It’s important to note that this interview took place before the 76ers lost to the Celtics in this year’s NBA postseason because when we started the interview, Andrew discussed his love for the 76ers by joking, “The Sixers pretty much determine my happiness for most of my adult life…meaning I haven't been very happy for most of my adult life.” We hope you’re hanging in there Andrew!
Bernucca is an experienced campaign manager with a proven track record of success. In his most recent role as Campaign Manager for Eric Lynn for Congress in FL-13, he achieved outstanding results, surpassing the top of the ticket and effectively managing a $2.3 million budget.
Almost nonstop since 2018, Andrew has been bouncing around the country to work as a Field Director, Finance Director, and Campaign Manager for no less than eight campaigns. Now, Andrew serves as a Digital & Political Manager at Kinetic Strategies.
How did he get started in politics? With an act of courage.
In college, Bernucca worked as a freelance sports writer trying to break into the sports journalism scene. After applying for the top internships without getting a bite, he looked for something different.
Andrew, a student at the same school where former Congressman Richard Neal had studied, seized an opportunity when the Congressman visited the campus for an event. Bernucca confidently approached him, submitted his resume, and expressed his need for an internship. To his luck, the Congressman brought him on board.
This brings us to Andrew’s first words of advice: “People make it in this industry by being audacious and asking something that maybe they've no business asking…Most people would say to the Maxwell Frosts of the world, you're 25 years old, you have no business running for Congress…but the worst they're gonna tell you is no.”
Choosing a race and transitioning between roles
When deciding who to work for, Andrew's criteria for candidates have evolved from solely focusing on their stance on key issues. While he still prioritizes being pro-choice and pro-union, his emphasis now lies in their dedication to hard work. Andrew values candidates who can make decisive choices and take responsibility for their actions. In his own words, he asks, "Do you grasp the demands of this role? Are you a genuine leader?"
After successfully managing various local and State Senate campaigns, Andrew transitioned into the role of Field Director under the guidance of his first boss, Richard Neal. This pivotal experience equipped Andrew with the skills needed to excel as a campaign manager, emphasizing the significance of effective budget management and people management, which he believes constitute 90% of the role.
However, when it comes to fieldwork, Andrew offers a clear piece of advice: “Field as we know it is dying so just go do finance…unless you have a win number less than 20,000.”
Managing a campaign
According to Andrew, "the biggest challenge you face as the campaign manager is the candidate and being a manager. He explains that, as a candidate, it's exceedingly challenging to maintain a sense of normalcy while constantly worrying about potential betrayals that could jeopardize votes, placing a heavy burden on the campaign manager.
Being able to talk down a candidate and ensure success is difficult, particularly when your average campaign manager or staffer is pretty young. He notes, “You’ll be managing consultants two decades older than you, who have worked in politics for a while and have their own opinions, and you have to be the one calling the shots.”
More tips for aspiring campaign managers are Andrew’s adopted 4 M’s of success from a TEDx Talk by Political Consultant Dr. Louis Perron: Message, media, money, and make no mistakes. Andrew says, “As a manager, your job is to help candidates craft winning messages, raise funds, get media coverage, and avoid mistakes that could cost votes. If you can successfully handle these tasks, you'll be in a great position heading into Election Day.”
Along these lines, “protect your budget and protect your staff.” For example, “If you want to drop all the money on TV and you have an argument for it, go for it. If you want to spend a whole bunch of money on more digital, and you have an argument, go for it, you know, just make sure you're managing it.”
Regarding staff, “If you're not sticking up for them or if you're not paying them what they deserve to be paid, you're gonna feel that in the final few days when everything really matters, and you need them.”
Hiring for campaigns has gotten significantly harder as, “people have recognized that they’re being taken advantage of in the early stages of their careers and they’re pushing back on it.” When you’re deciding which race to work on, “1) don’t go below your means in terms of a salary and 2) make sure you are able to take care of yourself in this work because the work certainly isn't going to take care of you.” 👏
What should campaigns be doing now?
We wrapped up by asking Andrew what he thinks campaigns should be doing right now in April of an off-year. Andrew said, “all you should be doing right now is money and small-earned media. Get your core staff if you have the money, figure out what types of donors like you, and find event hosts.” (amen!)
His final words of wisdom are, “find a great mentor and then pay it forward. I’ve been lucky with good mentors with my first manager being Peter Panos…Yes, we made a lot of jokes about calling him Peter Pan, but he was my first boss and he taught me a lot about campaigns. He helped me get a lot of jobs early on and gave me really great advice. Now, I’m in the position to do the same for others since I’ve been fortunate enough to work on some great campaigns.”
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