Project Wonderful

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Healing Justice and Surviving Elections With Kate Werning


I spend a lot of my time thinking about campaign culture (duh). What makes it magical, what makes it difficult and how can we make it easier to sustain? So I was thrilled when Kate Werning reached out to me about her podcast Healing Justice and specifically her mini-series on Surviving Elections. After listening to earlier episodes, I felt completely intimidated and also a little defensive. After all, the goals and the intentionality behind movement work are just not possible in the same way when you have an impending deadline. Lucky for me that's what this mini-series is about!

Since Kate interviewed me, I figured turnabout is fair play and wanted to share more about her and her extraordinary project below. To listen to the mini-series (not just because of me but it's SO GOOD) click here.

Who are you? Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m a Midwesterner, a community organizer and trainer, and a yoga and healing practitioner. I’ve got 10 years in the game working with social movements, raised by the brilliance of the Dreamer & immigrant rights movement, the Wisconsin Uprising, get out the vote efforts to defeat Paul Ryan, and learnings from holding trainings for leaders working on climate justice, Movement for Black Lives, student organizing, worker rights, and more. I co-founded a collective house in Brooklyn called Hoop House, and am a total grandma about hot epsom salt baths. They cure everything.

What is Healing Justice Podcast?

I started Healing Justice Podcast because on November 9, 2016, the accumulated overwhelm of what we’re facing as a nation hit me with a weight that seemed to both speed up time and also freeze me in place. I am so grateful to have access to peers and teachers who help me find the emotional capacity and strategic options to move forward in times like these -- but so many of us don’t have access to mentors like that. So, I decided to share those conversations.

Healing Justice Podcast is democratizing access to perspectives and practices to integrate longer term vision, healing, and sustainability into our organizing work. It’s supporting us to stay the course to win, and also not lose love for our own lives in the process. We’ve shared the voices of over 80 guests with 70+ episodes in our first year, and the numbers show a deep hunger for this conversation right now: we’ve hit 500,000 downloads and landed in the top 7% of podcasts. Our people need this work.

What inspired you to do the “Surviving Elections” mini-series?

My relationship to elections is a fraught one. 2008 was the first presidential election I could cast my vote in, believing wholeheartedly in the change Obama promised. Under Obama we won DACA and other important advances, and also saw more deportations than ever before in US history. During the Wisconsin Uprising in my home state in 2011, our energized mass resistance movement get channeled into a recall election strategy that ultimately squeezed out some of the oxygen of our momentum and failed. Failed so hard that Scott Walker has now been elected, re-elected in the recall election, and re-elected again. I worked on a national campaign to mobilize wellness practitioners to vote in 2016, and again we came up short.

I just finished up working on the Organizing Team of the Cynthia Nixon campaign here in New York, and there is so much I experienced there about that campaign in particular, and electoral politics in this country in general, that was vibrantly hopeful as well as deeply discouraging. I wanted to dive deeper into those paradoxes and knew my peeps need that conversation, too.

The questions posed in our trailer for the series are exactly it: how do we grapple with the inherent compromises and contradictions elections require? Is there a way for people working on campaigns to move at a pace that is anything close to sustainable? Is there anyone who knows how to use the VAN and be a kind person? (OK, that last one is pretty unfair, but I’m not the one who said it!)

What can we expect from the series?

Through the “Surviving Elections” podcast miniseries, we’re talking to social movement organizers like Sunrise Movement about how elections can play into a movement building strategy, campaign managers (including you! yay!) about cultivating healthy campaign culture that leaves strong infrastructure behind after election day, and candidates about their experience running for office. The Campaign Workers Guild joins us to talk about the movement they’re building to organize for workers’ rights in politics, and I share a little bit about our unionization process on the Cynthia Nixon campaign.

Our final episode will be released the day after the election so we can process the results and what’s next––with young leaders of color who are shaping the current progressive wave like Alexandra Rojas of Justice Democrats, and lifelong activists like Professor Barbara Dudley who help us understand ourselves in a longer-term movement arc.

What is one thing you think “campaign people” can learn from movement work?

