The 2010 Rising Stars | Democrats | Republicans | Nonpartisan & International Armando J.
It is safe to say that political struggles have had a greater influence on Armando Arana’s life than they have had on most other people. When Arana was young, his family fled Nicaragua and Daniel Ortega’s communist regime. More than twenty years later, he was forced to flee the same regime again. Arana returned to Nicaragua from Miami in 1991 and became involved with the Liberal Party. In the 2001 presidential election, he designed the party’s youth platform. The Liberal Party went on to win and Arana joined the Foreign Service. It was in his role as a Consul General to Costa Rica that Arana organized his most impressive campaign. In the 2006 presidential election, Arana managed a campaign that registered 25,000 Nicaraguans living in Costa Rica and paid for their travel to vote in Nicaragua on Election Day. The Liberal Party lost and Ortega returned to power in 2006. So Arana and his family left Nicaragua for Florida again. Through it all, Arana has remained passionate and committed to politics. “I’ve grown up with a perseverance to provide public service,” he says. “I enjoy making a difference in communities.” Arana recalls first getting involved in his community when he was a teenager in Miami, Florida. His brother and he were accomplished in martial arts and became well known locally. To put their celebrity to good use, they started youth programs. The programs were so successful that Miami-Dade County named a day for him. “That was the seed of the motivation to do what I do now,” Arana says.Nancy Carlson, 27, Nonpartisan Senior Account Manager, Goddard Claussen
You don’t often run into experts on the national beverage tax, but Nancy Carlson has become the preeminent one. And she relishes the role. Carlson is the point person for the American Beverage Association in knocking down a beverage tax wherever and whenever one pops up. So far, 13 states have proposed such a tax. There was even some talk earlier this year that a beverage tax would be used to help offset the cost of national healthcare reform. Some of the proposals have come and gone and some are still on the table. To Carlson, fighting the beverage tax is a perfect fit for a wide range of campaign techniques. “From a campaign perspective,” she says, “We’ve gotten to use pretty much every tactic you can think of.” Carlson has overseen the use of direct mail, websites, e-mails and other forms of voter contact in her campaigns. “It’s just a great opportunity to use every tool you can to communicate your message,” she adds. Originally from North Carolina, Carlson got involved in politics with the Bush-Cheney 2004 campaign. She worked primarily in communications, but soon realized she preferred issue advocacy work over candidate driven campaigns. She landed at Goddard Claussen as an assistant to the vice president four years ago and has steadily moved up the ranks since. When she isn’t busy rooting for University of North Carolina basketball, Carlson has also worked for the American College of Cardiology and the Corcoran Art Museum.Brittany Greer, 23, International Online Campaigns Manager, U.K. Conservative Party
This spring’s elections in Britain saw a major first for politics across the pond—widespread use of new media tactics and techniques. As online campaign manager for the Conservative Party, Brittany Greer was right at the center of it. “Online fundraising is something in particular that evolved quickly in this election,” says Greer. “It had really never been done here at all before.” Greer’s rise through the Tory campaign ranks was a swift one. In October 2009, she started as a new media intern for the party and by January she was named online manager at the age of 22. Greer had a leading role in the re-vamping of MyConservatives.org, the website launched by the party that served as a portal for the types of online campaign activity new to the U.K. The Conservatives began using Google Ad Words and fundraising via e-mail appeals and online. Nothing revolutionary by U.S. standards, but tactics that until this past campaign were either entirely ignored in the U.K. or employed with little success. Once they got over the initial hurdle of convincing party operatives and candidates the new media tactics were worthwhile, Greer says it paid major dividends. “We cleared far more than we spent,” she says. “And I think now people see that it really is the next step in political campaigning here.” One of the most effective online targeting tools for the Tories: Match.com. The party was able to easily target ads based on variables such as income level. As for what’s next for Greer, the Texas native who got her start at a Florida lobbying firm, expects that improving the Conservative Party’s new media savvy will remain her forte for the foreseeable future.Jordana Ingber, 27, Nonpartisan V.P. and Creative Director, Sheinkopf Communications
