and assumptions/expectations bad™.

So, yeah, that’s my perspective on what it’s like married to a campaigner, why it works for us, and hopefully some helpful things to think about/look for in a partner.

Or you know, you could go for casual sex, if that’s your thing. Nothing wrong with safely blowing off some steam doing something fun. Just, you know, be kind, clear, and not an asshole.

Don’t be an asshole should just be a general rule of life. Now, get back to work and make more calls.

Amazing advice! If only "don't be an asshole" were an actual rule. One caveat I did want to add (and maybe this is just me trying to make myself feel better) I think you can prefer your romantic relationships fairly gender normative and be extroverted and still have these work. At least I hope so for my sake!

What I’ve learned from my own romantic misadventures is that communication, having your own life, and having the confidence not to need constant reassurance are all KEY. Big, big thank you to Laura and Adam for sharing their story. You can check out their wonderful cooking blog here.

Campaign Luuuuv and Mine,


Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Happy Thanksgiving, my amazing, beautiful friends! I know I say it all the time, but I can never stress enough how grateful I am for you sharing your lives with me and allowing me to share mine with you. You are the 1's in my call list and the cold beer at the end of my canvass. My life would be so much less fun without you. I just made 5 holiday desserts and did 7 loads of laundry because on top of Thanksgiving, I am moving tomorrow, so I am unable to expound on your wonderfulness at this time.

I did want to share this YDA link on fact checking your Republican relatives, since I get questions about this every holiday. Use it at your own risk!

Happy Thanksgiving, Happy Hannukah and of course...

Campaign Love and Mine,


Monday, November 25, 2013

The 5 DC Things I Will Never Do

I have to wake up at sunshine o'clock tomorrow morning to drive down to DC and find myself an apartment because I am starting work next week!!! Of course, it's midnight and instead of sleeping I am laying in bed blogging and worrying about the transition. I am psyched to move and start my job, but that doesn't mean my previous misgivings about life in Washington have ceased to exist. Here are 5 DC behaviors I promise never to emulate, as much to myself as to you:

1) Introduce people by their jobs. This is the number one complaint that people have about DC and I've already started to catch myself doing it. I cringe when I meet someone and their first question is, "What do you do?" especially when this evokes a snarky little quip about my profession or a game of six degrees of separation. Don't get me wrong, I want to know what you do for a living eventually and of course my job is a huge part of my identity, but the second I start confusing where people work with who they are, I'm on the next Amtrak back to New York.

2) Pretend I know things I don't. I don't care how ignorant I sound, if you mention someone or something casually in conversation and I don't know about it, I'm gonna ask you. And I will be asking a lot because as much as I know about campaigns, I know very little about what happens in other facets of politics. Even in the campaign world, I've never been one of those people with an encyclopedic knowledge of who's running where. DC people causally mention elected officials and other politicos in front of me all the time and then act stunned when I don't recognize the name and even more stunned that I fessed up and asked. I complained about this to a DC friend the other day and he said "why don't you just sit back and listen and then you'll eventually absorb it?" Because I am curious and like to learn things and because name-dropping politicians or bills or events and then feigning disbelief that someone else doesn't know the same things you do is a shitty way to be. You should be embarrassed, not me. (By the way, I just googled "who is the Mayor of Washington, DC?" So you can safely mention Vincent Gray in front of me.)

3) Stop being spontaneous. Here is something I really don't understand about DC. You need to reserve people like 1,000 years in advance if you want to do something with them, only to have them cancel last minute half the time because of work. I thought maybe this was just me, but one of my old campaign friends brought this up too last time I was down there. I get that lives are busy and people are focused on their jobs, but for me one of the greatest joys of friendship is being able to call someone and say, "Hey, what are you doing?" and have it turn into an unexpectedly awesome evening. After all, you're talking to a girl who once went on a cross-country road trip as a second date.

4) Play fantasy football. I think this might be a function of the bro-yness of campaign people, but why is everyone I know in politics so into football? Especially fake football. I don't get it. I do plan on learning the rules to football though.

5) Act like DC can go toe to toe with New York. Here are some things DC has over New York: my friends (the ones who live in DC, not New York), slightly lower cost of living, jobs I want, the Federal government. Here are some things New York has over DC: Practically everything else. I'm not saying there are not good or unique things about DC or that I don't intend to find them and have a lot of fun there, but any sentence that starts "DC has just as much..." No, no it does not. For culture, food, diversity, public transportation, DC does not even come CLOSE to touching New York City. People who claim otherwise sound sad and pathetic and seem to be missing out on enjoying the city for what it is and the character it has by pretending it's something it's not.

Sorry for being such a DC you next Tuesday. I really am excited about this new adventure! DC natives and transplants, what should I look forward to about DC? I know you have recommendations for me!

Campaign Love and Mine,


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

This Blog Post Will Self-Destruct

You've probably heard me tell it. The story goes like this. When I was in college I wanted to be a spy. I applied to what the CIA calls its "Professional Trainee Program" (since you can't be an Operations Officer until you're 25) and got to the point where I was invited to go down to Virginia for my psych evaluation. Realizing that the next step was my security clearance and that that could take 6-9 months, I started looking for another job after graduation.

