Executive Director, CO Democratic Senate Campaign Fund
Denver, CO, USA
What inspired you to enter and pursue this field?
Frustration. In all honesty, I decided to enter politics when I was in my late 20s and fed up with what I saw being done to public education. Since then, however, I continue to be inspired by my belief that government, when filled with those who care more about others than themselves and who put people before profit, can be a tremendous force for good in this world.
How did you come to be in this position? Tell us about your journey - how did you get to where you are now, what inspired you to pursue this career?
When I first thought about getting into politics, I applied and was accepted to the Obama for America campaign's 2012 summer fellowship program. Over the course of that summer, I learned the basics about field organizing and very quickly discovered that not only did I enjoy the work, I was GOOD at it. By the end of the summer, I was offered a position on Congressman John D. Dingell's campaign, overseeing the coordination of multiple campaigns within a geographic region. By the time Election Day rolled around, I had decided that I would try to pursue this new avenue as a career. With the help of the campaign manager and The Dean himself, I was able to secure an interview and, ultimately, a position as an organizer with the Michigan House Democrats.
Over my four and a half years with the Michigan House Dems, I rose from newbie organizer to senior organizer, viewed as the de facto leader of the only full-time, professional, Democratic organizing team in the state. However, as with most women in my position, I was taking on more and more responsibility without the title or pay to match, and when I asked for a chance to move up, I was pushed out instead.
At that point, still reeling from the devastation of the 2016 election and then leaving the job I had loved, I wasn't sure I even wanted to stay in politics. It was beginning to hurt too much and there were too few paths for women to advance in the field. All of the chief of staff, political director, and congressional campaign manager jobs in the state I loved were being handed to men who seemed to have little to recommend them other than being friends with those in leadership. I was seeing firsthand just how true the phrase "White men fail up" was in MIchigan Democratic politics.
When I was presented with the opportunity to run the state senate campaign for state Representative Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids), I made the decision to give it one more try. I knew that 2018 would be the cycle that determined whether I made my exit from politics or pushed myself to the next level. Over the course of 14 months, my passion for what I do was renewed as I led a majority-women team to elect the first women from Grand Rapids to the Michigan Senate in nearly 100 years. As I spoke with the young women on my team and realized that I had become the mentor, the role model, and they would be looking to me for help navigating the very treacherous landscape I had just made my way through, I knew I couldn't just walk away. I needed to continue to forge a path for the women coming up behind me so that there could be more of us at the highest levels of politics.
Within 48 hours of our historic win, the political director for Michigan Senate Democrats reached out to offer me a position as his deputy. While my time with the Senate Dems was not what I had hoped it would be (that's a whole other story that I will tell someday), it gave my resume the boost it needed for me to finally be taken seriously. In January of 2020, I was asked to apply for and then was offered the position of executive director for the Colorado Democratic Senate Campaign Fund. And in spite of everything that made this year crazy and absurd and difficult and scary, my team was able to get all of our incumbents reelected (by at least a 10 pt margin) AND flip a district blue to increase the Democratic majority in the Colorado Senate.
I can now say that for three consecutive election cycles, I have flipped a legislative district from red to blue. And I'm nowhere near done.
What advice would you give young women looking to enter your current line of work? OR what was the best advice you have received through your career?
While more women are running for elected office than at any other time in history, women in campaign/legislative leadership positions are still rare. For any young women looking to get into politics (not necessarily run for office), this would be my advice:
1. This is HARD work – Irregular hours, low pay, physical exhaustion, emotional turmoil, political work will often require your literal blood, sweat and tears. And if you don't believe in the importance of what you're doing, you'll never make it.
2. Learn how to do it by doing it – The best way to get involved in politics is the same as it's always been: start at the bottom and work your way up. If you apply for a paid job without ever volunteering for a single shift, you won't get far.
3. Take every opportunity to network – Your ability to find a job in politics is often based on who you know and who is willing to put in a word for you. Professional politics is a very small world and the degrees of separation between us are minimal.
4. Build your reputation and protect it – In the small world of professional politics, news travels fast. If you're trash-talking your team, if you're reporting fake numbers, if you're rude or lazy or unreliable, we will hear about it. The opposite is true as well, if we find someone great, we will tell EVERYONE about them.
5. Find a mentor who has the ability to take you to the next level – I've been blessed to have mentors who recognized my potential and put my resume in the right hands. I wouldn't have gotten this far without them and their guidance.
Here's my disclaimer: Things in politics are changing at different rates in different places, and this reflects only my experience as a straight, white woman in American Democratic politics. I would not presume to speak for any other woman, particularly any who identify as a member of a minority or protected group.
Contact Jamie by email (JLReimers@gmail.com) with any questions!