Brooklyn Boro

Campaign 101 tries to make the political process comprehensible

March 29, 2018 By Andy Katz Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Rahul Kale (far right) chats with attendees after the conference about campaign basics. Eagle photos by Andy Katz

Perspectives on Red2Blue and RunNYC’s recent Campaign 101 symposium varied according to the attendee’s own personal background.

“I was on a campaign as an intern in Massachusetts,” said Chloe Perez, currently of Voter Acquisition Network. “And now I’m trying to learn about what’s happening in Brooklyn — there are opportunities here … I feel like I should be able to do something.”

“There was a great deal of focus on timing in the campaign process,” Kate Rockey pointed out. “And the centrality of fundraising to the political process.”

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“I did volunteer work for Hillary in 2016,” Vicky Szuflita recounted. “But I really didn’t have a sense of how various teams were put together and why. Now I understand the process a little bit better.” Asked if she’d be more likely to work in a future campaign, Szuflita nodded. “Oh, most definitely! It was fascinating to see how even a small amount of money or time can influence a campaign.”

“I’ve been doing this for a while,” said Scott Fisher of Red2Blue, “and this is Campaign 101, right? This is for people who are just starting out in politics, but I thought they gave a great presentation … Heidi Seick was particularly impressive.”

Red2Blue evolved from Brad Lander’s #GetOrganizedBK as a means to combat perceived inequalities in gerrymandering that have given Republicans an unfair electoral advantage.

“This is for anyone who volunteers or who wants to volunteer,” announced RunNYC’s Jessica Halliday Hardie at the start of Campaign 101. “Or even work on a campaign — all of us need to know what actually happens in order to fit in and find out what we can do.”

RunNYC, also an offshoot of Lander’s #GetOrganizedBklyn, supports Democratic candidates running in the NYC area, including Max Rose, Liuba Grechen Shirley and Zellnor Myrie.

Rahul Kale, campaign manager for Chrissy Houlahan, running for Pennsylvania’s 6th Congressional District, stressed the importance of finance in campaigning. “Has anyone here heard of ‘EMILY’s  List’?” he asked. Pointing out that it’s an acronym —“Early Money Is like Yeast” — Kale continued, “It’s crucial to raise money early.”

Kale went on to cite the imbalance in funding many Democrats and progressives face, but emphasized as well that Democrats were likely to have more diverse support than Republicans.

“In my own campaign this last quarter, we actually out-raised our Republican opponent. 90 percent of our money came from individuals, while only 32 percent of our Republican opponent’s came from individuals. The rest came from PACs.”

“Like in any business,” Kale concluded, “You have to make certain you have the resources you need.”

“The two most valuable resources you have on a campaign are time and money,” Sydney Watnick, former regional organizing director for Hillary Clinton and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam. “From just a person in their room thinking, ‘I’m going to run for office,’ how do we get to Election Day? How do we get to that 50-plus-one margin of victory? It’s all about the candidate and the campaign who can support them.”

Turning to her fellow panelists, Watnick asked: “Why did you decide to join a campaign staff?”

Said Kale: “I got involved with President Obama’s first campaign and I really loved it … it was really the candidate that prompted me to get involved in politics.”

“I did because mom made me,” Heidi Sieck explained. “My first Presidential campaign was Bob Kerry because he was such an innovative leader … Al Gore was the biggest disappointment of my career. I was inspired a few times, but then I got my heart broken, and I learned — it was a sense of purpose for the community, for the country.”

“I asked,” Watnick resumed,” because people get involved in campaigns for a lot of reasons — they want to help their community, or they want a job, or a sense of purpose — but, just like anyone can run for office, anyone can work on a campaign … we’re all just regular Joes.”

“I want to give you a little nerdy formula,” Sieck said. “(P x B) + D > C, or the Probability that the voter will be impacted by the outcome of a civic decision, times the benefit of that outcome to the voter, plus the sense of civic duty is greater than the cost of that action. Our entire campaign pushes against those levers. For example, how important is it to vote?”

“What I love about this phase of our democracy right now,” Sieck concluded, “is that people are standing up and saying, ‘I want a different future!’”


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