This past week I had the opportunity to help run the on-the-ground logistics for our Advanced Campaign Management School (ACMS) in Columbus, OH – an in-depth, intense, campaign and leadership training for progressive operatives that Wellstone holds once every two years. There are many words I could use to describe those five days, but if I had to choose one it would be “AWESOME.”
Several months before we arrived in Columbus, we were busy preparing for this action packed training. We narrowed down an impressive pool of applicants from across the country, representing a wide variety of progressive organizations and “free agents”- operatives ready to manage campaigns in 2014. We welcomed 43 participants from 20 states across the country, from Idaho to Ohio, North Carolina to Texas, and Kentucky to Minnesota. These leaders came from organizations playing a big role in shaping the progressive movement including labor unions, the Human Rights Campaign, Equality Ohio, and the Texas Organizing Project. They joined us, bright and early on Wednesday morning as we rooted the training with our opening session – “Politics the Wellstone Way” – which lays out our core values and the why behind what we teach.
The enthusiasm, knowledge and commitment of the 43 participants in the room was evident right away, but managed to grow continuously over the five days they worked and learned together, as did the friendships and personal connections between these passionate and politically minded people. For 5 days, they worked on the congressional campaign of Congressman Paul Pragmaticus, from the State of Anxiety, District 4 producing paid media, earned media, fundraising and voter contact plans day after day. After staying up until nearly 1am on Friday night, working in groups to create the voter contact plan, the very next night they orchestrated a group outing to the High Beck, a well-known Columbus hangout for progressive operatives, to hang out and enjoy some social time with each other.
In addition to the dedicated participants in the room we also had some rock star guest trainers who came to share their expertise. Many of the people who led training sessions came from our exceptional staff, but we also brought in a few leaders from our movement. Diane Feldman, who was the pollster for all three of Senator Wellstone’s campaigns joined us the first day to talk about messaging, voter research and polling. Jennifer Sconyers from the Ohio Organizing Collaborative walked through creating an earned media plan and stayed to give participants feedback during their night of “working with the press.” Our guest expert on all aspects of targeting and data crunching was John Hagner from Clarity Campaign Labs. A self-declared “math geek,” John led participants through nearly two days of intensive targeting and voter contact worksheets and exercises. A big thanks to all of the outside trainers for sharing their time, knowledge, and passion, including: Ann Liston of ADELSTEIN | LISTON, Amy Pritchard of Mission Control LLC, Laura Packard of PowerThru Consulting, Torvic Vardamis of NGP VAN, Garrett Arwa of the Michigan Democratic Party, Kellie Dupree of Planned Parenthood of SW & Central Florida, and Emily Berens of The Management Center.
I would be lying if I said I wasn’t exhausted and ready to go home after the five, jam packed days of ACMS 2013, but I would also be lying if I said I wasn’t wholly inspired and moved to see these amazing operatives take the expanded set of skills, knowledge and connections back to their work - to win progressive change, all over the country, the “Wellstone Way!”