5 Pivotal Moments in the Campaign

The dust has settled. I’m getting my required background check and fingerprinting to join the Board of Education. But I wanted to send out one final post. Kind of a retrospective, behind-the-scenes look at the journey. Here are 5 moments that I think were deeply significant.

1) The launch of VoteCartella.com

I spent the first 4 weeks feeling pretty chipper about the election. I got my brochures going, set up my website. I had a nifty logo. And heck, my opponent had submitted his petition to run at the last possible hour – so I started to think maybe he wouldn’t really run a proper campaign.

“Cartella has a website up!” Shani called down from the bedroom. My stomach dropped.

In 4th grade, I was in the cafeteria when I got word that Todd Arthur was going to beat me up after school. I was struck with mortal terror. The rest of the day I didn’t listen to a thing any teacher said in any class. The fear and dread were all-consuming.

That’s how it felt when I first saw Mark’s website. Mortal terror. That whole site – the photos, the messaging, all of it – it was all there with a single objective: beat me.

I barely slept that night. And for at least 5 days I couldn’t look at Mark’s website. I was terrified. That’s embarrassing, but it’s true. I never let it stop me from doing my thing, but man was that something I didn’t expect.

2) Nancy and Amy to the Rescue

So, I like new challenges. I actively seek discomfort. But I had a moment early in the campaign where I was freaking out. I was trying to get PayPal to work but I needed an EIN number. And I couldn’t get my website to line the text up right. And I couldn’t figure out the difference between a Reel and a Story on Instagram.

I texted Amy and Nancy. And next thing I knew I was over at Nancy’s weird and wonderful she-shed and the two of them were telling me: “We got you. Whatever you need. Let us know what we can do.”

They lived up to that promise again and again. They were constants for support, for doorknocking, for organizing, for everything at every step. I absolutely would have crumbled without them. And not just that afternoon. 

3) Enter the #SlayTeam

It was back to school night at Central. It was me and a bag full of flyers. And suddenly…9 teenagers arrive. They covered each corner. They were polite. They were upbeat. They were amazing.

I posted a short video of them handing out flyers and that night it got over 10,000 views. It was by far the most watched video of the entire campaign.

These kids care. A lot. They care about the well-being of their classmates. They care about their teachers. They care about their education. And they did not like the idea of their curriculum being policed or their classmates feeling less accepted. So they stood up and took action and it was glorious.

4) The Drummer

The campaign started out being people I knew. I’d beg them to hold events or volunteer. And they did. But then something strange happened. People I didn’t know started to get involved. I would see social posts supporting my campaign from complete strangers. People I didn’t know sent money and asked for signs. Then people started making their own signs.

The culmination of that phenomenon came at a campaign event I had at Inkwood Books. I arrived to find a drummer setting up on the sidewalk outside the store.

“What is this?” I asked.

“Ben wants to help you draw people in,” his sister told me.

“That’s amazing!”

I hadn’t organized it. I hadn’t requested it. I didn’t know until that moment it was going to happen. But suddenly I had a drummer – and it’s hard to beat a campaign that has an official drummer.

5) Three Lost Ladies

The original plan for Election Day was that Alex and I were going backpacking in Zion National Park. But 4 days of rain closed the canyon and we postponed. So instead, we drove north for a hike in Harriman Park up near North Jersey. He and I usually do a lot of hiking in the fall, but the campaign has really cramped our style.

We started out around 11:00 and Alex made it clear that I was not allowed to look at my phone. No texting, no social media – nothing. And I agreed. I was looking forward to 2.5 hours of just him and me.

About 2 hours in, we came across three women who were at least in their 70s. 

“Do you know where the White Trail is?” they asked, then pulled out three completely different maps on their phones. 

They were lost and had been in the park for over 3 hours. They had no food and only a little water. They were completely exhausted. And it became almost immediately clear what we had to do.

“We’re on our way out. Why don’t we hike together?”

