Tag Archives: Nicole Klein

Nicole Klein: National Election Inspires Local Race

In the aftermath of Donald Trump’s election last year, Nicole Klein felt “helpless and hopeless.”

The Westport resident could not understand how America had chosen such a man as its leader.

“I’m a very positive person,” Klein says. “But I became very negative.” She vowed to do something to change her state of mind.

The New York City native had spent 17 years at McKinsey; now she was global event manager. In April 2014 she, her husband Fred and young son Carter had moved to Westport from the city, for the schools and amenities.

Nicole and Fred Klein.

In the past, Klein had volunteered for presidential campaigns. But she had never — not in New York, or her new hometown — been involved in local politics.

Now was the time.

She quit her high-powered job. In March, Klein became deputy registrar of voters.

Working in Town Hall, she learned the ins and outs of Westport government. The Representative Town Meeting intrigued her.

“RTM had just been an acronym to me,” she says. “But I realized how important it is. It’s Westport’s legislative branch.”

When 2 members of her Greens Farms district decided not to run for re-election — and Klein realized there were no “moms,” or even any females — representing District 5, she threw her hat in the ring.

She knew nothing about campaigning. Friends offered advice: Go to the train station. Go to the transfer station. Make signs.

It was a very competitive race. In 8 of Westport’s 9 districts, 4 or 5 candidates vied for 4 seats. District 5 had 8.

“People made websites, brochures, mailings and signs,” Klein says. “There was a lot of canvassing.”

The 1st-time candidate faced hurdles. A random draw placed her name at the bottom of the ballot.

Because election season is the busiest time of year for the registrars’ staff, she could not campaign for herself on that crucial Election Day. Fortunately, an “amazing team” — including her husband and son — stepped in.

Carter Klein scrupulously obeys the electioneering law.

Oh, yeah: Just a few days before the election, the Kleins moved from their rented condo into a new home.

“There was a lot going on,” Klein says understatedly.

With over 1,900 voters to reach, she focused on the population she felt she could best impact: the school community. “I hoped people were excited about a mom running,” she says.

They were. Klein earned the 2nd highest number of votes in District 5.

It took a while before she learned the news, though. She was so busy at Town Hall, she could not immediately check the text her husband sent from the Greens Farms Elementary School polling place, with the results.

As an unknown quantity in a heavily contested race, lacking name recognition, Klein had steeled her son for the possibility of defeat.

“I told Carter the important thing was to get involved, go for it and try your best,” she recalls. “I told him I would still be committed, win or lose.”

During the campaign, Klein surprised herself by realizing how much she wanted to win. The closer Election Day loomed, the more she hoped she could serve.

Now she looks forward to learning even more about how Westport works — and about how to help her district. She has heard constituents’ concerns about high-speed trains coming through the Greens Farms station, maintaining the stellar school system, and the financial stability of the town. She is not afraid to asks questions, and learn more.

Klein knows a handful of RTM members, current and new. She is excited to meet her colleagues — “a great group, with a fantastic influx of new people.”

The other day, a League of Women Voters member asked Klein to serve coffee at tonight’s swearing-in ceremony for Westport elected officials (7:30 p.m., Town Hall).

Klein had to say no. She’ll be busy taking the oath of office herself.

Westport Activist Wants All Connecticut Votes To Count

As a zoology major Nicole Klein learned that when sea turtles hatch, they instinctively turn to the horizon. That leads them straight to the ocean.

In the aftermath of November’s election, she felt similarly impelled. But it was not until Christmas — when she had a chance to take a break from her very demanding full-time job — that she understood exactly what she had to do.

So she served notice to her employer, McKinsey. Today she devotes herself full time to grassroots political activism.

nicole-klein-head-shot

Nicole Klein

Klein loved McKinsey. The consulting firm encourages personal growth into new areas of the company, and she’d taken full advantage. After 17 years, Klein had worked her way up to global event manager.

But — like those sea turtles — Klein followed her destiny.

She’d been involved in political campaigns from 1992 to 2004. In 2008 she fell in love. “I didn’t care about anything else,” she laughs.

Klein got married, had a child, moved to Westport. In the run-up to this year’s election — as she worked hard for Hillary Clinton — she wanted her 6-year-old son to see what involvement looked like. She brought him to her phone bank shifts.

In the weeks after the election — but before her resignation from McKinsey — Klein grew more active.

She attended Westport Democratic Town Committee meetings. She volunteered as a bus captain for the Women’s March on Washington.

Klein calls that event “one of the 5 best days of my life. It was so powerful to see everyone come together peacefully. It wasn’t a protest — it was a unifying moment.”

Nicole Klein (left) enjoys the Women's March on Washington.

Nicole Klein (left) enjoys the Women’s March on Washington.

Now Klein is putting her event planning talents to work on another project. It’s an informational session on changing the way Connecticut casts its electoral votes for president.

Set for this Thursday (March 2, 7 p.m.) in the Westport Country Playhouse barn, the “State of Voting: CT Debates a New Way to Elect the President” panel includes New Yorker writer Hendrik Hertzberg. It’s part of a move to have our state join 11 others whose legislatures have agreed to let its electors vote for the presidential candidate who gets the most popular votes in all 50 states.

The idea is that all votes cast nationwide for president will count equally — without abolishing the Electoral College. Under the current method, voters in Connecticut — and other almost-certain blue or red states — are easily ignored.

Of nearly 400 events during the 2016 general election, 94% were held in just 12 battleground states. Only 1 was held in the Constitution State.

equalize-the-vote-ct-logoOrganizers of National Popular Vote CT — including Westporters John Hartwell and Rozanne Gates — call the concept one of fairness. Citizens of every state should have their vote weighed equally, they say.

The project’s leaders also point to surveys that show 3/4 of Connecticut’s voters — including a majority of Republicans — believe the candidate who gets the most votes in the country should become president.

Thursday’s event is non-partisan, Klein says. “We want people to hear the issues, and make up their own minds.”

She hopes for a large turnout at the Playhouse. And when that’s done, she’ll turn her attention to the next activity.

“Not one day goes by that I regret resigning,” Klein says. Every day she feels more excited about being part of the democratic — with a small “d” — process.

In her own way, she’s making sure America stays great.

(“The State of Voting: CT Debates a New Way to Elect the President” — at 7 p.m. on Thursday, March 2 in the Westport Country Playhouse barn — is co-sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Westport and National Popular Vote CT. The event is free, but seats must be reserved. Click here, email boxoffice@westportplayhouse.org, or call 203-227-4177. Video of the event will be available on Facebook Live at NationalPopularVoteCT, and afterward on www.npvct.com)