A longer perspective. The short time frame and pop-up nature of electoral campaigns can create a “churn and burn” culture that can leave us and our volunteers broken at the end of it. We have to be careful with each other. The campaign will end, but hopefully our relationships do not. The volunteer infrastructure, fundraising capacity, strategic alignment, and relational networks built during campaigns is such a massive precious resource -- and movements are thinking long term about how to mobilize those resources into huge collective shifts, turning tides that cannot be reversed. Campaign staff needs to be asking local leadership how the campaign can feed into their longer strategy, exercise patience and listening, and join with the local progressive vision in service of those who will remain doing the work after E-day comes and goes.

What is one thing you think “movement” people can learn from campaigns?

My movement building community (Momentum) has taught me to focus on moving public opinion to change the political weather and force politicians’ and candidates’ hands. I really believe that is the path to lasting change. Yet as I organized on the Cynthia Nixon gubernatorial campaign here in New York, I experienced the incredible power of an unapologetically progressive campaign to change the conversation, move decision-makers to the left, and energize new imagination in the progressive public. I think movement organizers need to understand electoral campaigns as actions in their own right - they have the power to galvanize and train thousands of new leaders, polarize the public, and dramatize heroes and villains for our issues. What if we related to electoral campaigns not as an ultimate solution, but as campaign cycles that can feed into our longer vision?

What surprised you working on the Cynthia Nixon campaign?

I was pleasantly surprised by the vision for the role I was invited into, which I believe is rare on a campaign. As the Hub Organizer, I worked with specific constituencies. I am most proud of what we accomplished with #DisabilityJustice4Cynthia, a group of disabled activists who gave major input into Cynthia’s disability platform, organized actions, helped fundraise, and did self-directed visibility work on Election Day.

Together we hosted a Virtual Town Hall, which was an hour-long virtual event dedicated to Q&A on Cynthia’s disability platform. We had talented Closed Captioners and ASL interpreters, and practiced the ins and outs of the tech to ensure it was as accessible as possible. Cynthia addressed the intersectional lens required to be an advocate for disability justice, and we had so many comments from people that had never in their lives heard a candidate understand the wildly varying issues faced by different folks in the disability community. People were so happy to be able to join such an accessible space and hear their concerns addressed so directly.

This surprised me because I think it is rare for a campaign as big as ours to invest that deeply in relationship and accountability to specific communities. I was so happy that the leadership saw this as a priority, and I know that through the work we did together we are leaving behind a stronger network of incredible disability justice activists who are now more connected and will undoubtedly continue to move the necessary policies that were included in our platform forward.

If there’s one thing people come away with from Healing Justice what would you want it to be?

We need you. You matter. All of the policies and visions we are fighting for… the things we so deeply believe all people deserve… you deserve them too. And if we can have rigor around remembering and practicing that belief with skill and determination, that power radiates into the work we are able to move in the world.

What’s a practice from the podcast that would be great for campaign people?

Ooh. I’d go with the Compartmentalizing in a Healthy Way practice. Having Je NaĆ© Taylor in your ear helping walk you through overwhelm, anger, emotion, whatever -- is such a clear and practical encouragement, and it’s just 11 minutes long. [Editor's note: I am so glad Kate picked this one because I've adopted it myself since listening to that episode.] This is a great one to put on in your headphones after an infuriating interaction with your supervisor, an unsettling volunteer or canvassing interaction, or if something’s coming up in your personal life but you just really need to focus at work right now.

If you’re really ready to stretch, the Relational Inclusion practice is powerful -- it is an exercise to understand where someone else is coming from when it feels totally impossible. We need this skill deeply on campaigns, where the pace can exacerbate conflict amongst ourselves getting entrenched and feeling insurmountable - I hope we aren’t too far gone to be open to it (ha!).

There are so many great ones for also getting back into our bodies, too -- Somatic Centering, Emotional Freedom Technique, and more… it’s so hard to choose!

What else do you want us to know?

I am so grateful for all the folks working on campaigns right now, on behalf of all our futures. Your labor is such a gift to all of us. Eyes on the prize -- this has been and will continue to be a long game fight. Let’s do all we can this cycle, and be good to ourselves and one another along the way. Because after November 6th, November 7th comes, and if we still have each other, then our movement can keep growing. Onward.


Join the “Surviving Elections” email list to receive a weekly email that isn’t asking you to chip in $3 before the reporting deadline! We’ll send you new podcast episodes when they drop, along with a weekly Election Survival Tip.