And so we adopted the lost ladies. Alex went first; I went last. We walked them up steep climbs and across rocky declines covered in slick leaves. We chattered away. We shared our water. It took us three hours to get back to the cars, and it was a delight. Our 2.5-hour hike turned into a 5.5-hour hike, which was just fine with me. Less time for me to pace around the house and fret about the election results.

We were going to cook dinner, but instead we ordered Indian. Shani and I had a beer. I paced.

By 8:15 all three of us were sitting in the living room madly refreshing the Camden County election results site. I sweat through two T-shirts. First numbers came in around 8:30. I had a big lead and that lead never really shrunk. Final results were pretty definitive.

And with that post…I’m going back to blogging about baseball. This has been a blast and I appreciate all the support and well wishes.

Oh wait…here’s a photo of my nephew, Tucker, getting punched in the face.

4 Observations and a Musical Interlude

First…a few random observations from the campaign that have stood out in recent weeks.

1) The Correspondence

The Correspondence is overwhelming. I am now getting hourly emails, texts, and FB messages. People with questions. People with campaign advice. People who want signs. I’m hell bent on answering them all, and I don’t think any of them have fallen through the cracks, but it is a LOT of input.

2) The Coffee

Almost daily, and sometimes twice in one day, I meet someone for coffee. So I’m amped up. And Saxby’s has become a second home. 

Actually, the guy behind the counter introduced me to “half-caff” coffee, and I gave him a $5 tip.

3) The Conversations

This is the highlight for me. I can’t tell you how many in-depth conversations I get into about so many different things. Amazing stuff. I come home to Shani every other night and say, “I met some people who we absolutely should hang out with once this is over!”

4) The Constant “On”

This is the hard part. Running for office has been like a giant puzzle that I’m trying to solve and resolve every day. My head is always turning it over and looking at it from different angles. It’s super interesting, but sometimes hard to shut off when I want to get some sleep.

And then…a musical interlude.

I went for a walk today to clear my head and I put on my “starred” playlist on Spotify. Almost immediately the music took me. You know what I mean, right? When the music grabs your chest and your soul and lifts you right into a different world.

First song was “You and Me” by Tom Petty.

Take a look. At what I got.
I can’t promise you a lot.
But you and me, babe.
And the road ahead.

Instant lump in the throat. That song has always been about me and Shani. And I started thinking about being on the road together with this campaign. About laughing like crazy over how incredibly un-photogenic I am. About me rehearsing a speech in the kitchen trying to work on not flapping my arms so much. It’s been something else.

The songs went from there. It was Johnny Cash then Bruce then Guns N Roses and the whole time I felt more and more lost in the music. Then suddenly there I was, walking on Upland Way, signing Honky Tonk Heroes at the top of my lungs and not even aware of it. I looked ahead and a woman had picked up her dog and was quickly headed in the opposite direction.

Just over two weeks left until election day. I’m gonna really miss it once it’s over.

With all that in mind, Shani and I are going to take things easy in terms of the campaign this weekend. Tonight we’re going to open a bottle of wine and cook dinner. Then Saturday we’re spending the night in NYC and going to a concert. 

So, everyone enjoy the weekend…and if anyone knows who that woman is I scared, please let her know that I hope I didn’t lose her vote.

Starred playlist…

Assorted series of me flapping my arms when I speak…

#SlayTeam for the Win

Months ago, before this election was even on the radar, Shani and I made plans to go to Cincinnati this weekend. We were having a reunion with her college friends (who are my friends too, for the record).

But then suddenly we realized that Cincinnati Weekend was same weekend as the Fall Festival. Which is an opportunity to hand out flyers and talk to voters. Conflicting priorities! What do we do? 

Enter, the #SlayTeam.

Actually…let me give you a little back story.

For the first Back to School night, I texted Alex and a couple of his friends and asked if they would help hand out flyers. They didn’t respond.

So there I am the next day, standing in front of Central, waiting for parents to come out…and suddenly two cars pull up and a bunch of kids pile out. It was amazing!

