Project Wonderful

Sunday, October 15, 2017

To California On the Eve of My Wedding


Three and a half years ago I wrote one of the more personal blog posts I've ever shared with you. "To Washington on my 29th Birthday" was about the anxiety, wistfulness and almost resignation I felt at the precipice of my new adventure, my move to D.C. Finding myself at another career crossroads this summer, I revisited the post hoping rereading it would give me some sort of clarity.

I was struck by a couple of things, but in particular, how inextricably tied my relationship status seemed to be tied to my perception of own my career. I mention my being single five times in the blog post, which was ostensibly about a career decision. Even the metaphor I used to describe my predicament is a Mike Birbiglia joke about marriage. When I think about it, my career path and my relationship status have always been intertwined--in part because I tend to date people who do what I do, but also I think because of how I've been socialized to view success. My decision to finally take a break from campaigns to go to graduate school--a decision that indirectly led to the creation of this blog-- was preceded by the end of my first serious relationship. Even when I wasn't in a relationship, the fear that a peripatetic campaign lifestyle would preclude my ability to find lasting love loomed large over the decisions I made.

Depending on how you count it, I'd been thinking about going back on the campaign trail on and off since 2012. If you had asked me why I hesitated I would have thought it was because I'd always have the option to go manage a campaign but finding a healthy, sustainable romantic relationship felt completely out of my control. But as it turns out it was never about losing any particular relationship but about giving my all to something and having that not be enough. What if I tried and failed? What if I'm not as good as I think I am? What if no one wants me? The same fears that were holding me back in relationships were holding back my career.

Then this summer I found myself in a situation I had never anticipated: engaged, unemployed, and out of excuses. After three and a half years in our nation's capital, I left DC with my fiance to do what I have always wanted but been too scared to do: manage a congressional race.

Look, I know how this makes me sound. As Feminist its a trite, uneasy, Sex-and-the-City thing to write about oneself. It's why I've written, rewritten and been sitting on this post since June. I finally decided to publish it because of all people, my personal trainer. We've been spending a lot of time together lately and I absolutely adore this girl. She is 24 years old, moved to LA after a traumatic end to her first serious relationship and is trying to make a career in her chosen field happen. Her pain and fear are palpable. It hurts me to know in my heart from experience that she will be okay and also know there is absolutely no way to communicate that certainty to her. After our second session, I texted my Maid of Honor, "Thank God we will never be 24 again."

I get that I am very, very lucky. I have an amazing partner who understands what I do and is committed to making our relationship work even when it keeps us apart for small periods of time. I found an amazing candidate and consulting team who remind me why I chose this career in the first place--and I found them within 40 minutes of my future husband. Even that boyfriend, the one with the break up that spurred me to go to grad school is now one of my best friends and a guest at my wedding. #Blessed.

But it's not just luck; It's patience and experience and confidence. In the time between moving to DC and moving to California I became a person who sought out a partner I could trust to support me professionally and to be my equal in maintaining our relationship. I became a person who was okay with others seeing my imperfections both personal and professional and was therefore more willing to take risks. I got better at asking for what I need. This is by no means a declaration that I have it all figured out, far, far, far from it, but it is a declaration that I know better than I did before.

This post is embarrassing to write and more so to publish. But it's what I would have needed to hear when I was younger and earlier, which is what I strive to do with this blog. The biggest difference between me when I wrote that initial post and me today is the knowledge that even if things do not turn out okay, I will be okay.

I want to end this with a quote said by one of my favorite woman role models (Michelle Obama) to another of my favorite woman role models (Oprah Winfrey) at the 2016 United State of Women.

"I don’t want young women out there to have the expectation that if they’re not having it all that somehow they’re failing. Life is hard. But life is long if you maintain your health, which is one of the reasons why we talk about taking care of yourself. Because you want to get to the next phases in life where you can do more of what you want to do at any given time."

Be strong lady friends in your 20's. Life is coming.

Campaign Love and Mine,


Nancy

Friday, September 29, 2017

Please Join Me: Support Danica Roem's Historic Candidacy for Delegate!!!


CampaignSick Nation,

It's end of quarter and I should be asking you to donate to the federal candidate whose campaign I'm running. Instead I am asking you to donate to a delegate candidate in Virginia who you have probably never heard of. Danica Roem is a former journalist, activist, and step-mother running in my fiance's home district in Prince William County and if elected she would be the first and ONLY out transgender state legislator in the country.

