PRO-TIP: WORKING OR VOLUNTEERING FOR A CAMPAIGN
When we say women play pivotal roles in elections, we don’t just mean on the ballot and in the voting booth. We also mean the thousands of women who work behind the scenes as campaign staff and volunteers! She Should Run recently caught up with Ali Lozano, a former She Should Run volunteer and now the Outreach Director for Laura Moser’s campaign in Texas’ 7thCongressional District, to learn more about opportunities for women ready to roll up their sleeves and get involved.
Ali, what was your first experience volunteering or working for a political campaign?
My first experience volunteering on a campaign was when I was about 10 years old when my uncle ran for Santa Ana City Council in California. My mother’s side of the family has always been very civically engaged and politically active, so politics has been in my life since I can remember.
What did you learn during that experience, either about yourself or the campaign process?
The biggest thing I learned was that campaigns are not glamorous. Campaigns are work, sweat, tears, and walking…lots of walking. I think it was phenomenal exposure to the reality of what it takes to become a public servant.
Laura Moser is a woman running for Congress. How does that affect your outreach efforts to women in her district?
This is such a great question. Laura Moser is definitely a candidate that has created a huge wave of excitement amongst women all over the district. With everything going on in the country, we know women in particular are paying closer attention to their local races. Laura Moser is a working mother of two small children running, which is rather extraordinary and I would say that has significantly influenced our outreach efforts. We didn’t exclusively engage the well-established women’s clubs that every candidate goes to during an election cycle, but we are also having conversations with everyday women all over the district, both Democrat and Republican, who are worried about their homes flooding again in the next hurricane, or mothers concerned about the fact that their children now know “Active Shooter Drills” better than they know fire drills. Even in 2018, having mothers in Congress is very, very unique and so that aspect of Laura has really drawn in a lot of supporters who aren’t normally involved in politics, which has been phenomenal.
Also, Laura is a journalist who had a pretty typicallife before running for office. She would bike her kids to school, go to work from 9 to 4, pick up the kids, take them to after-school activities, then go home and make dinner for them and her husband. As a candidate, outreach efforts to women in Laura’s district have been really exciting. To use Laura’s own words, I think that it is because her “candidacy typifies the women all over the country who have dropped everything and left their regular lives behind to fight for a better country for our children.” It has been such a thrill to see so many women get inspired by Laura and join the campaign.
What kinds of opportunities exist for women looking to volunteer or work for a political campaign? For volunteers, what kinds of tasks might they get to do? What backgrounds, skills, and experience level does a campaign generally look for these roles?
There are volunteer opportunities on political campaigns for every background and skill level imaginable. Anything from helping in the field with phone banking, or canvassing, to helping execute candidate meet & greet events, assisting with critical data entry, or less glamorous, but necessary things like helping to organize the campaign office and putting together yard signs.
I always encourage young women I meet to get involved in politics through internship or fellowship opportunities, which many campaigns offer. So many people, including myself, got their official start in politics through internships that turned into staff positions. Internships and fellowships provide invaluable guidance and leadership development to make you into a great campaign staffer!
There are also a lot of different teams on a campaign. I serve on the outreach team for Laura Moser, which essentially means I talk to people and local stakeholders in the district 24/7, but we also have a field team, a data team, a communications and press team, etc. All backgrounds and skill levels can find a place to contribute their knowledge and talents.
Are their opportunities for students, working women, women with caregiving responsibilities, or women with other time commitment restraints to participate?
Absolutely. I can personally speak to opportunities being offered for students. I am a full-time graduate student at the University of Houston and accepted the job with the Moser campaign over my winter break. During that “break,” I was working full-time and since school has started up again both the candidate and campaign staff have been incredible in adjusting to my school schedule and allowing me to work part-time until the semester ends. There are a lot of other college students working on the team as well through our Fellows Program that offers positions to high school students and young adults.
The campaign operates with this same approach when engaging with working women, women with caregiving responsibilities and other time commitment restraints. The flexibility they’ve given me, and other staff and volunteers, is proof of how much they value the staff that they bring on and demonstrates their willingness to invest in anyone willing to give even a couple hours of their time. Not everyone is able to work on a campaign 18 hours a day for six months straight, so I think offering flexible working opportunities like this on campaigns is absolutely critical if candidates want their staff and volunteer bases to be authentically inclusive and retain diverse talent.
What’s the best way for women to step forward? Email the campaign? Show up at an event?
I think stepping forward at all, no matter the avenue, is most important. I’m not sure there is a “best” way for women to step forward. In my experience on the Moser campaign, one of my neighbors cold-called the campaign office and she and her wife ended up block walking before the primary soon after that, so there is really no wrong way to get in touch. And with so many candidates active on social media, that’s also a great way to connect with Team Moser!
Is there a time of year, possibly related to primary or general election dates, when it’s best for women to reach out to campaigns? Is there a point when it’s too early or too late in the campaign season?
It’s definitely never too late in campaign season to reach out and volunteer! In fact, Election Day is one of the busiest days when the most help is needed dialing phones, knocking on doors, and assisting at polling locations. Aside from the primary and general elections, a lot of voters tend to forget about special elections and runoff elections. With Laura’s runoff election coming up and our team is busier than ever so the more the merrier!
Any last bits of advice for women who are thinking about running for office?
Make the investment in a robust candidate and campaign training that is tailored to women running for office like the Women’s Campaign School at Yale (wcsyale.org). Not only will you learn the essential nuts and bolts of running a campaign, but it will build your political confidence and you will make incredible connections that will be invaluable in building up a campaign network.
Last, but not least – hire women onto your campaign especially in senior leadership positions. Laura Moser’s campaign is the first race I have ever worked on under a female campaign manager and I don’t even know where to begin in verbalizing the immense difference that leadership decision has made on the team culture, which speaks a great deal to Laura’s drive to empower women. Laura’s campaign manager, Linh Nguyen, has subsequently hired women, LGBTQ individuals, and people of color, which has created the most diverse and inclusive team I have ever been a part of. Linh’s stellar leadership, political savvy, and unparalleled intelligence has been a true gift for the candidate and the staffers around her, especially the young women.