Project Wonderful

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Ask An Election Nerd: Is There Such A Thing As Campaign Career Life Balance?

Hey Nancy, is there any area of the campaign world where a reasonable work-life balance is possible? I'm in my mid twenties, and for now I've made a conscious choice to forgo that balance... but I know that I can't keep that up forever. After a few years I may want some kind of personal life. Is there some niche that allows that without leaving campaigns entirely?

This is suuuuuuch a good question and one I have asked a lot over the past few years, beginning in my own mid-twenties. It's part of the reason I went to grad school and started this blog. I think I have some really good advice on this topic, not because I am a genius but because I have been asking really smart people about it. Here's what I've learned:

1)Stay on the trail for as long as you can. When I left grad school and started doing informational interviews, maaaaaany people advised me to go back on the campaign trail just one more cycle before moving to Washington. For health, logistic, and personal reasons that is not what I decided to do and we'll get there in a second. What I have found, and was warned about, is that you can really hit a wall in your career if you don't have a big marquee race on your resume. It's not that you can't overcome that, but it makes the path much, much, much, much more difficult. As good as your instincts may be, no one wants to take advice from someone who hasn't been there. In addition, the more time I spend with colleagues who do have one or two more cycles under their belt, the more I realize there's a lot that I don't know and probably won't know until I manage another cycle.

2)Yes, but it comes with some trade-offs. I'm obviously still involved in campaign world, but I just told you I haven't been managing races. Here's why. In my experience the best work-life balance available in the electoral realm is working at endorsing organizations. In my current role, I still get to work with and advise candidates, run campaign trainings, and interact with consultants BUT I work from 9am to 6pm on most weekdays and rarely on weekends. From that perspective, it's a pretty sweet gig. The frustrating part of my job is that while I don't have the stress of managing a campaign, I also don't have the control. My candidates can make decisions that I don't agree with and I have a limited arsenal of carrots and sticks to influence that. When my candidates win, I don't get credit for it even if I basically wrote their campaign plan. It's also just not as exciting as being on the ground. I work at a desk in an office, which has a different energy than being on a campaign and most of my coworkers are not campaign people. In addition (and this is a biggie) most organizations like the one I described are non-profits, which means they probably won't be able to pay you as well as other avenues and funding for your work is often contingent on factors outside your control.

3)As you advance in your campaign career you can negotiate better work-life balance. It's true, no good campaign manager is working 9 to 6pm throughout the cycle. At the same time, most managers, finance directors and communications directors aren't working field organizer hours. Especially if you're on a campaign over a long period of time, you don't have to work weekends in the beginning. You can ask for vacation, housing (paid, not supporter) and stipends. I know a statewide campaign manager who negotiates up front that she gets time for an hour run in the middle of each day. However, the most comforting advice I got on this subject is that you are a different person at 32 than 22. You know yourself better; you know what you need to stay healthy mentally and physically; you are better equipped to advocate for yourself and you will have self-control to keep from burning yourself out.

4)You will never stop asking yourself this question. When I was considering taking a semester off grad school to go on a campaign, a friend who has been on and off the trail for the past 10 years advised me that no matter what I decided, my decision would never be final. (I wound up taking 6 weeks to go be a GOTV Director on a race he was managing.) Whether or not to go out on a race is the eternal struggle precisely for the reasons I just mentioned: races are more exciting and advance your career, but they are also unpredictable and draining. Take it from me, even if you decide to spend a couple years elsewhere, campaigns will always be in the back of your mind. Conversely when you’re campaign staff you will always hear the siren song of stability. It’s not necessarily an either/or, so if you are feeling like you need a time out, you can take a cycle to reevaluate and still go back.

Thanks for asking this question! It’s been a dialectic in the back of my mind for a long time and I’m really glad you prompted me to share some of the great advice I’ve collected. I hope it helps you as much as it’s helped me.

If YOU have a question for the blog, email me at

Campaign Love and Mine,


Monday, May 11, 2015

Rand Paul's Campaign is Licking the Competition.....Literally

In the video above Rand Paul's New Hampshire Political Director, David Chesley, LICKS the camera of an American Bridge tracker. I don't really know what to say because the absurdity of this story speaks for itself. Here are some thoughts:

1) From a campaign staff perspective, this is pretty funny. Having and being a tracker is an awkward situation, and nothing cuts tension like licking something.

