International Chair - Candice Kerestan- Democrats Abroad

Name:                               Candice Kerestan

Gender:                            Female

External links:                Website

Candidate:                          International Chair

Member since:                      2015

Country/Countries:              Germany

Biography:   

My first experiences overseas came through studying abroad, first in The Gambia (2011) and later in Germany (2013). This time sparked a continued desire to live abroad, which is why I left my home state of Pennsylvania for Germany in 2014. Prior to moving, I earned a Bachelor’s in Politics and German, gained experience at political consulting firms in Harrisburg and Washington, participated in the Center for American Women and Politics’ Ready to Run Program, and volunteered with the Pennsylvania Democratic Party.

Once in Germany, I worked at a climate change NGO, where I was responsible for drafting and translating policy papers presented to the United Nations. I also organized and led large exchange programs for MBA students for four years. Parallelly, I completed a German-language Master’s program in Political Science with high honors. I’m now an academic editor and PhD candidate in Political Science at the University of Bonn. 

 

 

Describe your volunteer work with DA and cite your greatest DA accomplishment.

My volunteerism has always been guided by principles of accessibility and inclusion, as well as grounded in the overarching goal of mobilizing overseas voters to get Democrats elected. My actions are driven by the idea of better explaining DA’s mission and structures – which not only creates an inviting atmosphere for (potential) members, but lowers the hurdles for them to vote, become active, and enter leadership positions. 

I put these ideas into practice when I founded the Cologne-Bonn Chapter (2015-2018), and I continued doing so as Germany Chair (2019-2021). This approach propelled Germany’s teams to nearly double the country’s primary turnout, fundraise record amounts, and see unprecedented growth in volunteer engagement and ballot requests in 2020.

As I look back, my greatest accomplishment becomes clear: I fostered a focused, sustainable space conducive to more effective outreach, turnout, and leadership development. Now I intend to do the same, with you, globally.

Why are you running for this office?

DA is rich in passionate members with impactful ideas about getting out the vote and affecting change, and the significance of our work has never been as tangible as it is now. But, as we know, the work must continue, especially in light of years of Republican inaction on voting rights, climate change, racial justice, and economic equality. I am inspired by our organization’s potential to keep getting Democrats elected who will enact humane, progressive policies that will benefit the American people, both at home and abroad.

2021 is a year of reflection and deliberation in which we must establish how we’re going to realize more of this potential globally in 2022. As International Chair, I would view it as my role to not only hear your input, but to use it to comprehensively assess our organization’s strengths and weaknesses, transparently make decisions, clearly lay out plans, and empower leaders to see them through – again with the overarching goal of activating more overseas voters for the 2022 midterms. This takes a results-driven listener, uniter, and effective communicator who is committed to seeing our organization and the Democratic Party succeed. That’s who I am, and that’s why I’m running.

How will your skill sets and experience contribute to DA's success?

As a doctoral candidate researching lobbying law, I recognize the necessity of being able to break down complex issues and make them understandable, relatable, and in turn meaningful to people. I have always strived to do this within DA, and I believe we should bear this in mind as we craft our future plans. A large chunk of the Americans we’re missing are not politicos – and that’s okay. But we must be creative and intentional with our approach if we’re going to reach them.

My experience as Germany Chair, DA’s third largest country committee, has also positioned me to be able to initiate the right conversations and act from day one: I’ve successfully led a 30-person ExCom, overseen dozens of teams, collaborated with domestic and overseas partners, and represented DA on primetime television. Having an International Chair with these qualifications is essential to keep DA moving forward without pause.

Are there any DA organizational or practical issues (not political goals) that you would like to address should you be elected?

Returning to the guiding principles of my volunteerism – understandability and accessibility as means towards inclusion – I'd like to help DA do a better job of introducing ourselves to new members and reinitiating contact with dormant members. Concrete initiatives I introduced towards this end as Germany Chair included a welcome newsletter for new sign-ups, which outlined DA’s mission, structure, and volunteer and donation opportunities, as well as regular online meet-and-greets, which allowed members to learn more about DA, fellow members and leaders, and ways to contribute. Germany activated countless volunteers and donors through these initiatives, and that’s why I, if elected, would implement them more broadly.

Broader implementation of your successes is something DA should strive for as well. There are many impactful projects underway, but too many are happening in isolation. Let’s work together to improve that and become more cohesive. My suggestions include a voluntary group meeting between the International Chair and country leaders, advance notice of International ExCom meetings and agendas, and broader publication of International ExCom meeting minutes. I am confident these tweaks will positively influence how we interact with each other and with (potential) members, and allow us to work more efficiently and effectively.

How can Democrats Abroad best raise our profile among American voters abroad and better work to elect Democrats?