After combing the Tufts Alumni Network for jobs that sounded interesting, I came across a listing for Jordan Karp, Campaign Manager. I emailed him (along with several other less exciting candidates) asking for an informational interview. What I received in return was a 4 paragraph long email detailing the good, the bad and the ugly of working on Democratic campaigns. "You'll work 14 hours days but your coworkers will be your best friends. You'll eat sleep and breathe your job, but you will also wear pajamas to work and drink vodka in the office. You'll get screamed at by strangers, but you'll wake up every day knowing that what you do makes a difference. It will be the hardest most rewarding thing you ever do." I'm paraphrasing, but I wish I had saved that email because it changed my life. Shortly after that exchange I took a job as a Field Organizer with the 2006 Minnesota Democratic Coordinated Campaign, fell in love with it, withdrew my application to the CIA and never looked back.

It's hard to imagine myself as a member of the Clandestine Services now, since my life is so thoroughly steeped in campaigns, but for a year in my early 20's I pursued my application to the CIA with the single-minded devotion I now reserve for GOTV recruitment and Arrested Development trivia. However, a recent article, my birthday and my current job search have me doing some reflecting. No doubt my life would have been very different without that email, no matter where I wound up. Here are five ways that working on a campaign is like being a spy:

1) It's About Relationship Building. What we would think of as "spies" don't do a whole lot of spying. Most of what they do is recruit and collect information from key foreign nationals by persuading them that helping the US government would be in their favor. The job requires the ability to build trust, the insight to find out what motivates different people and in addition to staunch loyalty to the cause, a devotion and fiercely protective attitude toward those you recruit since they are likely putting themselves in harm's way to help you. Sound similar to anything you know? In fact "spies" are called Operations Officers or sometimes even, you guessed it, "Field Operatives."

2) People Have Strong, Ill-Informed Opinions About Your Job. When I told people I wanted to join the CIA (before I had to stop telling people I wanted to join the CIA because it looked like I might actually do it) I got a variation of one of two reactions, either "ARE YOU CRAZY?" or "That's SO COOL!" which are pretty much the same reactions I get when I tell people what I do now. People have no idea what your job actually entails, but that doesn't stop them on offering their "expert" advice on whether and how you should be doing it. Moreover, people are happy to reap the benefits of you having done your job while spouting off their NPR or Fox News gained opinions about the morality of you doing it.

3)You Drink the Patriotic Kool-Aid I know what people think; Democratic campaign operatives are all about raging against the machine. But my friends will tell you I'm very patriotic, sickeningly so. You have to be to do what we do, because what we do is sell a belief in American democracy, and you can't sell a product you don't believe in. If anything, working on campaigns has made me more patriotic as I've seen faith in the system (sometimes) rewarded. To me, the kind of patriotism you have to have to ask people to risk their lives to bring you information is similar to the kind of patriotism you have to have to call people day in and day out and ask them to give up their time. It's the kind of patriotism you choose to have, the kind you have to have because without it, your entire world view kind of falls apart.

4) You Have to Constantly Be Aware of Your Surroundings. Let me tell you a story about a charming and dynamic GOTV Director I know named Fancy. Fancy was blowing off some steam at a victory party when she non-nonchalantly remarked to a friend, "This was the strangest field campaign I've ever worked on." No sooner had these words left our beautiful heroine's lips than a reporter spun around on her bar stool like Dr. Claw stroking MAD cat and said, "I'm with the New York Times. Can you tell me what made you say that?" "Nope!," Fancy exclaimed and she ran away. Fancy was lucky that she narrowly escaped danger, but it served as a good reminder that as a representative of her candidate, she was never off the clock. True, campaign work is not as clandestine in nature as working for the Central Intelligence Agency, but in both cases your life is not fully your own. Which brings me to point 5...

5)It Makes "Having a Life" Nigh Impossible. This is probably the biggest similarity between clandestine services and political campaigns. Both require major sacrifices for your job. I hate to admit it, because is sounds so twisted, but a lot of what appealed to me about both career paths was the absurdity of them, the total immersion, the intensity. I have always been an intense person. After 4 years of my life being about sickness (I was diagnosed with a chronic illness shortly before my Freshman year of college) I was ready for it to be about something else and the further removed the better. One of the biggest blessings of working on campaigns is that they can be an escape from your troubles. At the same time self-care, friendships and relationships tend to fall by the wayside. One of my college friends jokes that she's never sure I didn't join the CIA since I disappear for large swaths of time and am effectively out of communication.

Say what you will about the ethics of our international intelligence operations, when it comes to the popular imagination spies are considered heroic, sexy, and highly intelligent whereas campaigners are considered...annoying? But I can tell you that my choice to follow that fateful email was one of the best and most important in my life and I can't imagine contributing more to my country in any other way. Just as much as operations officers, we are the unsung heroes who protect American values and that, my fellow field operatives, is badass.

Secret AGENT Nance! Secret AGENT Nance! She's calling for your numbers and taking away your name...

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Today In Voter Suppression: North Carolina 12-Year Old Is My New Hero

A 12 year old from North Carolina SCHOOLS legislators on voting rights. I don't have much to add here except, I'm glad she's on our side.

