Project Wonderful

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!


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."

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Resources for Resistance

Since the inauguration a lot of friends and family have reached out to me with questions about how to stay involved. So many organizations are doing great work to keep the resistance strong, I wanted to share these resources with you so that you can take advantage or share them with others. In no particular order they are...

Indivisible Guide
- Practical advice for effectively communicating with and influencing your Members of Congress. Indivisible chapters are popping up all over the US (at least two per Congressional district!) so make sure to look yours up! Required reading.
Call the Halls- In depth practical advice on calling your Members of Congress
Call Them In Their homepage puts it best, "Timely email reminders with tailored call scripts at your fingertips, so you can oppose Donald Trump's agenda and back progressive legislation in a meaningful way."
Mobilize App- This is actually an app developed by a friend of a friend that differs from some of the other tools in that you proactively login when you feel the need to take action and it gives you a variety of targeted call scripts from which to choose.
Daily Action- Texts you with a suggestion of one phone call to make every day to resist extremism.
Movement Vote- Helps you find local groups participating in the resistance to join or donate to.
Call My Congress-Gives you contact info for your representatives based on address
5 Calls-Another calling tool that lets you narrow scripts by issue
Resistance Calendar- A semi-comprehensive calendar of resistance events across the United States
Resist Bot-Turns your texts into letters to Congress. A good option if you are unable to make phone calls or participate in person.

And of course there are amazing organizations like NARAL, Color of Change, and United We Dream to name just a very few who contact their members with opportunities to get involved all the time!

You tell me! What should I add to the list? Email me at!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

How To Lobby Like a BAMF: Ten Lobbying Commandments

(Editor's Note: This a guest post and part of a three part series from the amazing Carly Pildis, an OFA alumna who will explain her current position in her post below. It is part of my continued effort to share tools and information to help our community feel empowered in the Trump era. Thank you so much to Carly for sharing your wisdom!)

I present to you the Ten Lobbying Commandments. Please sing to yourself to the tune of the Notorious B.I.G.’s ten crack commandments, or Hamilton’s ten duel commandments, whatever is your pleasure. This is your guide to acing that meeting you scheduled and turning action into change!

1. Treat MOCs and their aides well.
I know you want to speak truth to power. I know a lot of you are really angry. Use those desires in a constructive way. Aides shift through a lot of virulent anger that translates into very actionable requests on legislation. Knowledgeable, passionate constituents get listened to, furious diatribes do not. Most people go into government because they really believe they can make the world a better place. They work inordinately long hours and could have superior lifestyles if they left government.Treat them with respect.

2.Never ever lie.
You are not Kellyanne Conway. If they ask you a question and you do not know the answer that is okay. Just say,"I am not sure. I can find out for you, and I will follow up." This gives you a great excuse to check in and see if what they are thinking later!

3.Do not come in without a clear yes or no ask.
A friend who worked as an aide for a prominent Southern Senator told me she would get calls everyday asking her to protect the 2nd amendment. Two years into the job she still had no idea what these people actually wanted her Member to vote for and against, or if there was even a relevant bill. Don’t be those people. People work in government because they want to do good and make change - don’t bring them a sad story that they can’t do anything about. It wastes their time and makes them want to reach for the emergency bourbon under their desk. Your meeting must end with a YES or NO question that translates to action their part.

4.Show them who you are.
Who are you in the community? Are you a teacher, a doctor, a small business owner? Are you a person from a demographic that is important to this Member? Think about all of the ways that you are a community leader, someone whose opinion they should care about, and then make sure you communicate that to them. Do you have other members of that block of voters who would come with you or would write letters to deliver to the Member? You’d be surprised how big a difference ten or twenty letters make.

5.Speak their language and sell your ask.
I could talk all day about how the transatlantic slave trade and colonization decimated African countries and how foreign aid is a moral obligation. This is not compelling language to most Americans. Instead, I talk about how fighting epidemics worldwide makes a safer, healthier world for everyone. I talk about the linkages between lack of access to free primary school and violent extremism. I talk about how investing in child nutrition grows economies and builds trading partners. I look at what Members of Congress care about and value and create links. When talking to Members about abstinence only earmarks on AIDS funding, I talked about how it was an enormous waste of money that didn’t yield any results. I called it pork. That helped contextualize why it mattered to people. Look at their websites, look at what they care about and then package your ask and your issues to fit those values whenever possible.

6.Don’t snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
Let’s be clear, lobbying should involve a yes or no question and if you get a yes you win. Yahtzee! Bingo! Tag! But there is always going to be a next ask, a next thing you want. So don’t burn bridges. I had one staffer I met with tell me about a lobbyist who convinced her member to vote as lobbyist wanted, but was so unprofessional she never took a meeting with her again. She meant it. They could have advocated more respectfully and built, not burned a relationship.

7.DO snatch victory from the jaws of "No."
You didn’t win. They won’t do what you want. That’s okay! You had a great meeting, started building a relationship and educated your Member or their aide about the issue. Hopefully you moved the needle a little by showing that their constituents care. These relationships are gold - and this is a good beginning. Sometimes it can take a while to get what you want, but this was still an important step. Sometimes winning is your MOC abstaining from a vote. Sometimes it takes a few rounds of budget appropriations to win support. But building that relationship is ALWAYS worth your time.

8.Share your personal story.
Members of Congress care about how policy affects their constituents. Tell them why you care, how it affects you, and what you want them to do. A good personal story has some key hallmarks. It’s short (about 3 minutes). It draws a straight line between people who vote and a policy ask. It has one memorable visual image. It is honest. I have seen aides cry at constituent stories. I have seen stories from constituents change Members forever. Speak your truth and tell them why this matters. This is your moment to shine.

9.Structure your time.
If you are 5 minutes late you may miss the meeting. This is not an exaggeration. Lobby meetings are 5 to 15 minutes max. Structure your time to share your story, make a few key points with statistics, and make a hard ask. Leave a few minutes for small talk. Be prepared to talk longer in case you get lucky, but it’s rare. So make sure you have a plan in place and use your time wisely.

10.Don’t show up empty handed.
You wouldn’t go to a party without a bottle of wine, don’t go to a lobby meeting without a leave behind packet. This is a great place to put reports on the issue, additional relevant information, and hard facts to back you up. Also come with letters. This is really important. Bring ten or twenty handwritten letters (NOT a petition) from constituents saying that they care and why. These letters get MOCs attention and can make a huge difference. The more letters the better.

Carly Pildis serves as Senior Associate, Advocacy and Organizing for RESULTS. She manages the REAL Change Organizing and Advocacy Fellowship to Fight Poverty. She also managed candidate engagement around the 2016 POTUS primary, and works closely with both the legislative team and grassroots team on RESULTS campaigns. Prior to her time at RESULTS, she served as Operation Vote Director for the DC office of Obama for America, working to organize people of color and other constituency groups in support of the 2012 reelection campaign. Additionally she has served as a Fellow for Jubilee USA Network, and as a Advocacy Consultant/Field Organizer for American Jewish World Services on the campaign trail in New Hampshire. Want to join her in the fight to protect foreign aid and stop budget cuts that would threaten the futures of millions of people living in poverty? Email her or follow her on twitter @carlypildis

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Design the NYC I Voted Sticker!

Two things I love more than almost anything else in this world: New York City and Voting. If I had one iota of artistic ability I would be all over this contest like cream cheese on a bagel. Since I don't I am sharing it with you! Please enter and share widely!