The Influencers 50: Activists

The Influencers 50: Activists

The issue advocates driving the think tanks and activist groups who will shape 2014.

Campaigns & Elections has selected 10 individuals in five categories for what we're calling The Influencers 50: Communicators, Disruptors, Campaigners, Enforcers and Activists.

The stage is still being set for the final midterm election of the Obama administration and while it's not easy to predict what will move D.C. several months from now, these leaders are sure to be in the mix. See the complete list of Influencers here.

Matt Bennett
Co-Founder and Senior Vice President for Public Affairs, Third Way
Voters’ disgust with Washington could create an opening for Bennett’s group to exploit in 2014. If the organization’s moderate congressional supporters are going to remain in office—New Hampshire Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen is an honorary co-chair—they’ll need Bennett’s help. A veteran of the Clinton White House and Al Gore’s 2000 presidential campaign, Bennett has positioned the group as a Washington, DC thought leader while the ability of Congressional leaders to work across the aisle on meaningful legislation has all but evaporated. In 2014, Bennett will head up Third Way’s candidate outreach efforts, with a focus on helping Democrats develop strategies to win over centrist voters.

Pia Carusone
Executive Director, Americans for Responsible Solutions
A campaign resume that starts with Howard Dean’s 2004 presidential, Carusone is now tasked with making gun control part of the conversation in 2014. A former Department of Homeland Security assistant secretary and chief of staff to ex-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, Carusone will have millions at her disposal to make that happen. The group founded by Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly can now boast a sizable donor base, and even though the legislative push for tougher gun control has stalled, expect the organization to be a force on the campaign trail in 2014. During the past year, the group has run TV ads in a handful of states criticizing lawmakers for their voting records on guns. 

Kate Gordon
Vice President, Next Generation 
Under the chairmanship of Tom Steyer, Mike Bloomberg and Hank Paulson, Gordon’s group is tasked with highlighting the long-term economic risk America faces from climate change. With a major report due June 2014, the group could effectively insert the issue into the midterms. With her dual role as a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, Gordon, a former consumer rights attorney, has a foothold on both coasts and plenty of experience in Washington.

Heather Higgins
President and CEO, Independent Women’s Voice
With the GOP’s numbers with women at all-time lows, Higgins will be playing a role in Republican efforts to bring female voters over to the right. And with healthcare sure to be an issue in 2014, her group will help lead the rally against Obamacare. Next cycle, IWV plans to focus its outreach efforts on independents and women. The main goal: help convince those voters that Obamacare must be scrapped. The organization recently launched a new grassroots project, the Independent Women’s Network.

Heather Holdridge
Director of Digital Strategy, Planned Parenthood
Known for her expertise in social media, Holdridge was instrumental in galvanizing her group’s supporters during the 2012 cycle when women’s health issues were a political truncheon for the left. In 2014, she will likely be a part of helping the party message on Obamacare in a cycle that's sure to see Planned Parenthood funding remain a political target. Before joining the group, Holdridge was vice president of digital at Fenton Communications, which specializes in working with nonprofits and foundations.

Maria Teresa Kumar
President and CEO, Voto Latino
Immigration is sure to be a campaign issue in 2014 and Kumar will instrumental in helping supporters of reform by galvanizing young Latino voters. She’s already proved to be media savvy, and a frequent contributor on MSNBC who’s aligned her organization with Hollywood-types like Rosario Dawson, who serves as its chairwoman. A former staffer for then-Congressman Vic Fazio, under Kumar’s leadership her group has directly registered more than 225,000 new voters.

Jenny Beth Martin
President and Co-Founder, Tea Party Patriots
Galvanized by the Great Recession, Beth Martin, a mother, blogger and avid couponer, has been one of the organizational forces behind the Tea Party movement since 2010. This cycle, her group is fighting a multi-front battle against the GOP establishment and will need her talent to remain a force. The group is gearing up to play a role in Republican primary fights ahead of 2014 and it's likely to have the resource it needs to be a real player. During the first half of 2013, the group’s political action arm raised more than American Crossroads, the Super PAC led by Karl Rove.

Jill Neunaber
Executive Director, America Next 
After managing Republican Gabriel Gomez’s unsuccessful Senate bid in Massachusetts, Neunaber turned her attention to leading the policy group founded by Louisiana Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal. The experienced campaign hand—she was Romney’s No. 2 during the primary campaign in New Hampshire and then led his general election effort in Iowa in 2012—could help the oft-rumored presidential contender flex his muscle next year.

Marty Rouse
National Field Director, Human Rights Campaign
After racking up some impressive victories for the LGBT movement in 2012, field guru Rouse is working to keep that momentum going through 2014. The 2012 cycle was a historic one for the gay rights movement—voters in Maryland, Maine and Washington State approved gay marriage at the ballot box. HRC provided field and grassroots support in all of those states. Rouse’s group has also been active in states where legislatures approved gay marriage in 2013. Armed with a winning playbook, Rouse and HRC are gearing up for 2014 and paving the way for the next presidential year, which could see as many as five states with marriage referendums on the ballot.  

Todd Schulte
Executive Director,
The former chief of staff at Priorities USA, an Obama-aligned Super PAC, Schulte is working on making immigration reform a campaign issue. With Silicon Valley’s support, his group is expected to have at least a $50 million budget during the next campaign cycle. And after running down Mitt Romney with attacks on his business record, it is clear Schulte knows how to spend wisely. In 2014, the organization won’t be fighting for immigration reform with a traditional DC-style approach. will have a decidedly tech-heavy focus, planning a handful of hackathons in the coming months. 

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