Virginia GOP Candidate Is a Big Bucket of Crazy

Just in time for Halloween, Politico shared this story from the National Review of Lieutenant Governor candidate, E.W. Jackson weaving tales about the devil

“When one hears the word meditation, it conjures an image of Maharishi Yoga talking about finding a mantra and striving for nirvana. … The purpose of such meditation is to empty oneself. … [Satan] is happy to invade the empty vacuum of your soul and possess it. That is why people serve Satan without ever knowing it or deciding to, but no one can be a child of God without making a decision to surrender to him. Beware of systems of spirituality which tell you to empty yourself. You will end up filled with something you probably do not want.”

Oh good. That's just the kind of clearheadedness and religious tolerance I look for in my leaders. The election is this Tuesday.


Negative Campaigning in Iowa Leads to UN-dorsement

We all know the tradition adage that if people claim they're not going to vote for you because of too many phone calls, or your negative campaigning, they weren't going to vote for you anyway. Well, the Des Moines Register is putting it's muscle where it's mouth is, revoking it's endorsement of City Council candidate Chris Diebel for sending "unfair and inaccurate" mailers about his opponents involvement on a local financing issue.

For these reasons, we can no longer support Chris Diebel for the Des Moines City Council. Withdrawing an endorsement after the fact is unusual for the Register, but given Diebel’s reckless and inaccurate campaign ads, we have no choice.

Serving as an elected official requires good judgment based on a careful and fair-minded review of the facts. Diebel has shown poor judgment by inaccurately attacking his opponent without offering a better solution. It is especially disappointing to see the personal attacks that infect national politics trickle down to a nonpartisan municipal election.

This is the first time I've heard of an endorsement being revoked by a major newspaper for direct mail content. Have you? Read the whole article here.

Organizer Store: The Ultimate GOTV Care Package

I have had some kickass interns, so it was no surprise when an intern at the firm where I am working part-time told me she was putting together a GOTV care package for her boyfriend and wanted my suggestions. Some of my suggestions were summarily rejected (EVERYONE likes scented candles! It's not a gender thing!) and some were deemed inappropriate (A picture of your butt. WHAT? I know what campaign boys like.) She also filled it with a bunch of inside jokey things which you should totally include. In addition to that, here is what we came up with together to go into a great GOTV care package.

Wisp toothbrush. Let me be upfront with you guys, a lot of my picks were hygiene based. Looking back on my days as an organizer,and dating organizers, I remember this being a big GOTV need.

Cookies! Nothing makes you feel more taken care of than homemade baked goods, even if they were homemade by someone else. Read more about my favorite GOTV tradition of cookie sending here.

Funderwear! GOTV means not so much time for laundry. Plus, who doesn't want patriotic underwear? By the way I could not find a good picture of boxer shorts with Democratic donkeys on them so there might be an opportunity there.

Starbucks Via. You could substitute this for some sugar-free Red Bull, but I'm personally a coffee drinker. Late nights. Caffeine. 'Nuff said.

Stress ball. So apparently elephant stress balls are to promote Republican candidates, which I don't get. You're literally crushing them. But since I can see why you wouldn't want that sitting around your office, I found the example above.

Stress Relief Candles! Ha! It's my blog. I put what I want.

Happy GOTV to you and yours!

Campaign Love and Mine,

To Washington On My 29th Birthday

Over the course of my seven years in politics, I've given a number of very legitimate reasons for not to wanting to move to DC.

When it comes to living on the East Coast, New York has DC beat in nearly every facet: food, theater, diversity, pop culture and everything in between. Even growing up as a New York City suburbanite and then a campaign nomad, I always imagined myself packing it in and moving to Manhattan. As John Updike famously said, "The true New Yorker secretly believes that people living anywhere else have to be, in some sense, kidding."

In addition, I've never shared the desire that many of my friends have to work where the sausage gets made. I got into politics as a fluke and stayed in because of the satisfaction I get out of empowering people. "Those on Capitol Hill," I would say to the approval of my Midwestern and Southern campaign constituents, "are empowered enough." Campaigns are my wheelhouse. I'm out of my element when it comes to any discussion of what happens on the hill.

There are other personal reasons I've never wanted to live in our nation's capitol. For one, the place is a veritable exboyfriend convention. I went down for the inauguration last January and ran into four people I've dated over the course of three events. DC is also less than ideal for someone who is as directionally challenged as I am. In what Earthly realm does New Jersey intersect with Louisiana? Then there are the complaints that everyone has about DC: People in DC work all the time, which is true; all anyone talks about is politics; everyone who's ever gotten a Congressman his coffee think he's Fareed Zakaria.

The thing is, the further away I get from campaigns, the more I miss talking about work all the time and being surrounded by people who get where I'm coming from. I even made a blog out of it. Besides the older my friends and I get, the more humility my social set seems to have about our livelihoods as we realize that for all of us, politicos, lawyers, and doctors alike, the brass ring will forever be a moving target. And so in my old age (I turn 29 next week) I find myself for the first time with my sights set on Washington, sending flurries of networking emails, braving the traffic on the New Jersey Turnpike and posting Facebook inquiries about DC Yoga Studios and where to find the best Bloody Mary, in an effort to convince myself that DC is livable.

