GW Law Alumna Dara Lindenbaum Shares About Her Time on the Stacey Abrams Campaign
During 2018, Dara Lindenbaum, JD '11, served as General Counsel for Stacey Abrams’ Georgia gubernatorial campaign. She started working with Abrams in 2013 and served on her leadership team through the hotly contested campaign that ended with then-candidate Ms. Abrams giving a non-concession speech. But even though the campaign was over, Ms. Lindenbaum was far from done with her work in fighting for voter protection rights.
“I am the crazy person who went to law school to do exactly this,” Ms. Lindenbaum told the American Bar Association Journal. She said she never considered attending law school, but after volunteering on the Kerry campaign in 2004, she realized her interest in election law.
“On Election Day, I saw all the lawyers run out to fix problems and I thought, I want to be one of those lawyers," she said. Now, Ms. Lindenbaum is a Senior Associate at Sandler, Reiff, Lamb, Rosenstein & Birkenstock with close to 10 years experience in political and election law.
Election lawyers don’t have an off-season, Ms. Lindenbaum said. Candidates begin their campaigns earlier and earlier every year, and she works with nonprofits and other groups throughout the year to promote their causes.
“The goal is always that Election Day is quiet. You hope the hotline phones don’t ring because everybody knows where they should go to vote and nobody experiences any problems at the polls. And oftentimes, things go pretty smoothly,” she said.
The 2018 midterm election wasn’t one of those times, though.
“Unfortunately, in the days leading up to the election and on Election Day, it was all hands on deck. There were so many problems. It was like nothing I’d ever seen before.”
Almost immediately after Ms. Abrams gave her speech, the team formed Fair Fight to ensure all voters have access to the polls in Georgia and across the country. They then filed a lawsuit against the Secretary of State and the state board of elections. "Our goal is to make changes in the Georgia election system so what happened in Georgia never happens again," Ms. Lindenbaum said.
One crucial initiative the Abrams campaign and the Democratic Party of Georgia spearheaded was a Voter Protection Hotline. Volunteers for the hotline answered calls from Labor Day to Election Day, fielding all kinds of questions. Ideally, Ms. Lindenbaum said, problems are solved prior to Election Day.
“You want to help voters before problems start; that’s the goal of voter protection,” Ms. Lindenbaum said. “If you’re dealing with problems on Election Day, there’s a problem. The goal is to work that through a long time in advance by building relationships with election officials and making sure everyone is clear on processes and election administration. Through that hotline, I believe we were able to educate people on what their rights were.”
Ms. Lindenbaum said she is continually amazed by Ms. Abrams' work ethic and heart.
“Stacey is just everything that you would want her to be and you hope she is. She is brilliant, she is kind, she is one of the hardest workers I’ve ever met, and she handles everything with such grace,” Ms. Lindenbaum said. “I’ve learned so much from her and she’s always an inspiration. She’s everything that we want our elected officials to be.”
During the 2018 midterm election, Ms. Lindenbaum was pregnant with twins. She said the team, under Ms. Abrams’ leadership, prioritized the personal needs of her staff.
“Our nightly leadership team meetings we realized were all women. In this profession and especially in politics, that is few and far between. Usually, I’m one of the only women on calls,” Ms. Lindenbaum said. “Had it not been for these women, I do not think I would have been able to finish up this campaign while pregnant with twins. They took care of me and made sure I was okay. It’s a testament to Stacey and to her longtime campaign manager and strategist Lauren Groh-Wargo."
For students looking to work in election law, Ms. Lindenbaum said to focus on gaining professional experience.
“I would tell students to get as much on the ground experience as you can, especially volunteering on campaigns. It’s all about the experience,” Ms. Lindenbaum said. “For me, when we’re looking for people to hire be it on the campaign or in the office, we’re often looking at their experience not at their grades.”
She said her experience at GW Law helped her gain entry into the election law field, and she is particularly grateful to Professor Spencer A. Overton for giving her entry into political and election law. She externed at the Federal Election Commission and Sandler, Reiff, Lamb, Rosenstein & Birkenstock and upon graduation, joined the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights. She later joined her current firm, Sandler, Reiff, Lamb, Rosenstein & Birkenstock.
While her experience surely speaks for itself, Ms. Lindenbaum still attributes her current career to a bit of luck.
“I say it’s luck. Maybe it’s luck with a little bit of drive, but there are a lot of people that want to go into political law and election law, and there are very few jobs in this area. I got very lucky that I met the right people and managed to work my way in.”
In the high stakes world of election law, losses happen. Ms. Lindenbaum encourages students to “keep your mission in mind.”
“Every time you feel overwhelmed or jaded you’ve got to step back and remember why you went into this and why you continue doing it,” she said.