By contrast, Republican incumbent Delegate Bob Marshall is a rabidly anti-choice, anti-woman, anti-LGBT political dumpster fire who authored Virginia's version of the anti-trans bathroom bill. It should take one aback but come as no surprise then that he has repeatedly misgendered Danica, refused to debate with her, and called her a bully when she pointed out his bigotry.

I should take a moment to point out that Danica's candidacy is not predicated on her gender but instead rooted in a deep understanding of the issues that impact her district honed from years as a local reporter. Mike (future Mr. CampaignSick) knows her from his time working on races in the area and has told me that he was always nervous to put his candidates in a room with Danica because she knows her stuff and the district so well and she doesn't pull any punches. Doesn't that sound like exactly who you'd want as your state legislator?

Danica can win this race. In a political environment where it seems like words don't mean things and actions don't have consequences, here is a race where we can stand up for kindness and common sense with small donations and really make a difference.

In case you remain unconvinced, allow me to share a couple of choice (no pun intended) pieces of media:

About Delegate Marshall (I could have found 30 of these):
In 1989, Marshall told the Boston Globe that he opposed birth control pills, calling them “abortion.” He also objected to long-acting contraception, telling the Globe: “It’s a real tribute to women’s intelligence. They feel so irresponsible they can’t do something once a day?” In the same interview, Marshall railed against abortion in the case of rape. “Your origins should not be held against you,” he explained, in reference to the victim’s fetus. “The woman becomes a sin-bearer of the crime, because the right of a child predominates over the embarrassment of the woman.

Video from Danica about Marshall's transphobic attacks:



And finally, from Mr. CampaignSick. I mean come on, you guys.



I have never asked you to donate to a candidate before, not even one I worked for, but I hope you see why I am asking now. Please, if you are able, join me by donating to Danica's campaign.

Campaign Love and Mine,

Nancy

Sunday, August 13, 2017

It Should Go Without Saying...

One of the joys of having a campaign-themed blog is that people feel encouraged to share ridiculous/inappropriate stories (keep 'em coming) about things that happen in their office. We spend plenty of time making fun of candidates and things they should know better about but there is plenty to say about campaign staff. All of the following are REAL EXAMPLES I have either witnessed or had relayed to me of things that should go without saying, but apparently don't.

It should go without saying...

Don't smoke pot in the office. Even if it's legal in your district. Even after hours. ESPECIALLY if you have a shared office space, but definitely at all.

Don't smoke cigarettes inside the office. Are you kidding me? Ew.

Don't drink alcohol in the office in front of volunteers, donors, or anyone who it might make uncomfortable. A little bottle of wine during some late night data entry is a different story.

Don't drink alcohol at formal or informal campaign events if you are under 21.

Don't serve alcohol to staff or interns who are under 21.

Don't get drunk at an official campaign event no matter how old you are. And if you are drunk (at a campaign event or not) do not drive home under any circumstances.

Do not engage in romantic relationships with staff whom you supervise. Sorry but this is non-negotiable.

You are collectively responsible for the cleanliness of the common areas in your office. If you have to be asked to do your part you are already being irresponsible. Check yourself proactively, especially if you are a man working in an office with women. (Don't @ me; It's how we're socialized.)

Do not put any campaign expense on your personal credit card that you cannot afford to float for an indefinite period of time. Similarly, do not ask staff to shell out for expenses for which they will not be reimbursed immediately.

Do not agree to any meeting, interview, expenditure, or hire on behalf of the campaign unless you are authorized to do so.

Don't promise anything you can't deliver, even to get out of an uncomfortable conversation.

Don't post anything negative--even if satirical--on social media about the campaign, your opponent or people involved with either. (This includes submissions to CampaignSick Tumblr).

Don't talk to the press without explicit permission from the Comms Director or Campaign Manager.

Don't talk about campaign secrets or make disparaging or inappropriate comments in front of volunteers. (There are spies everywhere.)

Do not put anything in electronic communication that would be embarrassing to you or the campaign if it were to find its way into a newspaper.

Don't run a paid and volunteer canvass from the same staging location.