And old age it is. When I left for grad school I wrote a Dear John letter explaining that while campaigns had meant the world to me, it was time to grow up and be an adult. I was intimidated, terrified really. A lease? An apartment? Living in the same place for two years? Leaving campaigns meant relinquishing my best excuses as to why my life wasn't going the way I wanted it to. Campaigns left little time for diet and exercise, or relationships, or most importantly introspection. Even scarier than the prospect of leaving campaigns for adulthood was the prospect that it wouldn't take. I knew that it was possible I would come out of those two years saying to campaigns, "it's not you, it's me." What if I couldn't be happy without the excitement of campaign life? What if I learned I had to choose between the work that has defined my life and having a life at all? In 2011 I wrote:

I looked around, thought about what I want in my life and realized that,for me, the campaign lifestyle wasn't sustainable. I'm proud that I had the courage and the wisdom to make that decision but that doesn't mean there's nothing to mourn.

I could say maybe in a couple years, who knows what will happen, but I don't want to lead myself on. In three years we both will have changed so much we'll barely recognize each other. When I do become involved again, it will be in a totally different capacity. I'm hoping we'll still be friends, but that's gonna be hard without falling back in.

In many tangible ways, I am not the adult I had hoped I would be by the time I finished grad school. I don't have a job, I'm single, if anything I weigh more than I did when I matriculated. Yet I have to tell you I have never felt like more of a grown-up.

And that leads me to the real reason I never wanted to move to DC. It wasn't the nightlife, or the (lower case p) politics or the exboyfriends. Deep down, part of me always suspected that my former coworkers who moved to Washington were leading lives of quiet desperation, spending their days at happy hours and hiking in Virginia and fantasy football to fill the void left by campaigns. You see, the true campaign person secretly believes that people doing anything else have to be, in some sense, kidding. Grad school felt like beginning adulthood, but DC felt like buying a house in the suburbs. One of my favorite comedians, Mike Birbiglia, has this line about how he didn't want to get married until he was sure nothing else good could happen in his life, and that's how I felt about DC. Just this great resignation.

Mike Birbiglia is married now and as far as I can tell good things continue to happen to him. He had a feature film produced last year. Maybe the same forces that drive men who are commitment-phobes in their 20's to get married in their 30's are what lead me to lustfully skim DC apartments on Craigslist at 29. What I know now that I didn't know two years ago is that no one really feels like an adult all of the time. (To wit, I recently walked in on my mother dressing a barbie doll as Miley Cyrus whining, "IT DOESN'T LOOK REEAAAAL.") That said, I've noticed that valuing flexibility and fervor over stability and self-care no longer feels authentic to me. Moreover, admitting that no longer feels like a betrayal. I still don't feel ready to write the eulogy on my sense of adventure, but I don't need to wear it on my sleeve to know that it's there. I can change what I want without changing who I am. After all, I could live alone on a mountain top, but I would always be a campaign person.

And that is the most valuable thing I could have gotten from these past two years: not a boyfriend, or a job, or a leaner midsection, but the confidence and sense of self to have none of those things, to be completely out of my element, and to know that I will be okay. I've had jobs and boyfriends and a waist before and I have the tools to get them again. So maybe stability is my next big adventure. Maybe it's something else. But if all goes according to plan, it may just be in DC.*

*Unless I get the one job I am applying to in New York.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

How I Feel About the Rielle Hunter Apology Post

One time, about 2 years ago, a girl who had been terrible to me in High School sent me a Facebook message asking if we could be friends. I hadn't given serious thought to this person in years, even when we interacted at a friend's wedding, but I still thought, "No. No we can't be friends." It wasn't because I hate her or wish ill upon her. Quite the opposite. This woman has had some very serious physical and emotional challenges in her life and if anything I felt bad for her. I just didn't need her being relevant to my life. Every interaction I had had with her was negative and thinking of her reminded me of being in a very stressful and scary emotional space. So I wish you well, but no thanks.

That's the closest I can come to explaining how I feel about today's HuffPo apology from Rielle Hunter, mistress to my former candidate John Edwards--an article that is sure to dominate my inbox for the next 24 hours. Finding out the tabloid rumors about John Edwards were true was one of the defining and most disillusioning moments of my career. I don't blame you, but I don't want to hear from you. Good luck selling your book. Now go away.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

How to Make a Placard Hat

Halloween is almost upon us and that means it's time for everyone's favorite costume, the sexy yardsign. This year I thought I'd add a new addition to the costume, the placard hat. Good for GOTV, Halloween or really any occasion this is by far my favorite use of the legless yardsign. Modeled below by intern to the stars, Captain Jack Sterne of the SS Stringer.

I did not have a placard with me so I recycled this NYC Recycles Poster. How To:

Step 1: Place your placard length-wise in front of you. (Some lengths of placards work better for this project than others.)

Step 2: Fold your placard in half.

Step 3: Starting from the creased edge, fold down the corners of your placard until they meet in the middle leaving about 2" (or to taste) for the brim. Those are my toes.

Step 4: Fold up the remaining surface of the placard so as to secure the folded triangles and create a nice little brim. Optional: Secure your brim in place using campaign stickers, like Capt. Jack above.

Step 5: Impress your friends and coworkers with your fashiony fashion sense.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Sexist, Horrible Hillary Buttons

Because it's a day that ends in Y, something terrible and sexist happened in the news. See the above buttons at the California Republican Convention. The "joke" is not in any way new, but my outrage is renewed because SERIOUSLY WHAT YEAR IS IT? What does a woman have to accomplish before she is no longer reduced to a (literal) piece of meat? has the story. On the bright side, I had a dream that Hillary told me she was going to run last night. Let's hope this is all they've got.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Advocate From Where You Stand: Shutdown Edition

"Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed Mike's wedding. Prepare to die."

