Let’s be honest — understanding politics can be confusing! We hear soundbites from various news outlets, watch videos on less-than-trustworthy social media engines, and learn about events through word-of-mouth, but no one ever lays it out clearly.
Sometimes, all we need are some relatable women to break down the political world in an approachable, digestible, and accessible way. Girl and the Gov, The Podcast does exactly this! Girl and the Gov, The Podcast, co-hosted by founder Sammy Kanter and co-CEO Maddie Medved, is on a mission to teach millennials, zennials, and Gen-Z about the evolving world of politics. They are the big sisters of the political world.
During the summer of 2023, Sammy and Maddie interviewed the legendary Sarah Andrews, former campaign manager for Colorado Governor Polis and current Federal & Gubernatorial Campaigns Director at EMILY’S List, a political action committee (PAC) helping elect Democratic women. This podcast appeals to women interested in political campaigning as Sarah Andrews answers questions about being a woman in campaign management.
How does Someone “Get Into” Politics?
Sarah Andrews explains how the pursuit of a political career is rarely linear. “Politics is one of those fields where some people think ‘Oh, I’m going to go study political science and then go get a law degree, and that’s how I work in politics,’ and for the majority of people, especially in campaigns, that’s just not the trajectory…I find that the people that excel in this world don’t necessarily have the traditional path that you would think.”
Andrews started as a student studying peace and conflict at the University of Colorado and Boulder before reluctantly volunteering in a field office where she called citizens and informed them about upcoming elections. Overtaken by her love of talking about issues that affect both her and the people she called, Andrews suddenly dropped out of college to campaign for Barack Obama. Eventually, she returned to college and built her experiences as a campaign manager before working her way up.
As seen in Sarah’s journey, a political career can seem chaotic, and it can be difficult to stay motivated in the field. However, Andrews guides young people interested in politics with this simple, yet effective, guideline: “Keep your head down, hustle, be passionate, [and] you’re going to end up in good places.”
What is the Typical Job Description of a Campaign Manager?
“Every candidate and every level is going to be drastically different.” According to Andrews, a campaign manager wears many hats: finance director, political director, political outreach, etc. A campaign manager also deals with mail, television, radio, finances, and digital research. While this may seem overwhelming, Andrews adds that this is the perfect place to start for local races such as city council. It is a great way, especially for college students, to gain exposure and become well-versed in various trades concerning the campaigning experience. Overall, campaign management is “what you make of it,” and will always be unique to the candidate.
Andrews also explains that campaign managers do not have to bear these responsibilities unaided. Support systems such as EMILY’s List are always there for campaign managers, acting as both strategic advisors and therapists to motivate women.
“You’re never alone, right; there’s always going to be people out there that are rooting for you, either outside organizations or people like me.” Sarah Andrews stresses the importance of these support systems and how they even guide campaign managers after a campaign ends.
How does Someone Balance Marriage, Pregnancy, and Campaigns?
Before her latest campaign, Sarah Andrews swore off campaigning altogether as she grew tired of the lifestyle and believed she was getting too old for the occupation. Yet, the world of campaigning drew Andrews in and she ended up working to re-elect Colorado’s current Governor, Jared Polis. Interviewer and host Maddie Medved of Girl and Gov, The Podcast compares Andrews’s situation to when someone goes out drinking with the girls, swears they will never drink again the morning after, and then ends up going out with the girls another weekend in the future. Though Andrews swore to leave the life of campaigning aside, she and her friends knew she’d be back in the field.
However, Andrews had a different experience this campaigning round due to her marriage and pregnancy. When asked how she juggled being a mother of a newborn and a campaign manager, Andrews credits both her planning skills (as she calculated the time between her due date and important campaigning dates) and helpful co-workers who covered for her during her maternity leave.
Despite her heroic success, Andrews admits that the process of motherhood while working as a campaign manager can be intense and not always an enjoyable experience. As a substantiation, she refers to instances where she needed to pump milk behind stages at debates and filled the offices’ communal fridges with breast milk. As a result of these uncomfortable experiences, Andrews felt inspired to share her wisdom in her project Created Not Equal, a blog she created in postpartum labeled as “a community where motherhood meets politics.”
What Needs to Change To make Campaigning Careers More Accessible for Mothers?
Interviewer and co-host Sammy Kanter of Girl and the Gov, The Podcast questioned the ethicality of campaigns. “I don’t know necessarily who they [campaigns] are made for, but it’s definitely not women,” Sammy announces before asking Sarah Andrews for her opinion on how campaigns should change to accommodate mothers.
Andrews firstly draws attention to the crisis of childcare, which is a barrier in all careers. Campaigns especially lack opportunities for mothers to “take time off” (though being a mother isn’t exactly “taking time off” in the same way one would to fly to the Bahamas) to care for another human being. Andrews secondly emphasizes the importance of boundaries. After the birth of her child, Andrews specifically advised her co-workers not to call her between 5 and 7 am because she didn’t have the motor functions to verbalize a response. These boundaries are necessary, though not always comfortable to instill. She thirdly explains the importance of having a space open to women who might become pregnant as this is an often overlooked necessity when supporting women.
Andrews isn’t ignorant of the challenges: She acknowledges that change is easier said than done while also exposing how the rights advocated in Democratic ecosystems aren’t always reflected within these Democratic ecosystems. “I find that this [the Democratic ecosystem] is a space…where we love to talk about progressive change, but, sometimes in our own ecosystem…does that actually happen?”
The bottom line is the main focus of a campaign is to win by spending the least amount of money. There isn’t room for much else in this focus. Institutions, such as campaigning, aren’t set for women or candidates who want children. This is why organizations such as EMILY’s List are vital—to break this institutional problem and drive actual change, no matter how long it takes.
What’s Next for Sarah Andrews?
After well-deserved time off, Sarah Andrews has started working for EMILY’S List, which she describes as her full-circle moment since she wrote a thesis in college called “Women are Bitches, Men are Leaders” to address gender disparities in the workforce. Once again, Andrews takes on many roles at EMILY’S List—recruiting finance directors, and setting up budgets and media plans; however, Andrews loves helping women prepare for elections, hearing their stories, and encouraging them to win. “I would say I’m in the business of electing women, but I’m also in the business of winning…and that’s what we do at Emily’s List,” Andrews pledges. Thanks to Sarah Andrews and organizations such as EMILY’S List, there lies hope for the electoral system. More information on EMILY’s List and what they do is available online through their website.
While this article covered a few questions asked during the episode, Girl and the Gov, The Podcast episode with Sarah Andrews contains more advice from the legend herself along with insightful commentary from hosts Sammy Kanter and Maddie Medved. Girl and the Gov, The Podcast and its 100+ episodes are available on Apple Music, Spotify, YouTube, and through Girl and the Gov’s website. The podcast is perfect for those who want to learn from two remarkable women who are rebranding politics in the best way possible.