And it took off from there. I still barely know what happened. Suddenly Alex is showing me a text group where every 4 hours another number would get added. And each new person would simply text…

The next night, Alex takes my phone, installs an app called Remind, and the entire group somehow transfers there. Apparently it had grown too large for a text group. And the last I checked the list is up 40+ kids.

So I wrote them and asked if they would hand out flyers at the Fall Festival. And of course, they didn’t respond.

But an hour later, Alex lets me know that they’ve divided it up into 1-hour shifts. They’ve got teams to cover the entire thing from when it starts at 10:00 until it ends at 4:00. And oh, by the way, I have to buy donuts for everyone.

They handed out almost 1000 flyers. ElectMikeNuckols.com got 951 views. And check out this email!

I got three more emails just like this one.

So here they are in action. #SlayTeam for the WIN!

Oh, and here are some shots of us having a great time in Cincinnati! We’ve got the #SlayTeam to thank for that as well!

Rain Date

The plan for Saturday night was to have a date. Shani was getting back from Boston. I made a big pot of minestrone soup. We were going to open a bottle of wine, put our phones away, and hang out.

But Shani came in like a hurricane.

“So many people are texting me that they want campaign signs!”

“Me too, but I thought…”

“I wanna make a list.”

So instead of a quiet evening, we put together a spreadsheet of addresses and names.

Then Sunday (yesterday) we zig-zagged all over town in the rain, sticking signs in yards. We quickly got into a rhythm.

  1. Shani pulls over at a house.
  2. I run to the back of the car.
  3. I yell “Get off your phone and open the back! It’s pouring!”
  4. I go put in the sign and Shani would take a photo (she thought it was hysterical)
  5. I run back to the car to find the passenger window open and the passenger door locked. (“Unlock the door! I’m getting soaked!”)
  6. I dive in and we’d laugh like crazy.

And this is gonna sound nuts, but it was genuinely romantic. We had Lucinda Williams cranking, we were getting all kinds of texts from other teams delivering signs, social media was on fire. Here I was with the woman I’ve loved for 25 years with whom I’ve built this wonderful life. Here we were working together as a team like we’ve done a million times. Here she was laughing out loud at how awful and bedraggled I looked.

God, it was fun.

So maybe not the date we’d planned, but a pretty unforgettable date nonetheless. And boy did that minestrone soup hit the spot when we finally got home. 

And to every single person who agreed to put a sign in their yard: I do not take the gesture lightly. Each one touches me deeply. It is my honor to have my name placed in front of your home.

Here are some shots of the other teams who were out there. (For the record, we put up 100+ signs in under 3 hours.)

Here is a whole series of photos of me in the rain.

Healthy Disruption

Warning: This post has no useful information pertaining to the actual election. This one is just about the experience from my POV. It’s also gonna be a long one, so it’s OK to skip.

Shani and Alex went to Boston for the weekend to tour colleges and see my Uncle. This meant I was home alone and all clear to do my own thing. This would typically mean…

Get up, quick breakfast, head to the Lehigh Valley or North Jersey for a long hike, maybe meet a friend for an afternoon beer, then kick back and watch a whole baseball game that night without a single interruption.

But this weekend? I’m delivering signs, dropping off packets to volunteers, meeting a former board member for coffee, training #SlayTeam doorknockers. It’s a whirlwind.

Before the election, I would get up every morning, sip my coffee, do the Wordle, watch baseball highlights. 

Now? Forget the Wordle. I have about a dozen apps I need to check every morning. Social feeds, money stuff. And the correspondence is incredible. Texts, emails, instant messages. People telling me I have their vote. (Thanks! Make sure you are registered!) People with questions about my position on all kinds of things. (Do you think RULER is really the best vehicle for curriculum? Where do you stand on funding for the crew team? What would you do if there was another pandemic?) People with questions about my opponent. (No, he was not one of the people handing out those letters. Well, he used to speak at board meetings about his issues with books and curriculum, but he stopped doing that once he started running for office.)

Then the #SlayTeam – good gravy! Their chatter is endless. Sometimes I wake up to find 200+ messages. Sorting through that to figure out what they need from me makes my head spin.

