Can Political Campaigns Actually Be Cool? These 2 Women Think So
Tania Arrayales and Anjelica Triola didn't dabble in politics until after Trump's election in 2016, when both women decided to put their marketing brains to use on campaigns for progressive candidates. Arrayales signed on to be chief of staff, and Triola chief strategist, for 34-year-old Suraj Patel's congressional campaign in NYC.
"I decided to volunteer for the policy-focused arms of UNICEF and Planned Parenthood and realized the only way to truly create the change we need is to change our representation," Arrayales says. She came to America from Mexico as a child and was undocumented until age 18.
Patel's campaign was premised on just that: the idea that an entire generation of first-time or fair-weather voters is now energized and ready to step up and take part in our democratic process on a regular basis, not just in presidential elections.
"Like Tania, I quickly realized post-Trump that these issues were not a fault of the American people," says Triola. "So few Americans vote, but it's not because we don't care — it's because politics have become utterly tone-deaf and uninspiring to so many of us, especially young voters. If we give them a good reason to, they'll turn out."
While Patel may not have won the primary on June 26, he and his team helped change ideas about what's possible — and what can work — in politics through their innovative campaign. Patel secured more than 18,000 votes in the election — not quite enough to win, but enough to set records for higher voter participation in certain areas in the state of New York.
"We'd be remiss to not take advantage of the post-Trump energy," adds Patel. "Democrats need to seize this opportunity to build an entirely new electorate if we truly want to take back the House. If we can change the group who shows up to the polls to be slightly more diverse, more colorful, more progressive — that's the change we need."
As Patel suggests, in a Congressional district that includes part of Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens, his sweep of Brooklyn could represent change to come.
"Many supporters reached out on Instagram to let us know they were casting their first-ever vote in a primary election. Over the course of Election Day, we received photos, videos, and more — even from some who were documenting their first vote as a registered Democrat," remembers Arrayales.
"We were often called 'the most millenial of campaigns,' but millennials are the largest living generation in America," notes Triola. "Our team was mostly in their teens and 20s, and they truly made a difference by connecting with people that have previously felt unwelcome in politics. This is only their first race, not their last."
Previously having run start-ups and agencies, the women drew inspiration not from other candidates but from digital-native brands they knew to have great relationships with their fans, such as Glossier and Casper. Before launching publicly last November, a few ground rules were set to keep the team aligned. Take a peek into their playbook below:
Talk to Everyone
"One of our best ideas has been to give all constituents a chance to book a one-one-one coffee with Suraj," Arrayales says. "We got so many requests that we had to clear his schedule three afternoons each week to meet demand."
"Instead of hiding away in an office building, we snagged a storefront location with plenty of foot traffic," Triola says. "This bar closed, and we turned it into a community space where New Yorkers could hang out, register to vote, and host their own social justice events."
Keep It Positive
"The news cycle is exhausting enough — we tried to talk only about solutions wherever possible," says Triola. "Suraj took part in panels with youth activists and high schools around the city to connect with people who are truly invested in the future and willing to rally around possibility."
Lift Up Local Voices
"We engaged communities on their turf and used our platform to elevate their stories," says Arrayales. "We advocated for sex workers impacted by a new bill called SESTA/FOSTA and brought our town halls to art galleries, laundromats, and fitness classes so it was more convenient for everyone to get involved."
"Most importantly, we wanted to show that running for office doesn't have to suck," Triola says. "Our team's honest and open approach proved infectious — we couldn't have built this movement without letting our personalities shine and making people smile."
Besides sticking to these principles, Team Suraj sold tons of streetwear-inspired campaign merch, gave away nail decals with Suraj's face on them, and partnered with local Instagram influencers who did everything from style Suraj's hair to post photos of his pups.