The faces of this year's Rising Stars reflect the changing nature of the political industry.
The political consulting world is evolving and a new generation is emerging. From campaigners focused on the developing craft of data-driven politics to managers rising through the ranks the old fashioned way, we’re confident the 30 operatives who make up C&E's 2012 class of Rising Stars will have a lasting impact on the campaign world.
At C&E, we're particularly proud of our rich history of identifying the future of the industry. Since 1988, C&E has recognized up-and-coming political professionals who have made an early mark on the campaign world with this award. Over the years, our Rising Stars have gone on to serve at the highest levels of government and political consulting. Among the inaugural class: David Axelrod, James Carville, Alex Castellanos and Mike Murphy.
C&E is proud to present the 2012 class of Rising Stars:
Kellen Arno, 30, Nonpartisan
National Field Director, Americans Elect
Kellen Arno’s interest in politics was stoked at a young age as he grew up working around his father’s office as a kid—Michael Arno heads Arno Political Consultants. After some early exposure to the campaign world, Kellen went on to study history at the University of California, Davis. Today, he’s the field director for Arno Political Consultants and has played a key role in the success of Americans Elect this cycle.
As the group’s field director, Arno helped Americans Elect secure a ballot line in all 50 states. The group plans on holding an online nominating process and putting forth a presidential candidate this fall. Arno’s main work includes navigating election laws and ballot access rules. Arno led the creation of the Americans Elect team of volunteer and paid leaders throughout the country and on hundreds of college campuses through network-driven tactics and social media outreach.
“I’m really working on building a base of volunteers who are passionate and utilizing that community,” says Arno. “We currently have about 3,000 nationwide.” It helped Americans Elect earn the People’s Choice Award earlier this year at SXSW. “Kellen Arno isn’t just a Rising Star, he’s a blazing comet,” boasts Republican strategist Mark McKinnon, who has worked with Arno on the Americans Elect effort.
Along with his stateside work at Arno Political Consultants over the past eight years, Arno has managed GOTV and voter outreach programs in Latin America and Europe. Heading up the Americans Elect team in California, Arno helped gather 1.65 million signatures to ensure ballot access for the state come November. It set a record for most signatures gathered in California for ballot access and has only been done once before in the state’s history.
Ginny Badanes, 30, Republican
Political Director, CMDI
Ginny Badanes found her political interest sparked as a student studying political science at Duke University. She started out a psychology major, but soon shifted to politics and never looked back. Right out of college, Badanes landed at CMDI, where she assisted with compliance for the Bush-Cheney 2004 reelection effort.
For the past eight years, Badanes has worked her way up through the ranks at CMDI, which offers campaigns and political committees a suite of software solutions to help increase their fundraising potential. Badanes now directs the political department at CMDI where the firm’s principals give her credit for strengthening the company’s reputation with its client base and bringing CMDI out from behind the curtain and into the larger community of Republican campaigns.
“We have a high retention rate here,” Badanes says of her company, “particularly in campaigns. It was a small company when I started here. When I started, the Bush-Cheney campaign was the only full service campaign client we had.” Most recently, Badanes oversaw the development and launch of the company’s Crimson CRM platform, which has been deployed by five presidential campaigns, three national party committees and more than 20 Senate campaigns.
Kellee Barron-Lanza, 33, Republican
Vice President, Jackson Alvarez Group
Rarely do you find a five year old as interested in politics as Kellee Barron-Lanza was when she was a kid. “Everyone always grows up thinking of Hollywood or business having all the power, but I always thought about the people who make the laws,” says Barron-Lanza. Her first real exposure to the campaign world came in 1998 when she was just a sophomore in college. Lanza volunteered on Phil Hawkins’ State Assembly race in California. Shortly after that race, Barron-Lanza took an internship with California Rep. Ed Royce, and later worked as staff assistant to former Rep. Chris Cox.
While pursuing a degree in political science at California State University Long Beach, she continued working as a staff assistant for California Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, and before long discovered an interest in political research. In 2008, Barron-Lanza began work at MB Public Affairs as a research associate. And since 2011, Barron-Lanza has served as vice president of the Jackson Alvarez group where she puts her research expertise and passion for politics to work for Republican candidates all across the country. She’s also learning the art of opposition research from one of the best in the business—longtime researcher Gary Maloney.
Barron-Lanza’s work helped Mississippi Republicans defeat seven incumbent Democrats this past year, giving Republicans control of the Mississippi State House. She also played a role in the GOP takeover of the Virginia State Senate when her research helped Bill Stanley defeat Roscoe Reynolds, one of two incumbent Democratic state senators to lose that year. When Barron-Lanza made the move from MB Public Affairs in Sacramento, Calif. to the Jackson-Alvarez Group in Washington, several of her clients followed.