So anyways…this morning I got up at 4:15, made a whole pot of coffee, sat on the couch with the dog against my feet, and took a step back to breathe. I spent a solid two hours writing in my journal (I’ve kept a journal since I was 22). And I had kind of and aha moment.

The disruption is good.

All the new things I’m diving into and the discomfort that comes with them – it is decidedly good. Breaking my routine is good. It will lead to new routines and force me to let go of habits I didn’t even realize I had.

I wrote a book back in my 20s called Lummox (tragically unpublished). It was about a guy who quits his job to go and try to win a race called The Trash Dash, where you push a car for three days. And the theme was about choosing passion over comfort. I hadn’t thought about that in years, but suddenly here I am living right in the middle of that very theme.

Pretty terrific morning.

I finally got up, had breakfast, walked the dog, and got ready to head out and get to work.

Oh, but I did stop for a second to do the Wordle.

BOOM! Solved it in 2!

MIKE NUCKOLS FOR SCHOOL BOARD!

Vote for Books!

WARNING: Long, book-nerdy post to follow. But the short version: “VOTE FOR MIKE NUCKOLS IF YOU LOVE BOOKS!

This morning I was invited to speak before the Haddonfield Public Library Board of Trustees, which was an invitation that meant a lot to me personally.

I let them know where I stand as a candidate. I’m in favor of a diverse curriculum that presents a range of views and perspectives. I’m also in favor of treating our teachers like the professionals they are and trusting them to lead the vibrant discussions that have produced a district that is among the best in the nation. 

I also made it very clear that I’m firmly against banning books.

Books are emotional for me. Consider this…

In the 1940s, Hitler’s words were blaring all over the world.

At the same time, a 14-year-old girl was putting her words down in a journal as she hid in an attic.

Here we are 80 years later. Hitler’s words are long since silenced. But that little girl’s words?

The Diary of Anne Frank has sold over 30 million copies and has been translated into 70 languages. Every year it is taught in thousands of classrooms across the globe.

That’s the power of books.

Here’s how they’ve affected my life…

  • In my 20s, I spent a year living in my car and driving around the United States. Reading Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, was a huge reason why I did that.
  • Over the years, I have been told many times in subtle and not-subtle ways that my wife is out of my league. How did I get her to fall for me? On our first date, we spent at least two hours talking about books and bonding over how much they mean to us.
  • Inkwood Books keeps at least 6 copies of John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row in stock, because I buy it so often as a gift for people who are going through hard times.

I genuinely believe that books have the power change the world, and the power to change the individual world of children who read them. And I think the group of people I met with this morning are on the front lines of changing the world.

It was my absolute honor.

Final campaign-related note: As recently as 2020, there have been attempts to ban A Diary of Anne Frank. I am the candidate that has publicly come out against banning books, and this is part of the reason why.

Important voting info

  • Deadline to register for mail-in ballot in Nov 1 (request yours).
  • Important for students away from home
    • Important for voters away for Fall Break
  • General election is November 8th 

With Gratitude to the Parents of Kids with Special Needs

Last night I received the best contribution yet to my campaign. Some members of the Special Needs Community in Haddonfield organized an event for me last night. It wasn’t so much about campaigning, but an opportunity for me to hear what their concerns are and learn what they need from a BOE member.

I walked away humbled and so grateful they took the time to educate me.

Here are 5 takeaways for me:

  1. The burden these parents face is remarkable. They have become experts in a part of the educational system that most of us don’t appreciate. ABA, IEP, BCBA…they learn an entirely new language in the service of their child.
  2. The search for consistency of services and staff is a constant challenge. I think the school and the parents are constantly wrestling with this.
  3. They feel supported in Haddonfield and grateful for what our schools provide (but it still takes a lot of work from the parents).
  4. Greater awareness among parents whose kids do not have special needs is an amazing opportunity. Kids with special needs DO NOT bring a classroom down, they ENRICH it.
  5. Finally…Shani and I both left feeling blessed to be in the same community as these parents.

