Project Wonderful

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Ask An Election Nerd: I'm Getting Overruled By My Consultants!

What kind of advice do you give to a CM in name only (CMINO - or is that redundant)? I have no power of the purse, the strategist is running the show, the candidate is bossy, and even my admin/FD is shitting on me because she sees the other ones doing it. I understand not having authority (I know, that expectation would be "adorable", as one submission put it), but these limits are keeping me from being able to do my job! What can I do? What can of whoop-ass can I open?
Good question! You have the “benefit” of my boyfriend who is a consultant having been with me when I received this question. In the interest of giving you the fullest information, consultant boyfriend says you are being pushed out and if you really feel you are ineffective then you should leave. So there’s that. I take a slightly more nuanced view below.

You are certainly not alone. As a first-time campaign manager I too found myself executing a plan written by our general and mail consultants who just happened to be good friends with the candidate. On the one hand, it was frustrating not to have autonomy especially since I had dreamed for years of managing a campaign of my very own. On the other hand, I learned so much from our consultants. After all, they had years of experience on me and expertise in areas of campaign management (particularly communications) to which I had never been exposed. To their absolute credit, our consultants allowed me to grow as an operative by explaining why they made certain decisions, coaching me through press releases and allowing me to take credit for decisions when my instincts were correct. Now that I am in a position to do so, I often recommend this firm to my candidates in large part because I know how good they are at working with first time candidates and managers.

Obviously, I don’t know you or the consultants involved. It could be that they are wrong and you are right in these situations, but based on my own experiences, I tend to doubt it. If you were hired after, or particularly by, the consultants (a not uncommon practice) there is a good chance you were in fact hired to execute the day to day of their strategy. If this is the case, the more you push back the more they will circumnavigate you or discount your opinion, even when you have something valuable to contribute. For all these reasons (and I know you’re not going to like this) I suggest accepting a more deferential role and learning from this experience.

As a side note, this thing with your Field Director is totally unacceptable. In that regard, I think you need to have a frank conversation with your candidate and the consultants about your role on the campaign. If you’re getting overruled by consultants in private that’s one thing, but you don’t fight in front of the kids. Once reached, senior level decisions no matter whose decision they really were, should be presented in a united, and mutually respectful, front to the candidate, kitchen cabinet, volunteers and other staff.

That is a tough situation and I certainly feel for you! Feel free to send and update on what you chose to do.

Campaign Love and Mine,


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