You can listen to Healing Justice Podcast on most podcast listening platforms. Our favorites are RadioPublic and Apple Podcasts. Talk with us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.


Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Ask Nancy: How to Work Smarter Not Longer

It finally happened. I wrote the same blog post twice.


Occasionally I will post about "working smarter not longer" and sometimes I get questions about what that means. Then I do things like write an entire blog post answering that question before I remember that I already wrote this one in 2014, the inadvertent rehashing of which was not an optimal use of my time. (Bonus time management tip, make sure you haven't already done something before you go to do it.) I'm posting this new version because a) it's already written and b) it contains some new insights gained over the last four years. Enjoy!



1) Plan ahead. Everyone knows that campaigns require planning but not everyone is clear on what planning means. A plan is not “the event is on September 6th and there will be a canvass afterward.” Planning involves specific goals, “we want to turn out 100 people” and specific steps to get to those goals “to get 100 people there we need about 150 RSVPs. So for the next two weeks every night we need to make about 500 phone calls. I will need two interns to do this with me. These are the lists I will call. Here is where I will track the RSVPs. Here is the script for confirmation calls which will begin the Friday before…” You get the picture. Think through every aspect of your project and envision what it will look like. Cut it down into small pieces and start as early as possible. Most late nights in an office are spent there because someone didn’t plan ahead and winds up scrambling to complete a greater amount of work than they’d accounted for. The sooner you start working on a project the more time you have to contemplate little details that might have escaped you if you leave things to the last minute...and then you have stay up all night taking care of them. So plan your work and then work your plan.

2) Take care of your body. Exercising, eating right, drinking water and getting sleep are essentially for your overall productivity. But I’m also talking about in the moment. If you are completely exhausted at 10pm and you’ve been staring at a blank screen because you need to complete a walk script or a press release, go the heck to bed and wake up early to take care of it. If it’s 3pm and you haven’t eaten all day because you’ve been planning a rally with a big surrogate, take half an hour to get a sandwich and come back. I’m not saying to drop everything to take a nap every time you yawn or get a sandwich every time you have a craving but the truth is you don’t do your best work running on empty. It’s better to take a little time to take of yourself rather than taking an hour to complete a task that should take 15 minutes because you’re working depleted.

3) Delegate. We tell organizers to organize their way out of the job but as managers we sometimes neglect to heed our own advice. I’m not suggesting you foist the less desirable aspects of your job on your underlings but I do believe you should empower them to take on more responsibility. Often times the 13 things you “have” to get done don’t have to get done by you. However, if you don’t train and empower your staff early then you wind up being the only one on the campaign who knows how to cut turf, pull a list, or work the email program come crunch time. Or you as the Campaign Manager wind up being the one who activists and volunteers call with questions election day because you never bothered to hand off those relationships. Just like you have to spend money to make money, you have to spend time to save time. Not to mention of course that you are helping your staff become more invested and teaching them skills they will go on to use on future campaigns. Train and empower your staff, or risk some very late nights.

4) Keep a to do list. I keep two kinds of to-do lists on my desk. One is a whiteboard with ongoing projects, emails, ideas and things that need to get followed up on. The other is a daily paper list with three professional and three personal things I need to accomplish before the end of the day. Personal might say something like “Pick up dry-cleaning, pay car loan, call Grandma to thank her for birthday gift.” Professional might be, “Write press release, secure locations for photo shoot, send e-blast.” (I now also keep an ongoing to-do list on a Google doc for each person who works under me so I know what needs checking in on.) When something comes up that's not a priority for the day, rather than get sidetracked, I add it to the whiteboard and carry on with the project at hand. My day doesn’t end until I’ve accomplished all three professional (and usually personal) items on my list and I don’t start in on other projects until I’ve accomplished those three. Sometimes they take all day, sometimes I knock them all out before lunchtime but the lists help me feel productive and ensure that nothing slips through the cracks.