And then after a meaningful and important conversation, we all hung out for another hour laughing and having a great time.

My deepest gratitude to everyone who attended and shared their experience with me.

3 Key Issues and Where I Stand

As promised, a post with less drama. I felt it was important to articulate where I stand on what I see as 3 key issues in this election.

1) Building on the Bancroft Property 

I’M FOR IT! 

This is a HUGE opportunity for our community. It’s our chance to set Haddonfield schools up to excel for the next decade. But to get it right, we need the entire community engaged. 

If we don’t act, we’re eventually going to have classes taught in trailers and dozens of kids told they can’t participate in sports. And that’s the last thing we want. 

I’d like everyone to feel invested in the direction we choose – and together we move forward as one Haddonfield.

2) Banning Books and Censoring Curriculum 

I’M AGAINST IT! 

I’m in favor of a diverse curriculum that presents a range of views and perspectives. I’m also in favor of treating our teachers like the professionals they are and trusting them to lead the vibrant discussions that have produced a district that is among the best in the nation.

My kids have benefitted from an amazing Haddonfield education and I’m fighting to keep the quality of our curriculum from being compromised for the next generation of kids.

3) The increase in HIB incidents 

I’LL WORK TO PUT AN END TO IT! 

HIB (Harassment/Intimidation/Bullying) has spiked dramatically since we’ve returned from remote learning. This needs to be the top priority of our administrators.

I will give it my full attention to ensure that Haddonfield schools are a model of inclusivity. We need to come together and build a school system which recognizes that all of our students are worthy of acceptance, worthy of empathy, and worthy of an outstanding education.

Confrontation on the Campaign Trail

IMPORTANT NOTE: The conversation below is paraphrased. These are not exact quotes. You’ll see why that’s important soon. But I did have two volunteers right there watching, so I feel confident in saying the gist of it is accurate.

Holy moly! Things are getting nuts real fast.

Yesterday evening I went to stand outside Tatem Elementary for Back to School Night and hand out campaign flyers. I got there early and was with two of my volunteers. We were actually talking about my opponent, when I turned and there he was. Coming right down the sidewalk and right at me.

Hi, Mark! Did you bring your ice cream truck?

(That was a joke, but Mark wasn’t in the mood.)

I read what you said, and I don’t like it one bit! You’re putting words in my mouth and that’s totally not acceptable!

He was hot! Legit furious.

What did I say?

Your NuckolBall post! You said I called for book banning! I never said that!

That’s what it sounded like to me.

I never said those words! You’re putting words in my mouth, and I would never do that to you!

My volunteer jumped in.

Can I just ask you…what issue you have with the book you reference?

I’m not going to debate that with you right now!

Then they ended up going back and forth for a while. She was pretty calm, but he was still super angry. And to be fair, I don’t think he was angry at her. I think my post really made him mad. He turned back to me.

Don’t put words in my mouth!

Uh…Ok.

Don’t blow me off!

And then he stormed away.

Things cooled down after that. His family showed up and they handed out their flyers. My crew and I kept a respectful distance and handed out my stuff. I saw him having what looked like good conversations with voters. I got into some terrific conversations as well. Overall, handing out flyers is a lot more fun than I thought it would be.

So in the spirit of transparency, I recommend you watch the video and see if my interpretation of my opponent’s comments about a book he said was problematic is fair. I am against school boards that decide to ban books. I think his position is decidedly less clear despite his protestations.

My orignal post read:

“Shani found a video of my opponent telling the school board what books he’d like to ban and why (which I’m completely against)”

I think my interpretation is fair, which is why I’ve amended my post to read this way:

“Shani found a video of my opponent speaking to the board of education about a particular book. I Interpreted his message as providing the reasons he felt this book should be banned (which I’m completely against)”

OK. Pretty exciting stuff, right? Well, I promise the next blogs will be more boring and more substantiative. Also, I’m going to be offline for the next few days. My uncle is having some health issues, so I’m going to spend some time with him in Boston. (Actually, you can read about his situation here.)

FINALLY…the mandatory reminders and links