Okay to be fair, I do not know the exact story as to how Mike and MaiLien wound up on the Colbert Report. But here is what I do know: Mike and MaiLien were scheduled to get married in DC this weekend at the Jefferson Memorial where they had their first date (Awww!!), but received a letter earlier this week informing them that due to the government shutdown they would not be able to access their venue. Then (I like to imagine) Michael used the superior organizing skills taught to him by yours truly and made his case to the public. Mike and MaiLien were on the Today Show and the Washington Post and eventually on the Colbert Report.

Michael was my organizer in Colorado in 2008 and Deputy Field Director for Claire McCaskill in 2012. I cannot stress how awesome and surreal it is to be in DC for a wedding, staying at your bro's house, turning on the TV and seeing the wedding taking place right then. On the other hand, knowing Michael it's also not surprising. He is pretty great and efficient at making things happen. Mazel Tov, Michael and MaiLien! Also excited to see the light of Michael's life (besides MaiLien) his redheaded nephew, who is featured prominently in the above video. Can't wait to celebrate with you tomorrow!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Hands Down My Favorite Conversation on Twitter Ever

I thought I was geeking out when Joshua Lyman tweeted me, but this is a whole other kind of surreal, mostly in its greatness.

As you may remember, earlier this month I posted about an ad from fellow Jumbo and Congressional candidate, Carl Sciortino, who is running in the special election to replace Ed Markey. At the time I was promoting the ad, not the candidate, but after this convo I am all in for Carl Sciortino.

It all began when my first boss on campaigns and good friend, who we will call M because he doesn't know how the internet works, responded on twitter to my post. M recently transitioned to being a Chief of Staff for a Congressman who we will call Rep. X, because I think that is a cool name. JC refers to M's predecessor.

Okay that's awesome, right? But it gets so much better.

And to top it off, M's boss, who is my favorite Congressional tweeter.

Just A+ to everyone here, the campaign staff, the Congressman, the future Congressman, the future spouse of Congressman. This is why I love campaign people. Go Carl!

Doing Volunteer Appreciation Right

This is from some of my dear friends at the Bill Thompson campaign who threw a post-election party for their volunteers with a sign-in sheet cake! I LOVE the creativity and I love even more that they took the time to celebrate their hard work even though they had a disappointing result. Lots of love to them and congratulations on a hard-fought race!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Ask an Election Nerd: Will Volunteering on a Campaign Help Me Get a Job?

Now that the NYC primaries are over I have gotten questions from no fewer than three non-campaign colleagues asking if volunteering on general election campaigns might help them get a job in the administration. The short answer is no, probably not, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't. Here's why volunteering for a candidate is a bad strategy for trying to get a job once that candidate is elected into office.

1) Campaign staff can't even get the jobs they want in government. After every campaign there are always a plucky bunch of campaign staffers who attempt to follow their candidate to the hill, the state house, or respective government and district offices. While some are successful, time and time again I have seen my friends passed over for government jobs because there simply aren't enough positions for people who don't have previous legislative/government experience. It's true, lots of newly elected New York City officials will be looking to hire staff in November, but many will be bringing their staff with them. The remaining positions are likely to go to staffers with experience elsewhere in the city or state government who have just lost their jobs to the new election. Then there are political favors to account for, interns, campaign staffers etc. If it's so competitive for campaign staffers to get these jobs, what are the chances of you as a volunteer making the cut through the same avenue?

2) The ratio of volunteers to staff jobs is insane. Even on the crummiest, most bare-bones campaign I have ever worked on, I had 100 volunteer shifts on election day. Sure, not all of these volunteers are patronage seekers, but supply and demand is just not in your favor here (see above). To the extent that campaign volunteers do wind up hired on in the administration as a result of volunteer efforts, these are almost always people who have been working non-stop since the beginning of the campaign. If getting a job is the only reason you are thinking of volunteering, given the amount of work you would have to put in to make that plausible you would probably be better off putting that time and energy into applying for jobs or networking in other ways.

3) The work you will be doing bears no resemblance to the work done in a government office. Perhaps you think you will be able to usurp these supervols with your public policy skill set and political acumen. If you come in to my office to volunteer, I am going to ask you to knock doors and make phone calls. If you tell me you really think you would be more valuable to the campaign working on policy or communications, I am going to laugh at you and be even less inclined to help you. Then I am going to tell you to knock doors and make phone calls again. The type of volunteer work we need on a campaign is not very cerebral and won't give you the chance to show off your knowledge or talent, impressive as they may be. It is also very hard work to sustain doing happily if you are in it for the wrong reasons.

Bottom Line: No matter how dedicated or talented you are, you are not going to waltz in with a little over a month to go and waltz out with a community affairs position.

That said, there are a lot of very good reasons to volunteer on a campaign while you're on the job-prowl and I would absolutely encourage you to do so. Volunteering on a campaign WILL help you meet a lot of new people and make some good local political connections. In my experience if you do good solid work for campaign people, we are more than willing to go out of our way to help you when you need it. It might not be a job for the candidate, but maybe we know of an opening in another office, or maybe we will be able to recommend you when you find yourself applying for another position. Getting involved with a campaign also helps add structure and a sense of empowerment during the often very depressing job hunt. It gives you something to get up and do and be proud of, which I think helps you be more motivated and marketable in other parts of your life.