One of the greatest opportunities to simultaneously raise DA’s profile and elect Democrats rests in state-based organizing. Traditionally structured around countries of residence, there is an enormous potential for DA to capture overseas American’s interest by creating communities centered around their voting state, too.

Many promising projects are underway in DA to track and favorably influence state voting legislation for overseas voters. Succeeding in these endeavors requires building strong constituent groups abroad who can advocate for the overseas vote, as well as complement their voting state party’s agenda, to ensure access to the ballot box and Democratic victories. These efforts will not only create new meaningful volunteer opportunities, but also help raise DA’s profile and impact among state parties and legislatures.

If elected, I thus would encourage the development of state groups for swing states, as well as for New York and California, states in which many Americans abroad vote.


Endorsement from Lissette Wright, International Treasurer, DA 

I am honored to endorse Candice Kerestan for International Chair of the Democratic Party  Committee Abroad. 

In 2019 at our DPCA-Global-Meeting in Washington, D.C., I had the pleasure of meeting  Candice Kerestan, who along with Sam Wong coordinated a successful door-knocking campaign on Capitol-Hill for Democrats Abroad to meet with MOC to advocate for healthcare,  immigration, taxation, voter-protection and the ERA. Like many of us, Candice left D.C. fired up-and-ready-to-fight for our Democracy. 

Years before her death, Supreme-Court-Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said “Fight for the things  that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you” as if speaking to Candice  because that is precisely the way Candice has fought and will continue to fight for US-citizens living-abroad. 

Guided by principles of diversity, equity, inclusion, and acceptance, Candice created in DA Germany a professional-and-respectful environment where leaders-and-volunteers alike felt welcomed-and-encouraged to help fulfill Democrats Abroad’s mission. Through Germany-wide  in-person and virtual meet-and-greets, DAG-Vice-Chair Kenton Barnes and Candice inspired and-motivated members to volunteer for GOTV and phone-banking. In the 2019-2020 election  cycle, thanks to Candice’s good leadership and management skills, DA-Germany nearly doubled  its Global-Presidential-Primary turnout and experienced unprecedented growth-in-membership  and volunteer-engagement. 

At the global level, Candice has collaborated, with me, International Chair Julia Bryan and multi CC-leaders, in various fundraising efforts including Dialing-For-Democracy, the $20.20-DA Prize-Draw, Her-Birthday-FUNdraiser, Reach-a-Peach, Inaugural-Day and the Women’s-History Month swag-for-donations, helping-raise close to $125K for DPCA. 

With nearly-perfect-attendance at Global-ExCom weekly-meetings for the past-year, Candice  has been participating, learning and preparing for the opportunity-to-serve as International  Chair. 

In solidarity. 

 


Endorsement from Samantha Wong, Deputy Regional Vice Chair Asia Pacific, DA China

I am honored to endorse Candice Kerestan for International Chair.  

Co-chairing the Door Knock Committee in 2019 with Candice was one of the most positive  experiences I have had in Democrats Abroad. Candice knows what it means to work as a team.  Candice has the ability to make others truly feel heard and supported. She mobilizes those  around her, while also empowering fellow DA volunteers to do the work that needs to be done.  The role of International Chair cannot be done alone; belief and trust in others, delegation, and  collaboration are crucial to success, and these all skills that come naturally to Candice.  

Candice embodies what Democrats Abroad strives to practice: commitment, passion, and  progress. In an off-year election, it is integral to our future success as an organization that we  see these practices carried out every day. I believe there is nobody better suited than Candice  to lead Democrats Abroad through the next two years.  

Please join me in supporting Candice Kerestan for International Chair.  


Endorsement from Kenton Barnes, Chair DA Germany

I write this letter in support of Candice Kerestan, immediate past Chair of DA Germany, who is running for the  position of International Chair. I met Candice in 2019 when she and I were elected Chair and Vice Chair,  respectively. I have come to know Candice as a person with a vision, and someone who shares that vision with  others to help them become the best versions of themselves. Candice is a person of integrity, humility, resilience,  and positivity, qualities of a good leader. However, a leader must also be a motivator. Someone once said that  management is about persuading people to do things they don’t want to, while leadership is inspiring people to do  things they never thought they could. In her tenure as Germany Chair, Candice inspired people to reach for new  heights, and to achieve goals that seemed impossible. Under her leadership, Germany’s membership increased by  50% to 15,200. For the Global Primary, more than 5,000 people participated Germany’s 43 voting centers in 30  cities. In addition, Candice helped spearhead Dialing for Democracy, an event in which more than 360 volunteers  made over 8,300 calls to raise over €25,000 for Democrats Abroad. These are just a few ways she inspired people to  achieve what was thought to be unattainable. I am convinced that if elected, she will take Democrats Abroad to new  heights, help it achieve new goals, and make the impossible a reality.