5) Prioritize. Do what is important, not what is most fun. It’s a very human impulse to spend more energy on what we feel like doing than on that which is not enjoyable but needs to get done. Let’s say your boss has asked you to call through county chairs and introduce yourself and you are anxious about this because you’ve heard a couple of the people you are calling are not fans of the campaign. You also have to decorate your office and spend some zen-like time cutting turf on VAN. If you put off calling the county chairs while you complete the other tasks on your plate you’re going to be grumpy all day because you will be dreading the unpleasant task. You are saving the activity that takes the most emotional energy for the point in the day when you will have the least. (By the way Campaign Managers totally know when and why you are procrastinating on the thing you don’t want to do, and we don’t love it.) On the other hand, if you start with making your phone calls and knock that task out before noon, you’ll spend the rest of your day feeling accomplished and get to do what you love about your job emotionally unfettered. If you eat dessert first, you’ll never finish your dinner.

6) Focus. I heard this amazing quote from motivational author Jen Sincero, “Urgency is the opposite of hurrying.” Urgency means you are honed in at the task at hand and you are calm and laser-focused on getting done what needs to get done because you have planned ahead (see #1). Hurrying means you are stressed out and running around like a chicken with your head cut off because you didn’t account for this situation. Work expands to fit the time in which you have to do it. So if you have a task you know will require a lot of time or energy, close the other tabs on your computer and set aside a chunk of time to do that task and that task only. Yes, phones ring and things come up but 90% of interruptions are items you can make a note of and respond to in a couple of hours. If something truly requires your immediate attention, take care of it, and then get right back to the task at hand. Nothing drives me crazy like someone complaining that they’ll be in office until midnight after having spent all day dicking around on Facebook. Do what needs to get done, calmly, completely and well.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Campaign Workers Guild: Your Questions Answered Part II (AMA)



I had an great response to my first post about Campaign Workers Guild, including from my own staff on my last campaign who decided to organize! To that end I put out a call for questions about my experience managing a unionized campaign but quickly realized you had questions I was not qualified to answer. Thankfully Aisha Naseem, who is an at-large member of the Campaign Workers Guild Executive Board agreed to answer some of my questions.

A lot of the questions I got were not so much questions as objections and I get it. This is a new group, it's changing the norm in our industry and there are still a lot of kinks to work through. I totally hear where those are coming from and I try my best to respond those honestly below. After that, Aisha will answer some of your more technical questions.

Part I. Nancy's Q&A

1 )This new generation of organizers is so entitled, won't this just encourage that level of entitlement? and 2) Won't this change the culture of campaigns?

These are two different questions but I am answering them together.

First off, I can't really speak to how entitled past generations of organizers have been because I wasn't managing them. I know my friends and I worked very hard, but I also worked with some people who didn't. While I have found myself frustrated by the work ethic of some people working under me in recent years (and some of the submissions I've gotten from flat out lazy organizers), I have also had some really outstanding employees.

Second, collective bargaining is both well...collective and bargaining. It's really unlikely that a worker would propose something inappropriate to our line of work (like everyone gets paid double for working after 6pm) and that would make it through to the final contract.

Finally, while our Campaign Workers Guild contract did include guarantees that I was not offered on previous campaigns--like at least one day off per week for full time employees except during GOTV--why are we acting like that's a bad or unreasonable thing? Yes, I had to walk uphill in the snow both ways when I was an organizer, and it made me a very hard worker and stronger person, but it also wreaked havoc on my mental and physical health. If we want workers to have the energy and motivation do their best work, if we want our movement to be inclusive, and we want to attract a more diverse pool of campaign operatives then these are "benefits" (aka guarantees of common sense and decency) that we should be providing to our workers anyway.

The fact that we were treated poorly is not a compelling reason to perpetuate those practices.

3) What has been the reaction from more traditional unions?

Aisha answers this below but I want to answer from my personal perspective as well. Honestly? It was mixed. Some people thought it was really cool that our candidate was living up to his values. Some people were highly skeptical and felt like it was trivializing what unions do and using them for a PR stunt.

I will say I was very aware and wanted to capitalize on the PR opportunities as a Campaign Manager, but I was mostly excited about what CWG was doing and wanted to be part of it and support them. That said, even if neither of those had been a factor, things probably would have shaken out for us in much the same way. By the way, I know CWG would want me to emphasize that the idea to unionize should come from the workers not the candidate and Campaign Manager. Ours happened to be a natural synergy because I was already working on my first CWG blog post when our staff approached me about it.

