Upping an Alumna's Campaign Organizing Game in Kentucky

March 20, 2014
Think about Kentucky and what comes to mind? Derbies and Appalachia? Louisville and Bourbon County? Historic Civil War battles and rolling horse farms? 
Lisa Abbott thinks of potential. She thinks of a state deeply rooted in its love for the land, history of social justice, and commitment to economic opportunity. “Kentucky has a rich history of progressive organizing. We stand on the shoulders of leaders who have worked really effectively over decades on civil rights, labor, and economic justice.” So while you might think of Kentucky as a socially conservative state, Lisa point out that it’s also filled with, “many good people who believe in values like fairness, and a fair shake.”
And she would know. Lisa’s spent over 20 years fighting for that Kentucky. And now she’s come to Wellstone Action to help her take that fight to the next level. For 12 years, Lisa has served as the Organizing Director at Kentuckians for the Commonwealth (KFTC). In that role, she manages a team of community organizers, who in turn help organize community chapters, and together their member- based organization is working to build progressive power across the Bluegrass State. 
In 2014, Lisa and KFTC will be focused on building a more just and sustainable economy on the coal fields, and on growth, statewide, in the clean energy economy. And they’ll be fighting to get the legislature, and then the good people of Kentucky, to pass a constitutional amendment to restore voting rights for people convinced of felonies who’ve repaid their debt to society. They’ll also be working with their local members to prepare them to run for office in their communities. 
And that’s where we come in. Explains Lisa, “Most of my experience has been in community organizing, and issue campaigns. As an organization, we are ramping up our electoral strategies, so I want to up that skill set.” Where does an experienced organizer go to up her skills as a campaign operative? You guessed it, Wellstone Action’s Advanced Campaign Management School (ACMS). With a constitutional amendment and candidate training work ahead of her, now was the time for Lisa to sign up for ACMS. 
Lisa’s got a big job to do in Kentucky. And she already has a deep 20 years of experience organizing the state. But ACMS still proved to be an effective and powerful five days to prepare her for the work ahead. “ACMS was really terrific. I appreciate many things about it: first Wellstone does a great job bringing in people at the top of their specialty. Wellstone trainers are excellent, and over the course of five days we have a lot of time with national experts in their field from direct mail, to the voter file, to turnout modeling.” 
Our all-star trainers and outside experts are key to making ACMS a success. But so are the participants who joined us in Columbus, Ohio for a five-day crash course in all things campaign management, “I can’t tell you how many national trainings I go to were the vast majority of seats are filled with folks from California, New York, and D.C. ACMS had a broad group of individuals from all sorts of sectors: labor, campaigns, grassroots organizations, and the private sector. And it was rich demographically including geography, age, and race. The diversity was outstanding and it made for a more fulfilling experience for all of us.” 
And one more thing, ACMS isn’t only about sitting at a table, taking notes for hours at a time. It’s also about learning by doing, “The experience of going through the campaign simulation was really rich for me. Because working in our small groups helped me learn from other people in the training. Many of them had incredible experience.” 
That’s ACMS: Incredible trainers, passionate and diverse participants, and hands on simulations that ground ACMSers in the curriculum and prepare them to lead our movement. And now we’re proud to call Lisa an ACMS Alumnae, with an upped electoral campaign skill set, prepared to win progressive power in Kentucky the Wellstone Way.