Always provide healthcare or a healthcare stipend for long-term employees. (Practice what we preach you guys!)

Don't try to pay employees who are really employees as contractors.

Always follow up with people who have helped you find talent, connected you to a potential employer etc. Nothing annoys me more than sending someone a resume or recommending someone for a job and then never hearing what happened.

On the flip side anyone who got to a second round interview with you deserves a heads up that the position has been filled.

Let your references know that you are using them as references. It's considerate plus it allows them to prepare and give more thoughtful recommendations.

More than one person should have an office key. You don't want everyone locked out because one person is stuck in traffic.

Don't steal your opponents' lit or yard signs. Especially don't do this and throw them out behind your office. People I know have been arrested for this.

Buy the .org, .net and every version of your candidate's name and website. You don't want YourName2018.com to turn out to be a landing page for the opposition.

Make sure your opponent and his/her spouse are removed from your contact universe. Awkward and embarrassing.

Don't re-solicit someone before thanking them. Duh.

You/your candidate don't need to interview 8 consultants for the same service. Don't waste everyone's times. Stick with 2-3 max. Committees and other consultants can help make recs if you don't know where to start.

Don't have your candidate show up at another candidate's event (in candidate capacity) without permission. It's rude and tacky. The exception is if your candidate is really attending as a supporter OR if your candidate is for example a state senator attending a large annual event like the (no longer existent) Harkin Steak Fry.

What am I missing? Happy to do a round two!


Campaign Love and Mine,


Nancy








Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Ten More Votes! A Firm Of One's Own with Eric Hogensen


One of the things I love the most about our community is that you have people wherever you go. To wit, I am in Los Angeles looking for my next adventure and the consultants and operatives of the West Coast (and yes, the GC culture is a huge thing here, another post on that later) have been nothing but generous with their time. I sat down with Eric Hogensen of HSG campaigns to learn more about his business AND his exciting new project, Ten More Votes!


Who are you? Tell us a little about yourself and your career trajectory.

I was born in Chicago and raised around Madison, Wisconsin. My mother is Mexican and father is Jewish. I was raised in a fairly political household by left-wing radical artists and got a Poli Sci degree but I didn’t work on my first campaign until after college. I started as a Field Organizer in WA-03 (Olympia) in the summer of 2000, literally fell in love with campaigns on that race and I've been doing it ever since. I came up through field, did a Kentucky Governor’s race, a Presidential cycle for Clark in South Carolina and a Congressional race in Vegas. Along the way I did a little bit of everything from press to finance to managing.

What do you love about campaigns?

I think of campaigns like a mosquito zapper. One pops up and all these people from all over suddenly flock to it. I’m definitely a people person so I love that feeling of camaraderie and teamwork. There’s nothing like that pace and that energy. I especially love managing because you are in the middle of everything, you move things forward, you influence the candidate, there’s no part of the race you don’t touch. But it takes so much out of you.

When did you start your own firm and why?

I believe you only have two or three races in you to manage and really do it well. I won my congressional race in ‘06 started my firm in ’07. I got some good staff that I trusted and rented a couple rooms above a soccer bar in Milwaukee, focused on mail and digital. Once it got going, I moved things out to CA because I love it here. The weather is great and my wife is from SC and so she missed warm weather. 

What surprised you about starting your own firm?

The thing I was least prepared for is that once you're a consultant all your relationships with other consultants change. As a manager, they’re helping you get jobs and you are helping them by staffing their races. As a fellow it’s just different. Even if you’re not in direct competition maybe they’re on a race with someone with whom you are. Also the reality of constantly selling/finding clients. The impact and the beast of that is intense.

Tell us about Ten More Votes.

Ten More Votes is a mobile voter contact campaign app for Democratic campaigns that volunteers and supporters can use to easily call, text and canvass for the campaign. No other platform allows you to do all three and its ease of use, in my opinion, is second to none. 

How did this come about?

My friend Kelly (who is a tech person) and I were talking. He was building apps and doing some freelance projects and we decided to do a project together.  It did come out of what I perceive to be a gap in campaign technology. There are solutions out there but I don't think they are as simple as they can be and for me this filled that gap.

How have you seen this kind of technology change over the course of your career?