4) Won't unions put Dem campaigns at a competitive disadvantage?

Number one, and as cheesy as this is, I think having a a staff that feels valued and bought in puts us at an advantage. Campaigns where people are happy and healthy are not only better places to be, but they inspire people to work harder. Number two Republicans already pay their lowest paid workers more.

5) This still doesn't account for long gaps in employment, long-term healthcare, training people to move through the pipeline etc.

You're totally right. It doesn't, but as you will see below as Campaign Workers Guild expands it plans to fill some of those needs. If someone else wants to find a different way to solve these problems that's great too. I'm all about the long-term health of our profession and our movement. But I don't buy the argument "this doesn't fix everything so instead we should have nothing."


Part II. Aisha's Q&A

Aisha Naseem is an at large executive board member of the Campaign Worker’s Guild. Aisha has been organizing and working on campaigns for over five years and will be studying social policy at the University of Chicago in the fall.


1) What recourse do workers have who want to unionize and run into hostile management? I can imagine workers still not wanting to go to the press or be public about it and damage the campaign's chances.

Employers have always engaged in union-busting tactics. Bosses are bosses, regardless of the industry. We all know how Walmart intimidates and threatens its workers. In Mississippi, the largely black Nissan workforce was warned that they’d lose their jobs and go back to “picking cotton” if they voted to unionize. Billionaires Elon Musk of Tesla and Jeff Bezos of Amazon work hard to try to intimidate their workers out of unionizing (with varied success—their times are coming).

Campaign workers can fight against union-busting in their own workplaces through broad and unique approaches. These include presenting petitions to management, wearing pro-union apparel or pins, coordinating volunteers, funders, or local politicians to put pressure on management, or, of course, letting the public know that a candidate who professes to be pro-labor spends energy and campaign funds on committing labor rights violations.


2) How has CWG expanded since we last spoke? Are there plans to expand the scope of your work? Specifically I've gotten a lot of questions about a) trainings and b) benefits for campaign workers between cycles.

Since our launch in early 2018, workers have reached collective bargaining agreements on 20 campaigns and one consulting firm. Many other bargaining units are in the process of unionizing: some are in preliminary stages and some are currently at the bargaining table demanding health insurance and living wages. We have worked with a firm to develop a campaign-specific sexual harassment training. Some of our long-term projects in progress include developing training materials for campaign workers, creating a nationwide supporter housing network, and setting up healthcare pools. We already provide benefits to our associate and working members, such as advance job postings for union jobs. We’re working on a members-only jobs board as well. On our most recent membership call, we had an attorney present on how to prevent and fight against wage theft in campaign workplaces.


3) What happens if a campaign unionizes in the primary and then DCCC or the state caucus comes in in the general and says "no you need to [lower your min salary, not provide healthcare, etc] in order for us to approve your budget and work with you”?

First of all, let’s just dig into that scenario. Let’s say a Democratic state caucus says they won’t work with a campaign unless the campaign discontinued offering healthcare to their workers. Let’s remember who we’re talking about here. This would be the party that ostensibly supports healthcare for all...but not for all. Our movement is about more than contracts and bargaining units—it’s about changing the culture that allows these threats and hypocrisies to even be a part of the equation.


In your example, it is the responsibility of the Democratic state caucus to bargain with the workers, so we’re already in a place of continuity and getting to the table. If the caucus said they wanted to pay less and not offer healthcare, what we’d do next is similar to our first response about union-busting. As always, we’re entirely worker-run, so the workers of that bargaining unit would democratically decide what action they’d like to take.

4) Would unionizing work differently in a so-called right to work state?

For CWG, unionizing in a state with Right to Work (For Less) legislation doesn’t work differently. Workers in multiple RTW states have already successfully unionized with CWG. Anti-labor people want everyone to think that RTW entirely shuts down workers’ chances of unionizing, and that simply isn’t true. Is it anti-worker legislation? Yes. Is it going to slow us, or the broader labor movement, down? Absolutely not. Workers are fighting collectively for fair wages and proper working conditions across the country, regardless of their zip code.