2) If you are the kind of person who thinks Rand Paul is a good decision, I guess it is not that surprising that you also think licking strange recording equipment is.

3) The irony is that without the camera lick, this tracker probably would have gotten nothing from this meeting. As it stands, this video is all over my Facebook feed.

So moral of the story, unlike in real life, as a campaign staffer it's not usually a good idea to do something just because you think it's funny.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Organizer Store: Subscription Edition

Hello my beautiful amazing friends! I am miss blogging with you so much! I am in the process of moving and starting up a little side hustle so things have been nuts, but I wanted to share some great finds I've been loving over the past couple of months, all of which are subscriptiony in nature.

1) The Skimm: Love it!! The Skimm is a daily (on week days) publication written by two Tufts alums (Go Jumbos!) It basically synthesizes what's being talked about in conversation and the Internet into an easy, digestible, conversationally toned email that gets sent out before you get up in the morning. Oh also, it's free. It is great for campaigners (or really anybody) because it gives you a reference point for the things people are talking about without getting you bogged down into details or having to wade through a bunch of articles yourself. Basically, it helps me stay human and have an idea of what's going on in the world outside of my little political bubble. Click here to sign up!

2) Nature Box: Speaking of Nature! Remember when I told you about Graze and also that I was trying another snack subscription that I'd review for you later? Well I'm doing that now. The thing about Nature Box is that it only comes once a month, as opposed to weekly like Graze, but the portions are bigger and purportedly for a month (although hi, have we met?) You can order frequently more if you like. Nature Box is $19.95/month for 5 gourmet snacks, which are definitely bigger than a snack size bag of chips you'd get at a 7/11 but about half the size of a family size bag (classy no?). But also...way healthier and more delicious and you don't feel like a greasy nap monster after eating one. The two things I like about Nature Box more than Graze are the taste and the variety of snacks. They are much, much tastier AND you can choose exactly what you get (depending on availability). My favorites are the Sea Salt Sun Crunch and the Double Berry Fruit Peels. The reason I think these are great for campaigns is that they are healthy snacks to have on hand that you don't have to go out and buy. I have a couple free trials to give away so if you are interested in trying Nature Box, be the first to email!

3) Wantable: Wantable!! (Aaaah! Queue angels singing music). Wantable is a monthly subscription service that takes your likes and dislikes and curates a collection just for you. There are a couple of different options but the one I get is the accessories box. I love Wantable as opposed to another accessories box because it is highly customizable. You can choose the styles you like, the TYPES of items you like (rings, necklaces, sunglasses, scarves, etc), the finishes you like (gold, silver, etc) and even specifics like the necklace length you prefer. Unlike other companies if you put that you don't like something, you NEVER get it. They really take your feedback seriously. You also have the opportunity to skip a month and to return individual items from your box if you don't like them. Your first box is $40/ month and they are $36 after that. I know that's a little pricey, but what I like about it is that it's like getting a thoughtful present delivered to you at your campaign office. I was having a blah winter (because winter in an East Coast city is the actual worst, except for Christmas decorations) and this was a total pick me up! To get your own Wantable Box (using my referral code) click here!

4) Gwynnie Bee An honorable mention, or more like an honorable re-mention, has to go to Gwynnie Bee. Even though I already talked about it in a an earlier Organizer Store, I couldn't write a subscription edition without mentioning my favorite subscription service of all time! Gwynnie Bee is a clothing subscription service for women sizes 10-32. You sign up for a subscription plan (which start at $35/month) and put as many items from their inventory as you like in your virtual closet. Then they send you clothes! You wear and keep a garment for as long as you like and when you’re finished you just send it back and they send you a new one! It’s a relatively inexpensive way to be able to stress shop online all the time (because who has time to go to the store) and have an endlessly rotating wardrobe without ever doing laundry (because who has time to do anything?). Since signing up for Gwynnie Bee 2 months ago I must have saved at least $100 on dry cleaning. Anyway, I use it and I think its great. If I had had Gwynnie Bee back in my organizing days it would have spared me a lot of days of wearing yoga pants in the office. If you think this might be something you’d be into they offer a free month trial AND if you use this link you and I both get a free upgrade (so please use my link) happy shopping!

Until Next Time!

Campaign Love and Mine,