I've by seen it go from nothing in 2000 -basically we were just chatting with each other on AIM-- to now where smart campaigns spend a significant part of their budget and devote staff to digital. So literally from 0 to like 50% when you consider how much tech is a part of everything. The key becomes how do you integrate everything; how do you curate what’s out there? You don't want to get distracted by shiny objects. At the same time there are fundamentals that don't have anything to do with digital: management, messaging, good candidates that won't ever change. 

If people want to learn more about how 10 more votes works how can they find out?

You can use this link to sign up for a demo. CampaignSick readers get 10% off their first two months of using the app!

What else do you want people to know about Ten More Votes?

We used to talk about this like a FUBU product, for us by us. Lot's of people come from the tech world and want to tell us how to improve things, knowing nothing about the process. I built this with us in mind. I'm a campaign person; I'm not an angel investor or a tech bro. Basically I love your readers and and I want their feedback because that's who we build this for.

What do you wish you had known earlier in your career?

Be more mindful of how you treat people. When you are young and passionate you get caught up in the moment and you lose sight of how the things you say affect people. I never lacked confidence, I can tell you that, but there's a way to be confident without being cocky. People will remember how you treat them long after you've forgotten what you said.

Monday, May 8, 2017

A Firm of One's Own: Madalene Mielke

Editor's Note: Especially in today's political climate, where jobs are difficult to come by it seems like every Regional Field Director dreams of starting their own firm. I've always suspected this is a lot harder than it sounds but I get questions about doing so frequently. Since I've never done it I decided to ask some people I know who have! And so I bring you the first installment of "A Firm of One's Own." Thanks very much to Madalene Mielke, our first participant.


1)Who are you? Tell us a little about your professional background.
I help people get elected to public office.

2)When and why did you decide to start your own firm?
I started my firm in 2002. I didn’t want one boss. What I wanted was the flexibility to work with a variety of people and organizations. After I finished working on the Presidential Inaugural Committee (PIC) in 1997, I made the decision that I wouldn’t go into the Clinton Administration, although I had worked at the DNC and on the coordinated campaign for the general election chair and on VP Gore’s team. I knew that policy wasn’t my speed and that politics would be the way that I would make a career. That decision was the basis for the other decisions that I made for professional advancement. The culmination of those decisions resulted in me going out on my own.

3)Tell us a little bit about your firm and what you do.
My original focus is based on the tenants of political fundraising and training. In its 15 years of existence, my firm’s focus as well as my individual focus has evolved to include more political strategy and leadership development. Technically, people see me as a fundraiser because that’s what I do as a job. What I find more interesting is my ability to help individuals who are inclined to run for elected office, counsel them on the strategy to succeed as well as what leadership skills they need to develop to get them to a place where they’re seen as political leaders.

4)What the biggest challenges to owning your own firm?
It’s easier to do the work vs spend the time to hustle for new business. Time management is an absolute must!

5)What are you most proud of?
Being able to work with people who are making a difference in the world.

6)What do you wish you had done differently?
Nothing because I wouldn’t be where I am now as a person, as an operative, as an entrepreneur without making the choices I made. No regrets and no looking backwards other than to reflect on lessons learned.

7)What should someone know before starting their own firm?
In my line of work, finding business is a cyclical nature and having people who will advocate for you whether it’s for a job or as a potential client is important to have in any kind of business. Being a small business owner also means doing things out of your wheelhouse that may not involve any of the skills you may have acquired along the way. Need a business license? Opening a business account? Filing property taxes? Hiring an accountant, payroll specialist? Office space? Hiring staff? Now scale it all!!! All the details that can come back and be a real PITA need to happen before you can really focus on getting clients and producing quality work.

8)What is there left in your career that you are still looking forward to accomplishing?
I like to learn! I’m a student and at the same time experienced from years of practice. All industries evolve and how quickly we learn how to incorporate or retire methods is vital to staying relevant. I’m excited to engage in more leadership development and to get more women and communities of color elected to office as well as help them progress in their careers.

9)What is one thing you think everyone should know (can be professional or non-professional)?
Your success is built on your brand and your brand is built through your actions. People need to see you as solving a challenge for them. Bring solutions and a “let’s get it done” attitude.

Madalene Xuan-Trang Mielke is the Founder and Principal of Arum Group, LLC. She has nearly 20 years of experience working in political campaigns and specializes in political/non-profit fundraising and political training focused on the advancement of people of color.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Run For Something!


