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!

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."

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 CampaignSick@gmail.com!

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 Cpildis@results.org 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!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

How to Lobby like a BAMF: Get that Meeting.


(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!)

Many people have this idea that Members of Congress are too important spend time talking to ordinary people. I have found many Members ENJOY talking to well informed, passionate constituents and building relationships in the communities they serve. Meetings have been shown over and over to be the most effective way to create relationships and make change, but how do you get one?

1.You don’t have to go to Washington!
Members of Congress come home regularly. Many are home several times a month and most are home for at least part of recess periods. It’s a misnomer that Members are on vacation when they are out of session, they are actually often home with you!

2.Start in Writing.
First submit a written request via email to your Member’s scheduler. You can look them up here and use the standard house or senate email format to write to them. A simple polite letter letting them know that you would like a meeting during the next recess, who you and others coming to the meeting are, and what you’d like to discuss is all you need. Send it off to the scheduler and buy yourself a cup of coffee to say good job!

3.Pick up the Phone
Every other day, give that scheduler a call until you get a meeting! Do it on your lunch break, or while you are on the bus. If after two weeks they haven’t responded try a few emails. Keep it up! Don’t take it personally - Members and their schedulers can be super busy, but they will eventually get back to you! If it takes more than 2 weeks, try calling the local in district office and tell them you are having a hard time. Worse comes to worse a (FRIENDLY! NICE) Tweet can come in handy.

4.Legislative Aides Are Awesome!
Members care what you think, but there are a lot of you! With votes, budget negotiations, the constant grind of campaign fundraising, etc. schedules fill up fast! Members hire smart young people to help them figure out what to prioritize and what to support. It is incredibly useful to make friends with people in your local office. If you are offered a meeting with them TAKE IT! They are like you, passionate, idealistic and driven. If you make a good impression they can have a lot of influence and can push your cause hard. Ask local staff to conference in relevant policy staff from DC and you can get to know the whole clique!

Now you know how to get a meeting go out and get it! Make your voice heard! Next installment will cover what to do in the meeting!

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 Cpildis@results.org or follow her on twitter @carlypildis

Monday, March 20, 2017

How to Lobby like a BAMF Part One: What is Lobbying?

(Editor's Note: This a guest post and part of a three part series from the amazing Carly Pildis, an OFA alumna whose bio is 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!)

Since Election night, my phone has been exploding with questions. I am being asked everyday how to be heard, and the voices asking are filled with fear. What makes me qualified to answer? I serve as Senior Associate, Advocacy and Organizing for RESULTS, a movement of passionate grassroots who have been fighting for an end of poverty at home and around the world for over 35 years. I spend most of my time with RESULTS training grassroots on how to make change, particularly geared towards influencing Congress. I run the REAL Change Organizing and Advocacy Fellowship to Fight Poverty, with Fellows having approximately 300 lobby meetings a year. Since so many people are interested in lobbying these days, I am doing a three part series on Lobbying. I am so excited to be writing for Campaignsick!

While I write this I am watching my 3 month old daughter sleep. Like many of you I am concerned about the country she is going to grow up in. Will it be a place where my values of inclusivity, empowerment, and shared prosperity reign? Or will it become a place I don’t recognize?. Lobbying is a great way to affect the issues you care about in a real tangible way.

Members of Congress and their staff WANT to meet with constituents. You are the people who hire and fire. You are the people who volunteer and donate to campaigns. You matter INFINITELY more than a paid lobbyist. A recent study from the Congressional Management Foundation confirms what we’ve known for decades: Members care first and foremost what you think!

Like organizing, lobbying requires you to build muscle memory of best practices that you use religiously, and pair those best practices with dogged persistence. Future blogs will cover step by step instructions, but first let’s define what lobbying is and isn’t

Lobbying is:
-A chance to influence policy and public funding.
-A chance to educate your MOC about an issue they may not know much about.
-Most important of all, a lobby meeting is a chance to build relationships with people who have the power to affect policy and funding. Even if you don’t get what you want now, building that relationship is critical to influencing members and their aides on issues you care about in the future. Show them that you are an engaged member of the community whose opinion they should court and you’ll be shocked how much influence you can garner.

Lobbying is not:
-A venting session. Save that for Happy Hour. Friends on the Hill tell me of constituents who call everyday to SCREAM at them. These people get ignored. Wouldn’t you ignore them?
-A place to protest. This a time for persuasion and dialogue. You're already in the room - protesting is for when you are struggling to get inside it.
-A place for long academic debate or philosophy lecture. It would be awesome to give your MOC a 20 slide presentation on the history of systemic racism. Unfortunately, this will not happen for you. Your meeting will last 10 minutes, 15 max. I have had ones as short as 5 minutes. Expect to introduce the issue, talk about your personal connection to it, a make one or two key points backed up by statistics and then make a hard ask. Have some small talk at the beginning to keep it friendly.

Now that you have a clear understanding of lobbying as a tool and a strategy, you're ready to get started! Thanks for reading and for raising your voice!


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 Cpildis@results.org or follow her on twitter @carlypildis

Saturday, February 4, 2017

But What About The Children?: Second Graders, And Their Teacher, Sound Off On Trump.

