Project Wonderful

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 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,


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

How planning a wedding is like running a campaign

You guys, I am getting in a cab to get on a plane to fly to New York to go to my wedding. How bananas is that? People keep asking me if I'm nervous and I'm really not. As a friend observed recently, "people who get nervous about weddings have never been through an election day." Other than the surreal quality, I'm pretty pumped and I wanted to take a moment to share with you fives ways in which planning a wedding is a lot like running a campaign.

1) People will surprise you both good and bad. The same way that a candidate's wealthy friend might never re-up his 50 dollar donation, but the parents of the kid who babysat your candidate in high school might randomly max out. People will come through for you (and disappoint you) in unexpected ways for your wedding. Shout out to my friend from the Edwards campaign and his awesome wife who are flying out from Wisconsin to join us! (And un-shout out to the person who texted me last "when is it again?")

2) Unsolicited opinions. Need I even take you through this one? Oh you volunteered for McGovern? Please tell me how we need yard signs. Oh you got married in 1972? Please tell me about people will be upset there's no cake cutting.

3) Its starts impossibly early. There are people hiring field staff for exploratory work in Iowa for 2020 presidential campaigns! Hello! We haven't even had midterm PRIMARIES yet. Meanwhile when Future Mr. CampaignSick and I started looking at venues NINE MONTHS AGO (no I'm not pregnant) people were like "oh you're too late. We're already booked into 2018." Calm down everybody.

4) The closer you get, the less is in your control. One of the reasons I'm not nervous is because I planned. Just like you work backwards from election so by the time you get there the wheels are turning on their own, I made a list of everything we needed for the wedding a few months ago and have been slowly checking items off. I know I did everything I could to put together a great event so barring a disappearing act on the part of my future husband (which, is not going to happen but if it did I hope you'd all come visit me in prison) the worst that can happen really isn't that bad.

5) There's a little bit of imposter syndrome. I keep texting my Maid of Honor "are you sure I'm getting married this weekend?" and she for her part has been answering "I don't know, that seems kind of weird." Similar feeling as to when you are 23 and managing 200 volunteers or managing a race that's getting national attention. Don't get me wrong, I know I am going to be awesome at both, but they are such grown up seeming activities that I need to pinch myself to make sure this is really happening.

Thank you for being a part of my life this week and every week! (PS. Read this adorable article I found while looking for a picture to use with this post.)

Campaign Love and Mine!


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,


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,


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 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,


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.