Run for Something is a new political organization dedicated to recruiting, training and supporting millennials to run for office. If you haven't heard about it yet you're going to starting here. Please enjoy my interview with Run for Something co-Founder, Ross Morales Rocketto. I'm so excited about Run for Something's work and to see where it goes from here! Thank you, Ross, for your time and everyone else see below how you can get involved!

1)Tell us about yourself and your professional background.
I’ve been in politics for about 15 years. I started the Houston area ended up working for a number of campaigns over the years. Three or four cycles in I realized I had got into politics because I thought getting good people elected was a way to make communities better place, but at some point I had started just working for candidates who would pay me. So I stopped doing politics for a little bit and decided when I got back in I would do so on my own terms.

About a year or so later, I got the itch again and jumped back in. I realized that part of the thing that had made me feel disillusioned was that I didn’t think the candidates I was working for were there for the right reasons or the right fit for their communities. I decided I wanted to focus on candidate recruitment even if I couldn’t do it full-time. I started working with my friends who were interested in running, and joined a political consulting firm that was founded by two top Obama campaign strategists. Eventually I started feeling restless wanted to go back in the field in January.

I wound up managing a congressional campaign for Wendy Carrillo. She is an incredible person, and is the embodiment of the American Dream. As a formerly undocumented immigrant whose family fled civil war in the 80’s, she and her family persisted and are now thriving! She just ran for Congress!

Meanwhile, Amanda and I launched Run for Something to recruit more young people to run for office on inauguration day. So when the campaign ended, I went back to Run for Something full-time.

2)Tell us about launching Run for Something.
We knew there was energy and interest from millennials who want to run for office but the response has been really fascinating and incredible. We thought maybe we’d be able to recruit 100 or 200 candidates. We launched on inauguration day and had over 1,000 candidates who signed up before the end of the weekend. Now we have almost 10,000 people interested in running!

3)What makes a good candidate? How do you decide which candidates you want to support?
The first question is “WHY are you running?” The why needs to be rooted in making their community a better place first and foremost. We’re looking for candidates who are deeply rooted in their communities-- that can mean a lot of different things. We ask questions like what does their network look like in the community? Are people asking them to run? What relationships do they have? Do others see them as a leader?

The second criterion is being willing and able to stand up and actually do it. Running for office is really hard. You need a willingness to learn, to adjust, to listen to constituents and to the people you bring on to give you advice. So much of running for office isn’t necessarily intuitive. There’s a lot about it-- like calling and asking people for money—that can be downright uncomfortable. So it’s important to understand and embrace the learning curve.

Then as a bonus, I look for someone with the ability to tell a story. Great candidates have empathy and a drive to connect with people. That isn’t to say different personalities shouldn’t run for office, but we want someone who can make the political personal.

In terms of concrete criteria run for something only supports candidates who are 35 or younger, progressive and intend to caucus (if applicable) as Democrats.

4)Why young people?
Let’s face it: most elected officials are old, white and male. Our goal is to recruit and support the next generation of governors, senators, members of congress and statewide officeholders and that often starts by running for local office. Notoriously that pipeline hasn’t existed for Democrats or we do a bad job of is getting young people into it. We need to start younger. Millennials are quickly becoming the largest voting block, or at least the largest potential voting block but in order for people to come out and vote they need to see themselves in candidates. We need to see ourselves.

5)What exactly does Run for Something do?
Our initial goal is ”to plant 1000 seeds.” We’re trying to inspire and get people engaged in the act of running for office, as many young people as we possibly can. Clearly we want to win, but the truth is for many local offices across the country no one is on the ballot or they are uncontested. There are so many offices every year that nobody runs for!

We want to provide our candidates with support in the broadest terms so creating community to share experiences and best practices, connecting them to campaign operatives and to other organizations that can train and support them-we’re not here to reinvent the wheel. And of course we want to provide many of them with financial resources. Right now we’re working on a matching program where if a candidate is able to raise 15% of what it takes to run for that office we will match that with up to 15%.