Also, in my personal and biased opinion, campaign people are one hell of a good time. We may not be able to pay you a salary but we are more than happy to pay you in pizza, appreciation and a fun environment that is more irreverent and fast-paced than you will find in most volunteer positions. Come see for yourself! Here's wishing us both luck on our job hunt!

Campaign Love and Mine,


Thursday, September 19, 2013

Oh and If You Only VOMIT at One Political Ad...

Hat tip to Buzzfeed for sharing this angry-making, disgusting, fear-mongering piece of political nausea. The irony? Last time I checked it was the Republicans trying to get all up in my lady bits telling me what I can and can't do with my body. Well, a little truth never stopped the people trying to deprive us of healthcare before. Gross.

If You Only Watch One Political Ad Today

Carl Scortino (a Tufts Alum! Go Jumbos!) is running in the Massachusetts special primary to replace now Senator Ed Markey in Congress. Who is doing his media? Brilliant.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

5 Ridiculous Things That Happened During New York's Primary This Week

As you know, I could not blog about specific campaigns during the New York City primaries because I was working on one and am I'm not an idiot. That didn't stop me from really, really wanting to however. And there was MUCH to blog about. For example, an intern talking to the press (WHAT?) and the Weiner campaign firing back and calling her a "slutbag" (BIGGER WHAT?). Maybe it's because I couldn't write, but there were SO MANY things I wanted to write about. Here are 5 things that happened in the last week alone that I wanted to share with you:

1) Corey Johnson Ad on Grindr
Corey Johnson is an LGBT Activist who beat Yetta Kurland for the New York City Council seat vacated by Christine Quinn. Grindr is a gay, ahem "dating" app, popular in the Chelsea district in which Johnson was running. Now THAT's thinking outside the box. (Zing!)

2) Vito Lopez INSANE sexual harassment flyer
Vito Lopez, a disgraced former Assemblyman better known as the Gargamel of Brooklyn politics lost his bid for a city council seat on Tuesday. Not before someone circulated this disgusting victim-blaming flyer about Lopez's sexual harassment scandals. You know someone is trustworthy when the New York Times quote on their literature is, "Denies all charges." Not bragging, but the flyer went viral when my former boss and FOCS, City Councilman Brad Lander, tweeted it.

3) Lawrence O'Donnell's Anthony Weiner Interview

These final three stories involved Anthony Weiner for whom my schadenfreude steadily dissipated as his public breakdown went from gratifying to cringeworthy. However, I think this story actually makes Weiner look good. Like high schoolers hanging out with ugly people to appear more attractive, O'Donnell's hyper-aggressive line of questioning makes Weiner seem sane. He starts out with "What's wrong with you?" and it goes on from there.

4)Anthony Weiner not on the voter rolls
Even as Boards of Election go, the NYC BOE really seems to be in a class of its own when it comes to incompetence. Say what you will about the former candidate, he is a registered voter. VERY alarming considering that few voters who might find themselves in similar predicament have the same resources or motivation to vote as Weiner, who did ultimately get to cast a ballot. Our Finance Director had to leave her polling place because of massive machine malfunctions and return to vote later in the day. Ask not for whom the bell of disenfrachisement tolls, New York City, it tolls for thee.

5) Weinermobile
This is actually a picture I took a couple of weeks ago, but come on guys, brilliance! Zoom in to see the hot dog truck with pictures of cell phones and Weiner's face.

Time to go get glamorous and beautiful for our GOTV (Get Out the Vodka) party! I missed you guys!

Campaign Love and Mine,


Sunday, August 4, 2013

Ask Nancy: How to Invest When You're At Your Most Stressed

One of the strange things about being a field organizer is an overwhelming sense of professional responsibility juxtaposed with an almost complete lack of control over one's personal life. You're often in a new city, sleeping on someone's couch, with very limited income and less time to spend it. By necessity and by choice, organizers tend not to take very good care of themselves preferring instead to devote every last resource to their jobs. Personal health, fitness and relationships take a back seat to recruitment, turf cutting and canvassing. I myself have been known to live by the mantra "you can sleep on November 5th."

When I started writing this post 2 weeks ago, I was on my way to yoga reflecting on how I ever put my body through the rigors of being a field staffer and wondering what I would advise if I could go back in time and tell little organizer Nancy to take better care of herself. Flash forward a week and I had accepted a short-term job as a Field Director on an extremely intense high profile race. I quickly found myself trying to figure out how I was going to move out of my apartment of 2 years in the middle of GOTV and not drying my hands in the bathroom because I was in too much of a rush to get back to the office (brilliant time saving strategy, Leeds.) I'm getting a first hand reminder of the fact that "self care" is easier said than done.

So, from one very sympathetic field person to another, here is my advice for what to put your energy and money when both are at an absolute premium.