5) Is joining the union part of the agreement once the campaign is unionized? I'm asking how would you a) deal with a staffer who didn't want to be part of the union or b) is it something you disclose during hiring and people who wouldn't be part of the union are just not hired

Like many of our answers, it really depends on what the workers have bargained into their contract! CWG workers have done a fantastic job organizing their coworkers, so the majority of workers are not just ready to pay dues but really excited to do so. We have trained stewards and worksite leaders who sign up new hires and keep their coworkers engaged. To be clear, regardless of whether a worker pays dues or not, they’re still a member of the bargaining unit.

6) Is your hope that eventually people who are CWG members will refuse to be part of campaigns that aren't unionized? Do you ever imagine a movement in which campaign workers across a state or a country refuse to work with other campaigns that aren't unionized or walk out in solidarity with other campaigns?

Ultimately, CWG aims to change campaign culture and elevate industry standards. Right now, campaign workers are finally getting the chance to experience collective bargaining and to assert greater power in their workplace -- and that’s pretty addicting. We do hear from many of our members that they only want to work on unionized campaigns now and plan on unionizing every campaign they work on from here on out, so yes, the change is coming! Ultimately we aim to create an environment where workers’ rights are respected, but the way to get there is to agitate, educate, and of course, organize.

7) What has been the reaction from traditional unions?

CWG has already called for our members to gather in solidarity for fellow workers’ rights. For example, in April, one of our units picketed in solidarity with the Teamsters. We’ve written letters of support for other unions who are going through big fights (and they’ve done so for us). And, based on the conversations we’ve been having and the immense amount of support we’re receiving, shows of solidarity like that are definitely going to continue.

8) It seems like only campaigns that already treat their workers well are the ones organizing. Have there been any successful attempts to organize that were adversarial? How did that impact the campaign going forward?

Many of the workers on those unionized campaigns would tell you a different story; we have had a number of adversarial reactions to voluntary recognition and bargaining demands. Naturally, the most pro-labor workers gravitate towards working with the most pro-labor candidates. But even the phrase “treating their workers well” is a funny one in the campaign world! In this industry, “giving” workers one day off a week is often characterized as treating them well when really those workers are still working 10-12 hour days, 6 days a week, without overtime, on a salary of $2500 per month. That’s no exaggeration. That’s the industry we live and work in. People are often wildly impressed if a campaign offers their workers health insurance. That should be standard!

Moreover, treating workers well means more than giving them minimally acceptable pay and allowing them to go to the doctor. There are dozens of other rights and benefits workers receive under a union contract. We have yet to hear of a non-unionized campaign offering progressive discipline, a grievance procedure, supporter housing vetting, office safety standards, guaranteed mileage reimbursement policies, and sexual harassment reporting procedures.

Several campaigns we’ve negotiated with—unfortunately but not at all surprisingly—have failed to be pro-labor when it comes to their own workers. Bosses are bosses. We have had some tough, very adversarial contract fights. Again, we’re entirely member-run, and it’s up to the workers of that campaign to democratically decide whether they want to go public or not, so we can’t provide any hot gossip for you that hasn’t gone public already.

9)What is your stance on full time workers being paid on 1099s?

1099s should be used only for true independent contractors. The vast majority of campaign workers are not independent contractors and are too often misclassified as such. Virtually all full-time workers on campaigns should be classified as employees because they work for a single employer and labor under their control and direction. It’s easy to see why management likes to misclassify workers as 1099s: employers generally do not withhold income taxes or make tax payments for unemployment insurance, Social Security, etc., for independent contractors, and employees enjoy many more legal rights and protections.

10)Campaign Managers are often management in that they hire and manage other campaign staff but are often at the mercy of a candidate, a caucus or committee, or consultants and therefore subject to similar abuses as other campaign staffers. Are they eligible to negotiate as "workers" even though they have at (least partial) hiring and supervisory power?

The Campaign Workers Guild is a union for non-management campaign workers. Whether we can represent a particular worker is not based on their job title but rather on what they do. Several of our contracts have covered campaign managers who were not truly working as managers or supervisors. We are also mindful of the fact a campaign worker may move into and out of management positions during a single electoral cycle. Though we would be conflicted out of representing both management and non-management workers in the same unit, we recognize that improved work conditions usually benefit staff outside of the bargaining unit and that management workers may have good reason to unionize, too. All workers should have dignity and power in their workplaces, and we support management-level workers taking action to improve their own conditions and elevate industry standards.