6)How can we get involved?
Go to Runforsomething.net to learn more about running or sign up to be a volunteer or a mentor. Because of the incredible influx of candidates we’ve seen one thing we need help with is candidate screening. It’s just a 30 minute phone call where the volunteer helps get information on potential candidates and fills out a form to relay it back to us. It’s a fun job because it’s the first personal touch with a lot of these candidates

7)What else do you want people to know about Run for Something?
For most, nobody is going to tap them on the shoulder to run. For people interested in engaging especially at the local and state level, you don’t have to wait for a gatekeeper to tell you it’s time to run. At the same time, you should also know what is involved which is part of why we’re here. The more local the race, the easier it is to run and win as a first time candidate. In most places isn’t that difficult to run for school board. It’s one of the most fundamental ways to get involved and those races are where everything starts. Right now progressives haven’t done as good a job at building that pipeline. School board today, council tomorrow, mayor after that. That’s where the bench is and we are here to demystify that for folks.

8)What do you wish someone had told you earlier in your career?
I wish I had had someone reminding me why it was I had gotten into this work in the first place. It’s easy to be fired up in the Trump era but, thankfully, this moment won’t last forever. If you’re not doing it for reasons that really drive you, you are going to be tired and cynical before you know it.


Ross Morales Rocketto is a progressive political operative with more than a decade of experience in campaign management, grassroots organizing, and data/analytics. Former campaign manager at Wendy Carillo for Congress, principal at Smoot Tewes Group, and management consultant at Deloitte Consulting’s innovation center. Worked in Iowa in 2007 for Bill Richardson, and in 2005 for Julian Castro. Got started in Texas during the 2002 cycle. Married, one dog, two cats.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Isn't That Special (Elections taking place beyond Georgia)


In case you have been living under a rock, or just have a very different social media cadre than I do there is a special election coming up in Georgia. Actually, one just happened and now there is a runoff. (Even though it was not the runaway we were hoping for BIG congratulations to everyone on the ground for Jon Ossoff! I am hopeful for June 20!) That same evening Jackie Smith won the race for Prince William County, Virginia's Clerk of Court and it got me wondering what other state and local special elections are taking place that are worth our notice. With the help of my amazing Facebook friends and wider social media network here is a by-no-means-exhaustive list of special elections taking place across the country! Please feel free to message me to add your own!

Statewide/Federal

Alabama- Alabama's new Governor, Kay Ivey has set the date for a special election to replace a one Jeffrey Beauregard Sessions (now US Attorney General, God help us) in the US Senate. The seat is currently being held by Republican Luther Strange. The primary will be August 15th and the general December 12th. Alabama is R+14.

Georgia- See above. The district is R+8.

Montana- To replace former Congressman Ryan Zinke for Montana's At-Large congressional seat. Zinke is now Secretary of the Interior. Rob Quist is the Democratic nominee. The special election is on May 25th. The district is R+11.

South Carolina- To replace Congressman Mick Mulvaney, now the Director of the Office of Management and Budget. The primary is May 2nd and the special election June 20th. The district is R+9.

State and Local

Florida- Special election to replace Frank Artiles, SD 41. You can read about why he resigned this week here. The resignation is so recent that a date has yet to be set, but here is a list of potential candidates.

New Hampshire- After the death of an incumbent State Senator a primary will be held for New Hampshire State Senate District 16 on June 6th followed by a general election on July 25.

New York- There will be a May 23rd special election for New York State Assembly District 9, which is on Long Island. Democrat Christine Pellegrino has an uphill battle.

Rhode Island- Special election to replace resigning Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed of the 13th district. There will be a July 18th primary and an August 22nd general election.

Tennessee- Special election to replace Mark Lovell, HD 95. A primary will take place this Thursday, April 27th and the general election will be on June 15th.

Trump's pick for Army Secretary Mark Green, who says stuff like this about transgender people and represents SD 22 is expected to resign this week which would will trigger an "August-ish" special election.

Washington State- Democrat Manka Dhingra is running in the Senate District 45 special election, being held to replace a legislator who died last year. This race is especially important because it is likely to determine the balance of power in the Washington State Senate. The election will take place in November.

Please note these are not all the special elections going on in the US, just those you thought were noteworthy. You tell me, who else should we be talking about? You can find an addition list, although still not a complete one, of state legislative special elections here.

Shout outs of course to Lincoln and Omaha Nebraska (both in May!), New York City, Atlanta, LA, New Jersey and Virginia all of which have elections this year, although not "specials."