When it comes to money, there is no better investment than controlling your space.
1) Scented Candles. I know this sounds girly, but smell is the most powerful sense in terms of evoking memories and enhancing your mood. It's a great way to quickly change the vibe of your space. (Get ready coworkers, I am totally bringing in a scented candle tomorrow.)
2) Fans, window unit air conditioners and space heaters. I know you don't want to take the time away from the office to get them or invest in a big ticket item, but you'll save yourself HOURS of productivity if you are not constantly sweating, freezing or suffocating in stale air.
3) Comfortable bedding and pillows. A good night's sleep makes a huge difference and is often the only "you" time you ever get. You will be absolutely miserable if your sleeping arrangements are uncomfortable. Even if you're sleeping on a couch buy yourself an extra comforter if you need one. You'll often be getting 4 hours of sleep a night so you best make them count.
4) Laundry, F. That. Noise. I know it seems impossibly privileged and we field folk are supposed to be scrappy but suck it up and pay for a laundry service or a fluff and fold. You don't need another tedious yet stressful activity on your plate.
5) Microwave, mini-fridge, coffee maker. This stuff costs money but you will save yourself much more in delivery and Starbucks in the long-run. Plus the ability to have healthy snacks nearby keeps you from binging on volunteer doughnuts. Sometimes.

Manage Your Mental Health.
1)Plan something to look forward to. It is really debilitating to look onto the horizon and think "and...after this I'll be unemployed and homeless." I'm trying to reframe my choice to find a cheap sublet in the village when my lease runs out and spend the two weeks after GOTV applying to jobs as a staycation that will allow me to finally allow me to enjoy the city I've lived in for two years unencumbered by grad school or campaigns.
2)Have one outside friend who "gets it." The last thing you want to do is spend 20 minutes of your time explaining why yard signs are such a necessary waste of resources before complaining about having to distribute them. Sorry in advance for all the text messages, my beloved broworkers.
3)Be grateful. Besides being Jewish, I am devoted member of the church of Oprah. One of the tenets of Oprahism is recording five things you are grateful for every day, a practice I've participated in for about a year. I have to say it really helps because it keeps you aware of the little victories even on a crappy day. I do it before I go to bed and since I have begun doing so (don't laugh at me) I've been waking up in a better mood.
4)Don't take other people's stress personally. I tweeted about this the other day because it is SUCH a common campaign pitfall, at least for yours truly. When you have a crappy call time, its stinks but you don't fester on it afterwards. Getting snapped at, dismissed, or talked down to are similar unavoidable campaign pitfalls and reflect as little on your worth or abilities as getting hung up on. The more you can let things roll off your shoulders, the happier you'll be.
5)Have something that's "yours." Despite my best intentions, it never takes long for my whole life to become about a campaign. Whether it's your ten minute walk to the office, a weekly home manicure, or a fantasy sports league you need something, albeit small, to remind you that you're still you. Mine starts with a C and ends in "ampaignSick."

Thanks for being my little bit of sanity. I hope I helped yours.

Campaign Love and Mine,


PS. Please support CampaignSick!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Truth Is Stranger (Danger) Than Fiction

In case you haven't heard by now, disgraced Congressman and Mayoral candidate. Anthony Weiner confirmed yesterday that he participated more salacious sexting this time under the name of Carlos Danger. Really, the only surprising part here is "Carlos Danger" prompting me to ask the following questions.

1) Is it possible than Anthony Weiner is in fact just a really old looking 15 year old boy?
2) Carlos? He could so not pass for Latino.
3) What were his other options for pseudonyms?
4) At what point do you think he was like "okay, okay, okay I have a foolproof plan not to get caught and it is...?"
5) Do you think he is just being bought off by the stand up comedy lobby?
6) Why is anyone surprised that he's not dropping out? Once you have hubris to run after tweeting your lower case weiner, you pretty much just have the audacity to let it ride.
7) Can you imagine Huma Abadeen's face when he told her this? "Honey, remember that little scandal I got you embroiled in? Well there's just one more thing..."
8) How fast do you think somebody snatched up the Twitter name @carlosdanger?
9) How come all the articles keep calling the messages "sexually tinged"? Is that like a thing people say that I am unaware of?

Weiner Danger!

And for your enjoyment, the Carlos Danger name generator.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Ask Nancy: What Happened With the Supreme Court and Voting Rights?

Many people are confused by the recent disappointing ruling in Shelby County v. Holder, a case I wrote about earlier this year.You can read the entire opinion here. I answer some common questions about the ruling, and its potential implications, below.

Did the Supreme Court strike down the Voting Rights Act?
No, but they did strike down the coverage formula delineated in Section 4 which was one of its most important mechanisms of enforcement.

I thought you said this case was about Section 5.
It was. Section 5 required that jurisdictions covered under Section 4 have any changes in voting laws "precleared" by the Department of Justice or a three-judge panel in DC. Hence without Section 4, no Section 5.

What was the coverage formula based on?
When the Voting Rights Act was enacted in 1965 any jurisdiction that maintained a "test or device" as a barrier to enfranchisement, for example a literary test, as of November 1, 1964 was included. It also included states where less than half of the voting-age population was registered to vote as of November 1, 1964 or where less than half of the voting-age population had voted in the previous Presidential election. In 1970, Congress renewed the act and added that any jurisdictions that fit the aforementioned criteria as of 1968 would be also be included. In 1975, when Congress renewed the act again they expanded the formula to include jurisdictions that fit the criteria as of 1972, they also expanded the definition of "test or device" to include a failure to provide election materials in a second language in areas where linguistic minorities were concentrated.