Thank you so much Aisha for sharing with us and to everyone who submitted questions!








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,

Nancy

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:

Klotz-16%
Reptar-15%
Big Bird-14%
Cookie Monster-13%
Ernie-12%
Grover-11%
Mr.Bone- 9%
Elmo-8%
Bert-2%

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,

Nancy













*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 campaignworkersguild.org


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 BeckerforKentucky.com



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 FreeConferenceCall.com...

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 BeckerforKentucky.com

Sunday, February 4, 2018

You're Doing It Wrong: Are You Underutilizing Your Consultants?



Consultants are more than just product producers. They are there to do what their name implies, consult. Both because they are campaign professionals and because it's good for business your consultants want you to win. As one pointed out to me recently they are making the most money on the campaign while spending the least amount of time on the ground so you may as well make them work for it. Here are five things to ask your consultants to make the most of your relationship and run your best campaign:

1) Ask them to help you find staff. The campaign world is replete with informational interviews, many of them with political consultants. Consultants are often adjunct professors in various PoliSci programs (which means students) and work on several campaigns at once all ending on different schedules. All of this means access to resumes. Helping place staff on campaigns is not only the right thing to do and good for the client, it also helps build a brand. If a consultant has helped place you on a race you are more likely to reach out to them when you are looking to hire a consulting team on that or future races. Plus consultants tend to be friends with other consultants and former colleagues who also have resumes and an interest in placing people as well. It's a win-win-win-win. Networking is the helping economy that makes our world go round and you should not be shy about playing your part in it.

2) Ask them o back you up. It's a good thing my candidate doesn't read my blog because I use this one all the time. Sometimes when I can't convince my candidate of something I know I am correct about, (call time is necessary, yard signs are stupid, you can't go on vacation during a candidate forum) I call my consulting team and talk to about it, make sure we are on the same page, and then bring it up on our consultant call. Consultants want you to win so they are usually more than happy to be your advocate and it often helps a candidate to hear it from more that one source-especially one they don't see every day. NB: Definitely make sure you check in with your consultants first so that you can explain your point of view/present a united front when the subject is broached.

3) Ask them teach you new skills. One of the best parts about managing a campaign is that you get work directly with and learn from experts. Consultants want informed clients and future colleagues so don't be shy about asking why they give you a specific piece of advice or how part of their process works. If you're looking to get experience in a particular consultant's area ask if you can take on a task like crafting a press release or an email. As long something is not particularly intensive or time-sensitive they are usually more than happy to have it off their plate.

4) Ask them to weigh in outside their own purview. Just because someone happens to be a pollster or fundraising consultant doesn't mean that this is their only area of expertise. Most consultants are long-time campaign people and its very difficult to get this far without having a variety of experience and working on a lot of different campaigns. Don't be afraid to lean on your consultants for advice even when it has to do with a project they aren't necessarily involved in.

5) Ask them to help YOU find a job. See number one. Consultants perpetually have their hands in a bunch of different campaigns and they love to embed staffers who they know will be loyal to them. Once your campaign is over, assuming you've done a good job, don't be afraid to reach out about next steps.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Organizer Store: 2017 Favorites



Happy 2018! I've missed you! Between moving and getting married and managing a race 2017 was a lackluster year in terms of quantity of content. However, new year, new me amiright? I don't want to make promises I can't keep but I am hoping to make this year a year of content meaning 100 posts. So please send questions/ideas/etc to campaignsick@gmail.com. Let's kick it off right! Below are some things I've been dying to share with you guys and I finally got the time to sit down and do it! Check out my 2017 favorites! What game changing products did you discover in 2017? Tweet @CampaignSick to let me know!


1) Gobble Box- As many of you know I went back out on the campaign trail in mid-2017. Determined to continue some semblance of a budget and self-care my (also on the campaign trail) husband and I tried out a variety of meal subscription boxes and fell in love with Gobble. We prefer Gobble for a variety of reasons. First, you can assemble their kits in 20 mins (their site says 15 but I'm keeping it real for you) using only one pan which is perfect when you come home from work exhausted or are staying in a sublet with limited supplies (check and check.) Second, they just taste better. Our first two meals were Chinese chicken lettuce cups and an Indian dish with cauliflower and paneer both tasted as good or better than what we would get with delivery plus they were less expensive and way healthier. Finally, they allow you to choose your meals from a menu of about 9 options per week and you can choose as few or as many as you like. (Although serving sizes start at 2 people.) The picture above is what we're expecting in next week's delivery. Highly, highly recommend! You can use my link to get your first dinner kit FOR FREE. You won't be disappointed. Tweet me and let me know what you think!


