Shelby Cole, Associate Director of Campaigns at Authentic Campaigns and 2019 Campaign Excellence Winner for her work on Beto O’Rourke’s Senate run, sat down with AAPC for an exclusive interview. Check it out below!
AAPC: What does being a 2019 AAPC Campaign Excellence Award winner mean to you?
Shelby: It’s a tremendous honor to be recognized for my work at such a high level, and it’s not something I take lightly. My hope is that it means women — including young women in the digital field — can see that it’s possible to break through and do unique, cutting-edge work in a male-dominated space.
AAPC: How did you get your start in politics/campaign industry?
Shelby: I joined my first political campaign in the 2014 election cycle working for Leticia Van de Putte’s campaign for Lieutenant Governor in Texas. I sort of fell into the job — I thought I wanted to be a journalist, but after covering Wendy Davis’ filibuster for the LGBTQ* magazine I was working for at the time, I realized that working directly for candidates was a great way to fight for the values I believe in and make a difference in peoples’ lives. Since then, I’ve worked on mayoral campaigns, races for State Rep, two US senate races and now a campaign for president. I’m hooked!
AAPC: Who are your most significant mentors?
Shelby: My greatest mentor and a very dear friend is Tessa Simonds. I worked with her in the 2014 cycle in Texas — she then went on to run the Digital Organizing team at the DNC, and now she’s running a shop on Senator Warren’s campaign for president. Tessa’s entire ethos is to invest in young people, give them the skills to be digital strategists and lift them up in the space. We call her “tornado” because she’s a pure ball of energy and ideas. Anyone who gets to work with her and learn from her is very lucky.
AAPC: What’s the most positive development in political campaigns since you started your career?
Shelby: More and more campaigns taking digital seriously — not just as a tool for tweeting out press releases, but as a strategic asset that touches all facets of a campaign.
AAPC: Tell us about something you’re most proud of accomplishing in your professional career.
Shelby: I think probably winning a Pollie is my peak! Outside of the award, I’m proud to have been able to give a little bit back to younger folks who are learning the ropes of digital and campaigns in the space. If I can help anyone who wants to learn, that’s an achievement for me.
AAPC: Voter turnout has trended downward over the past 40 years. Why do you think that is and what could be done about it?
Shelby: Republican voter suppression tactics, full stop. Our country should enact automatic voter registration, expand early voting periods and make election day a national holiday.
AAPC: What’s one piece of advice you have for consultants today?
Shelby: No idea. I don’t even consider myself to be a consultant. Maybe, “Work as hard as you would if you were campaign-side”? or “Don’t forget what got you into doing this work.”
AAPC: Tell us a favorite campaign memory.
Shelby: Democratic Party of Wisconsin convention in 2016. The first and last time I’ll ever stay awake past 4 a.m. Russ Feingold gave an amazing speech, but the time spent with my fellow campaigners after the fact was unforgettable (and wild).
AAPC: If you didn’t do politics, what career path might you have chosen?
Shelby: Professional dog walker.
AAPC: What’s next for you this year?
Shelby: Electing Kamala Harris the next POTUS!