(Stock photo, not Lauren's kids)

Some of you may remember that I had the privilege of speaking to my friend Lauren's second grade class about elections last September. My favorite part of that experience was hearing what was filtering down from media to parents to kids.

A couple of examples:
Little Girl: Hillary will be the best President even though she was in jail.
Me: I don't think she was in jail...
Little Girl: Yahuh! I saw it on the news!

Little Boy: Donald Trump is bad because he only likes white people and he had TWO fake schools!
Of course, had I known how things would go I would have prepared these kids with a somewhat different conversation. Not to get all soapbox-y but at a time when both facts and compassion seem optional for adults in our country, public school teachers have never been more important. And thank God for them. After spending 2 hours with elementary schoolers, I left genuinely confused as to why we don't pay elementary school teachers six figure salaries. So when I saw Lauren's Facebook post below my heart melted, not just for the kids but also for her.
2nd graders' takes on the state of our nation...
Student 1: "We are now governed by a potato!"
Student 2: "Trump sees women as objects."
Student 3: "I'm scared and sad...
"
How do you teach fairness and kindness in a world that is so obviously unfair and unkind? How do you explain what happened to seven year olds when most adults can't make sense of it? I decided to ask the source. Thank you Lauren for answering my questions as well as helping raise an informed and compassionate next generation.

1) Who are you? (Your professional background etc)

I'm a 2nd grade teacher at a public school in Manhattan. I am a general educator in an ICT classroom, meaning that we have some students with special needs and my co-teacher is a special educator. This is my 5th year at this school, where we serve mostly middle and upper middle class families. While we are not particularly racially or socioeconomically diverse, we have quite a bit of ethnic and linguistic diversity and a number of immigrants in our student body. Our school's emphasis is on social action.

2) How did you prepare your students for the election?

We added an election unit to our curriculum this year. We focused mostly on election vocabulary and how elections work. We also read a brief biography of both Clinton and Trump, and held a pretend election in which the students voted for who they predicted would win. In addition, we welcomed Nancy into our class as a guest speaker to discuss how campaigns and elections work! I was pleasantly surprised by how interested the students were in the election and how much they were discussing at home. Indirectly related to the election, we teach a unit every fall called "Fighting for a Cause" (from the Core Knowledge curriculum). Though we didn't plan it this way at the time, I've noticed since the election that the ideas (such as peaceful protests) and the activists (such as Martin Luther King, Jr.) that we studied during this unit have given my students a basis for discussing current events surrounding the election and new administration.

3) What was it like in school the day after the election?

The day after the election was emotional. Being around so many progressive teachers and families, there was definitely sadness and anger in the air at school. Some of my students came to school upset. We tried to remain somewhat unbiased (though I've felt conflicted about how unbiased we should be), but also gave the students space to talk about how they felt. We've been trying to let them lead the conversation as much as possible, starting that day. We've also been trying to help them feel safe. The day after the election, many students were talking about Trump building the wall. At this age, kids tend to focus on the concrete, and the wall was something they could understand. One girl was absent that day, and her family is Hispanic, so some of her friends were worried that she had been deported. Our main goal that day was to reassure them that they were safe with us.

4) What have the kids been saying about Trump since the inauguration?

My students haven't said too much about Trump himself, but when his name is mentioned, the anger on their faces says it all. Some memorable comments include one student repeatedly saying that Trump is a potato, and another student saying that Trump sees women as objects.

5) Has anything about their reaction surprised you? (How concerned about it do they seem to be? Do they know more/less than you expected etc?)

I've been surprised by how aware some of my students are and how much their families seem to discuss politics at home. They don't understand a lot of the specifics about policies, but they do sense the fear and outrage around them. However, I do think that kids are extremely resilient and able to compartmentalize more than adults, so while they are aware and concerned, they are able to, at least outwardly, show less concern than many adults. My students, for the most part, are fortunate in that they come from places of privilege, but they are still more knowledgeable than I would have expected. I have also been pleasantly surprised by the connections they make between the activism happening now and the historic activists we've studied. In addition, we wrote thank you letters to Obama on Inauguration Day and they impressed me with what they knew about his presidency, mentioning specifics such as Obamacare.

6) What challenges has a Trump presidency posed for you as a teacher?

The biggest challenge I have experienced has been trying to remain (at least somewhat) unbiased. I've been trying to let the students lead the conversation as much as possible, but that is not always easy. It can also be difficult to find language to use that is honest but still accessible for 2nd graders. Another challenge has been dealing with my own feelings surrounding Betsy DeVos, since I know those decisions will affect me and the rest of my school community. Teachers and parents at my school held a protest, which helped us feel like we were actively doing something and leading our students by example.

7) What, if anything, have you been talking to your kids about regarding a Trump presidency? Are there ways to make this teachable?

As I said, we've been trying to let the students lead the conversation as much as possible, answering their questions, trying to alleviate their fears, and highlighting examples of activism. There are definitely ways to make this teachable! In addition to teaching the ins and outs of how government works, I think the most important way to make this teachable is leading by example and focusing on what we can do as citizens to fight for what we believe is right. I think it's easy for both children and adults to feel overwhelmed and helpless, so actively searching for ways to fight can only help.