Barron-Lanza’s advice to young operatives looking to make their mark: “Just don’t get discouraged, and take advantage of every opportunity.”
Bradley Beychok, 30, Democrat
Campaign Director, American Bridge 21st Century
It was 2003 and Bradley Beychok was sitting in the backseat of an Orange Honda Element behind Mary Matalin and James Carville on the way to an event in Georgetown. He asked Carville, who he was interning for at the time, about a reference letter for grad school. Beychok wanted to do a campaign management program. Carville said he was happy to write the letter but Matalin scoffed, Beychok remembers.
To be successful in politics, she said, “you’re either brilliant like my husband, or you go do every job in a campaign.” And so the boy from Louisiana returned home to follow Matalin’s advice. Beychok worked as a finance director on former Rep. Charlie Melancon’s first House race. Beychok later served as Melancon’s campaign manager. In 2008, he served as coordinated campaign director for Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.).
After that, Melancon trusted him enough to manage the toughest race of his career—his 2010 challenge to Sen. David Vitter (R). Beychok helped him keep it close during a tough year for Democrats, particularly in the South. “It was one of those campaigns that you wake up saying, ‘I want to swing as hard as I can,’” says Beychok. Fast forward to 2012 and Beychok is at the helm of American Bridge, a progressive Super PAC that employs over 50 people. “I certainly owe a great deal of my path in politics to James,” he says.
Carville, meanwhile, praised Beychok’s willingness to take on challenges. “Bradley learned the hard way,” says Carville. “[He’s] quickly worked his way from my intern to one of the most sought after operatives in Washington, D.C.”
Jennifer Beytin, 33, Democrat
Creative Director, Beytin Agency
At the Beytin Agency, it’s Jennifer Beytin who’s the creative force behind much of the firm’s direct mail work. For the past decade, Beytin has designed winning mail programs for a host of competitive state and federal campaigns, including a slew of issue groups and nonprofits. “I’ve been lucky in the sense that I’ve had the chance to work with some really great consultants in the field,” says Beytin, whose direct mail and creative resume is an impressive one. Prior to serving as partner and creative director at the Beytin Agency, she worked at The New Media Firm, was a senior associate at Murphy Putnam Media, and worked at the direct mail firm Kennedy Communications.
When her husband, Aaron, decided to start his own direct mail firm, Beytin says it only made sense to join forces in business, too. So she left The New Media Firm to become partner and creative director at the Beytin Agency. “Aaron was looking for a creative partner and it just worked,” says Beytin.
Having worked in both mail and media firms, Beytin says it was the targetability of direct mail that eventually drew her to the specialty. “Based on sound research, you can create compelling messages that really resonate with voters,” she says.
One of Beytin’s favorite mail pieces is the one she designed for Adam Taliaferro, a candidate for Gloucester County Freeholder in New Jersey. Taliaferro was a football star at Penn State who overcame a paralyzing injury, and eventually learned to walk again. “Adam was determined to prove the doctors wrong,” part of the mailer read. “After months of excruciating therapy and hard work, he slowly regained control over his limbs and his life.”
Jon Black, 31, Republican
Research Director, National Republican Congressional Committee
One of the most rewarding parts of the job for Jon Black, the National Republican Congressional Committee’s research director, is when a potential opponent gets wind of a piece of oppo he’s uncovering and ends their campaign before it even starts. “That’s happened a few times,” says Black. “It’s always fun.”
Black got his start in the campaign world as a volunteer back in Salt Lake City, Utah during the 2002 cycle. Black worked that year for Republican John Swallow, who was running against Rep. Jim Matheson in what turned out to be one of the closest races of the cycle. Two years later, Swallow ran against Matheson again and Black served as the campaign’s political director. This time the loss came by a slightly larger margin, but it led to Black finding his way to Capitol Hill where after a year as a legislative aide he came upon an opening in the research department at the NRCC. After a stint in the research department at the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Black returned to the NRCC, this time as the committee’s research director.
Now, research may be Jon Black’s life, but he admits that it wasn’t always his first interest. “I don’t know if anyone really goes into politics thinking they want to do research,” says Black. “It’s kind of the offensive line of politics. Nobody cares about you until you make a mistake.” For Black, 2010 was the crowning achievement by far. House Republicans defeated more than 60 Democratic incumbents and took back control of the lower chamber in historic fashion. “It’s great to see your research hit, especially when Democrats aren’t expecting it,” says Black. “We had a lot of that in 2010.”