2) Homesick Candles- I've already waxed poetic (get it?) about the virtues of scented candles but this Fall I got to take it to a whole new level. I found Homesick candles when I was experiencing serious longing for the sights and smells of Autumn while living in Southern California. Just read the New York State candle description, "Experience the natural bounty of the Empire State with the scents of the Adirondacks, forest brush crunching underfoot, and the autumn fragrance of pumpkins and apple orchards. Sweet hay and rushing river mix with spice notes of nutmeg and cinnamon to finish." I mean #home. I was so excited I registered for both the New York City and New York State candles (thank you, Bridget!) and purchased respective candles for all the members of our wedding party (two New York, one Virginia, one Maryland, two Wisconsin, two Florida, one England and one Northern California.) I will say that some states' scents are better matched than others-I especially appreciated that Maryland smelled like Old Bay and that Wisconsin didn't just smell like cheese- and that the scent throw isn't as good as Bath and Body Works. However it is such a thoughtful, comforting gift for someone who is on the campaign trail and longing for home and I have to say a very fun gift give. I don't have a code to give you but if you sign up for their email list you can take 10% off your first order.

3) Greetabl Boxes- This one is another gift idea! Greetabl boxes are like souped up greeting card with a little surprise inside. You choose the pattern of your box and the customize it with up to three detachable photos of you and the gift's recipient. Then you can add a small treat ranging from tea, to socks, to champagne flavored gummy bears. 2017 saw deaths, breakups, moves, marriages, births and everything in between for my immediate friend group and left me intent on finding a way to better keep in touch and let the people I love know I'm thinking about them in between momentous occasions. (I spent the weeks after both my bachelorette party and my wedding texting various loved ones "why don't we get together like that more often?") I love that Greetabl is super personalized but not overly expensive. One of very the Greetabls I sent is pictured above. All told the four boxes I've sent ranged from $9-$20. AND you can use my link to get 15% off!


4)Crime in Sports Podcast- Southern California traffic is as advertised and until recently I lived about an hour away from my office which meant lots of time in the car. Once I'd exhausted This American Life and Slate Political Gabfest on my drive out from the East Coast I was searching for some road trip entertainment and after discovering Crime in Sports it became my companion on my daily commute. The Podcast is two comedians telling true crimes stories involving professional athletes. It's one of those things where I can't quite put my finger on why I find it so satisfying but I love having an episodic apolitical reliable source of entertainment on a long or long-feeling drive. One caveat: while hosts Jimmy Whisman and James Pietragallo seem like generally good people they occasionally use less than PC language/make some cringe-inducing jokes so you be judge of whether this one is for you. The good news is it's 100% free. And campaign people love Podcasts so I had to share.



5)Tieks- If you are a woman on Facebook and anywhere near my age group chances are you've seen Tieks advertisements. You're probably also thinking "Are you crazy? Why would I pay $200 for a pair of flats? Do you know what I get paid?" Yes, but after hearing accolades from one friend who is a doctor and another who is a classroom teacher (two professions that spend a lot of time on their feet) I'd been dying to try Tieks for a while. You're talking to someone who pretty much exclusively wore Tufts flip flops unless it was absolutely necessary, such was my disdain for shoes. (In practice. In theory I can't get enough of them.) I treated myself to a rose gold pair of Tieks as my dancing shoes for my wedding and I have not looked back. You guys. These are the most comfortable shoes I have ever worn including sneakers. I have now two pairs, the rose gold and another pair in black and wear them almost every day. If you are like me and always get blisters from shoes rubbing you or find them otherwise uncomfortable you need a pair of Tieks. Sadly I don't have a discount code to share with you but if you find one you are forever my hero.

Can't wait to post more soon! Tell me what products/services are making your lives easier in the new year!

Campaign Love and Mine,

Nancy