7 Questions with Nancy Leeds
Nancy Leeds is the one woman operation behind CampaignSick, a popular political blog and Tumblr account. She is a Democratic campaign manager, having worked on everything from local campaigns to being the Political Director of Clean Water Action. Nancy has an MPA in Social Policy and Management from Columbia University.
1. You started CampaignSick seven years ago. What was your vision for the blog when you first started it?
Honestly? I didn't really have one. I never imagined it would become so big (but of course I am thrilled about that)! I just wanted a place to stay connected to campaigns while I was in grad school and maybe produce some writing samples. Campaign people often have to sublimate our own feelings because we are representing a candidate. Because I was in grad school rather than working for a candidate, I was in a position to provide a space for community venting and a place to share our frustrations, experiences, and desires. That's what the blog turned into and why I believe it took off.
2. Did the election of Trump have any impact on the content or tone of CampaignSick?
Yes. I'd tried to keep the blog and the Tumblr campaign rather than government focused up to that point. But the insanity coming from the White House is at the forefront of everyone's mind so it would feel inauthentic not to talk about it. Also a lot of us in campaign world and many people who hadn't been involved before wanted to find a way to fight back between elections so I've been trying to feature those resources as well.
3. What advice do you have for young people who want to find work on campaigns?
Don't be afraid to reach out to campaign people you know and ask for their help. Entry level jobs abound and it's in everyone's best interest to help you find one. One of the things I love about the campaign community is that it's very supportive in that way. I'd also caution you about pigeonholing yourself in your campaign career too early. It's a good idea to get experience on campaigns of different sizes in different regions of the country and in different departments while you're just starting out. Having basic experience in comms, or field or finance will serve you well later even if it's not where you want to wind up.
4. Campaign work is notorious for being stressful and time-consuming. Is there anything that helps you stay organized and calm in the heat of a campaign?
That's a great question and one I'm constantly working on. I noticed a couple years ago that a lot of the women I look up to on campaigns are runners and it seems to help keep them balanced so I'm committed to carving out time to stay in shape on my next campaign. In terms of staying organized, putting systems in place early for keeping a to-do list, managing the candidate's schedule and checking in with staff will help you later on when you're feeling overwhelmed because you can put more things on autopilot.
5. What is your favorite role to play in a campaign and why?
Hmmm, that's a great question. My background is in field and that's where my passion lies. But I love being a manager for the same reason I loved doing field: I like empowering people with the tools they need to make the change they want to see whether it be candidates, staff or volunteers.
6. Going into the 2018 midterms, what do you see as the most critical thing for Democratic operatives to get right?
We can't take our voters for granted. It is not enough to register new voters assuming people will vote against Trump. We have to give independents something to vote FOR and we have to make the connection between our policies and their lives in a compelling way. Likewise, we cannot throw our base to curb in search of a demographic that does not share our values. Not only is it wrong morally, it's the wrong strategy. Women and people of color might not vote for the other guys but they might not vote at all.
7. You recently earned a Master’s degree. Do you feel that certain degrees are helpful to be successful in your field of work?
Hahahaha I'll let you know when I stop laughing. No, you definitely do not need a master's degree to do my job. The single best way to advance a career in campaigns is to spend more time in the field. Grad school worked out great for me because it helped me learn about intersectionality and gave me space to start my blog but I wouldn't recommend it as a career move. Some hard skills I wish I had gotten in undergrad that would have helped me in campaigns are things like web design, data analysis and Spanish but those are all things you can learn on your own outside of school and won't necessarily help get you a campaign job on their own.