Campaign Trailing, Originals

How To Get Into Politics In 3,762 Simple Steps

Previously on Campaign Trailing: I shared about my new role working as a staffer with Jessa Lewis’s campaign for the Washington State Legislature, and announced my plans to write about my experience as a woman entering politics.

Good news, guys! Only 154 days until the midterm election!

This has actually been a pretty exciting few days, with Jessa officially announcing her candidacy, launching her webpage and social media,  and hosting her first public event. However, we’ll get to all that a bit later; first, I want to catch you all up on how we got here. I didn’t just wake up one day and think, “Oh! I think I’ll go into politics now.”

Actually, wait. That is kinda what happened. 

The story actually begins–like many do–with the 2016 election. Let’s take a journey back to a simpler time, shall we? A  time marked by hope and optimism, by a belief in inclusivity and progress. An era that, now, whenever I picture memories and moments from it, they have a grainy yellow filter like vintage family photos from the 60s, since we all know those are the benchmark for simplicity and retro idealism.  

Like most of America, I was paying close attention to the race, so by the time Election Day arrived, I was SO EXCITED. Even though I didn’t have plans outside the house that day, l still wore a pantsuit around my living room. It didn’t even matter that I was newly pregnant with my second child and that pantsuit was way too snug because hello, we were about to get our first woman president and I was here for it. 

I don’t need to tell you all how it turned out. I cried. Sobbed, actually, about what the results meant for our country and my community and my kids. And, that weekend, I took my then-2-year-old to a vigil for peace. In fact, here he is, vigil-ing.

That was my first real attempt at participating in the progressive community in Spokane.  From then on, I got as familiar as possible. I marched, I protested, I made signs, I showed up at town halls (that’s what I’m doing in the header photo at the top of the page), I dragged my family to events. I’m also pretty certain sure I annoyed my friends and loved ones with my insistence that HELLO YES WE MUST TALK ABOUT POLITICS. FORGET EVERYTHING YOU THOUGHT YOU KNEW ABOUT ME, NOW I AM SOMEONE WHO DISCUSSES POLITICS. COVFEFE.

A key side note to all of this is that, alongside all of these efforts, I was noticing the idea that more women need to run for office permeating the media I was consuming and the conversations I was following. Practically every time I saw this mentioned, I’d even pause to ask myself, “Should ~I~ run for office?” And always, the answer was“No. No, I should not.” I just couldn’t talk myself into it, despite seeing the message everywhere short of being sky-written above my house.

Though, it occurred to me around spring 2017 that I was interested in working with people running for office. The strategy, the planning, the communications stream was–is–all pretty fascinating to me, and relevant to my background. The thing was, I didn’t really have any kind of direct path to that type of work. So, I tried reaching out to two specific campaigns in my area. In one of them, the candidate withdrew from the race shortly after I started talking with them. In the other, my efforts never really got me anywhere beyond getting on the general volunteer list, where I technically remain to this day.

I should also mention that, aside from showing up to more events, and consuming more news, there was quite a bit going on in the rest of my life, too, so these efforts were very slow and very steady over the course of months. I was also tending to various work projects, the baby from the aforementioned pregnancy, and the rest of my family, too.

Finally, behold! Just when I thought I was resolved to living my life as a non-campaign-staffer, early last month, Emerge Washington (training program for Democratic women) shared an event on their Facebook page from the Washington State Democratic Campaign. To be specific, it was a networking event for aspiring campaign managers. The fact that this event existed told me a few things:

  • Candidates were looking for people to work their campaigns
  • In fact, the demand for campaign staff was (is!) high if events are being planned around recruitment

However, the event was in Olympia, a 6-ish hour drive on a clear day, and definitely not possible for me in the winter and with my current family schedule. So, I emailed the woman listed as the event contact to see if they were planning anything in Eastern Washington, my neck of the woods.

They weren’t, she said. But, I was free to send along my resume. Sending my resume led to a phone call, during which I heard about a woman in my district named Jessa Lewis, who was planning to run for state senate.

And the rest, they say, is history.

…just kidding! It’s not history at all. It’s going to be in the next post, when I’ll cover my introduction to Jessa and the decision to work with her. In the meantime, here’s a breakdown of the links and resources that were most helpful to me during this time, when I was exploring opportunities:

  • Emerge America, the parent organization of the aforementioned Emerge Washington. I found them to be a helpful resource to follow when it comes to keeping tabs on the movement of women running for office. Plus, Jessa’s in their program. 
  • The Get Her Elected initiative, which pairs skilled volunteers with progressive women candidates, also gave me lots of hope that I’d find some way to apply my skills.
  • Pod Save America and Crooked Media as a whole give a consistent digest of highlights and lowlights for our big picture political scene
  • This Teen Vogue article, which came out less than two months ago and has already inspired an active online community (I’m a member of the Facebook group. Please say hi if you are, too!)
  • The Call Your Girlfriend podcast, while not technically political, is super-feminist and progressive, and often very motivating.

All right, that’s enough for today. Next week I’ll talk about my introduction to and first meeting(s) with Jessa, the candidate who ultimately hired me. Until then!