So once you were covered you were covered forever? What if you violated voting rights after 1972?
Jurisdictions that felt they no longer fit the critera could seek a declaratory judgement to "bail-out" and no longer be covered under Section 4. Any jurisdiction that violated any other part of the Voting Rights Act could be "bailed-in."

Why did the Supreme Court rule Section 4 unconstitutional?
It comes down to everyone's favorite loophole for discrimination: state's rights. The constitution gives all powers not specifically assigned to the Federal Government to the states, including the administration and regulation of elections. In addition, we operate under a principle of "equal sovereignty among the states." In the majority opinion, Chief Justice Roberts ruled that Section 4 violated these principles by treating some states differently than others.

But wasn't that true in 1965 when the Voting Rights Act was enacted?
Yes. However, in a 1966 case challenging this portion of the act the Court ruled that the “uncommon exercise of
congressional power” was justified by the “exceptional conditions” of widespread discrimination, voter suppression and intimidation. The Court argued that conditions have changed dramatically since 1965 while the VRA has not.

Is the court claiming that voter suppression and discrimination no longer exists?
No. It is claiming that discrimination has declined dramatically and that it looks very different than in did in 1965. The Court pointed out that when the VRA was enacted the formula was partially based on Jim Crow era measures like poll taxes and literary tests, while the most recent electoral schemes dismissed under Section 5 involve things like redistricting and voter ID.

Isn't it possible that discrimination has declined in covered areas because of Section 5?
Possible, nay probable. Quoth my personal hero, Justice Ginsburg in the dissent, "[t]hrowing out preclearance when it has worked and is continuing to work to stop discriminatory changes is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet." This is evidenced by the fact that since the ruling previously covered jurisdictions have been running to implement redistricting schemes and voter id laws that they know to be discriminatory. Texas Governor and famous big jerk Rick Perry just approved the new Texas electoral maps that had been ruled discriminatory by a three-judge panel.

Surely some areas had evolved and no longer needed to be covered under Section 5.
Of course. That's what the bail-out mechanism was for. However, it was the districts trying to implement discriminatory measures that objected to Section 5. As famous civil rights attorney, Fred Gray pointed out if these jurisdictions had "developed to the point where they [were] interested in protecting the individual rights of minorities and the proposals [were] indeed not discriminatory, they would have nothing to worry about when submitting an issue for preclearance."

Without Sections 4 and 5, how are voters protected from discriminatory changes to election law?
The Court went out of its way to emphasize that Section 2, "which bans any'standard, practice, or procedure' that 'results in a denial or abridgment of the right of any citizen . . . to vote on account of race or color,' applies nationwide, is permanent, and is not at issue in this case." Voting rights advocates are already gearing up to sue discriminatory jurisdictions under Section 2.

Section 2 seems like it's got us covered. What's the problem?
What Section 5 did was shift the burden of proof from the oppressed to the oppressor. Section 2 requires that oppressed groups be aware of changes to election law and have the organization and resources to fight them. Don't forget, Section 4 covered municipalities too. Sure it might make it on the news if there were a new statewide law, but what about a local change in early voting hours? By the time a suit is brought and decided against a discriminatory change it may have already had a deleterious effect. It's a lot easier to stop a law from being implemented than fight it once it's already in place.

So, is preclearance gone forever?
Not necessarily. The Court's main objection to Section 4 is that the formula is based on the discriminatory practices of yesteryear and that only combatting these practices justified what would normally be considered Congressional overreach. The Court deliberately left it open for Congress to come up with a new way to use preclearance to fight modern day discrimination. "To serve that purpose, Congress—if it is to divide the States—must identify those jurisdictions to be singled out on a basis that makes sense in light of current conditions." Unsurprisingly, some Democrats have already begun formulating a plan to do just that and Republicans are formulating a plan to stop them.

Monday, July 8, 2013

An Affair to Pretend Not to Remember, Part II: Advocate from Where You Stand

Elliot Spitzer's story differs from Weiner's in that he broke the law. You know the law, that thing that elected officials help craft and enforce? He broke it. Being friends with many young lawyers who are afraid to jaywalk lest they be disbarred, I find the fact that Spitzer is now running for Comptroller unconscionable.

I'll leave it to better informed minds to argue whether prostitution should be illegal in the first place, but one thing I do know is that our current penal codes place a disproportionate burden on sex workers as opposed to their clients. Again for me it comes back not to sexual ethics, but gendered ones. Enter Kristin Davis, the self-described "feminist, entrepreneur, and former Wall Street Hedge Fund Vice President" and mostly notably former madam who arranged escort services for Elliot Spitzer. Ms. Davis recently announces that she will also be running for Comptroller. She began her campaign to draw attention to this and other double standards in the law.
“I’ve been waiting for my day to face [Spitzer] for five years...I sat ... in Rikers Island, I came out penniless and nothing happened to him. The hypocrisy there is huge.”
You said it sister! Davis now runs a non-profit whose mission is to combat sex trafficking, is a vocal critic of stop and frisk and advocates the legalization of marijuana. She is running as a Libertarian. I am supporting Scott Stringer in the Democratic Primary, but I gotta say if it comes down to her and Spitzer in the general election, she's got my vote.