Jordana Ingber isn’t one to assign herself a party label. As vice president and creative director at the New York-based i rm Sheinkopf Communications, Ingber has worked for corporate clients, Democrats and at least one Democrat-turned-Republican-turned-independent mayor. She has also just about done it all when it comes to political and strategic communications: radio, TV and direct mail. Ingber started working for Hank Sheinkopf, one of the most creative media minds in the business, straight out of Columbia University in 2005. Just a year later, she produced one of her first attack ads for Democrat Jack Davis’ congressional race. Davis was running to replace former Rep. Tom Reynolds in the wake of the Mark Foley Congressional page scandal. Ingber’s ad painted Reynolds as chief of a GOP cover up of Foley’s behavior and evoked comparisons to Lyndon Johnson’s infamous “Daisy” ad from commentator Chris Matthews. During the 2008 cycle, Ingber spearheaded a nationwide direct mail campaign for Mayors Against Illegal Guns—a coalition of mayors from across the country, led by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Boston Mayor Tom Menino. The group targeted half a dozen congressional races in ’08, with Ingber producing mail on the winning side in five of the six. Last year, Ingber was part of the mayor’s reelection team—Bloomberg’s own team of rivals that drew from both sides of the aisle. “I was like a freshman joining the Olympic dream team,” Ingber says. “It was a tremendous learning experience, not only working with such a group of people, but also seeing just how professionally a campaign can be run.” During the ‘09 mayor’s race, Ingber served as the Bloomberg campaign’s sole radio producer, cranking out more than 100 different spots between April and November. She also had to meet New York City’s unique targeting challenges. She produced spots in seven different languages while targeting 10 distinct audiences.Gideon Lett, 30, Nonpartisan Senior Associate, APCO Worldwide
Gideon Lett can barely remember a time in his childhood when he wasn’t involved in politics. At the age of seven in East Tennessee, Lett was already wearing campaign t-shirts and handing out literature for local campaigns. Lett went to Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama, thinking he would get out of politics, but it sucked him back in. He became heavily involved in campus groups and campaigns. Campaigns suited his personality. “I found the work itself rewarding,” he says. “The intensive give and take and competition that’s involved in campaigns. I’m very competitive.” Soon after graduating, though, he wanted something more stable than life on the campaign trail. “Once I got tired of putting everything in the back of an SUV,I decided to come to D.C.,” he says. Lett quickly found himself with the National Association of Home Builders. By the age of 25, Lett was running their multi-million dollar national political arm. He also ran the home builders well-regarded campaign training program. That led to APCO World Wide, where he handles issue advocacy and voter education projects. His competitive network and ability to land clients have helped him climb the ladder to senior associate. “He’s got an excellent network in Washington,” says Mike Hotra, Lett’s supervisor at APCO. “He has a really deep Rolodex and is really good at finding new business. He also thinks creatively about new business opportunities.”Sarah Longwell, 30, Nonpartisan Communications Director, Berman and Company
Sarah Longwell relishes taking on groups that are often thought of as sacred cows—organizations like The Humane Society, Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the Center for Science and the Public Interest. Longwell’s public relations firm, Berman and Company has a major bone to pick with all three. “It has been said that we always have a knife in our teeth,” says Longwell. “And it’s true that we are very edgy and aggressive in our issue advertising.” She likes to think of one of the firm’s missions as being a watchdog for the watchdog groups—organizations that she says often start out with good intentions but don’t live up to the purity suggested in their names. A large part of the firm’s aggressiveness over the past few years seems to come from Longwell herself. She joined Berman and Company in 2005 as a media associate and was named communications director in 2006. Longwell played a lead role in transforming the niche firm into one of the highest profile P.R. firms in Washington, D.C. Longwell started pitching op-eds more aggressively, upping placement for the firm’s clients by 200 percent. Another result of the firm’s increased visibility were profiles in USA Today and the Wall Street Journal, followed by a “60 Minutes” feature devoted to the firm. Longwell describes her own politics as more libertarian—“socially liberal with a probusiness free market bent.” And that’s a pretty good description of where many of Berman and Company’s clients position themselves—the firm takes on everything from food and beverage politics to unionization. In 2009, the firm fought the Employee Free Choice Act with a media campaign worth just shy of $30 million. “That’s what we do here everyday,” she says. “It’s about taking on people who are trying to restrict freedom.”Israel Navarro, 29, International Coordinator, The Governance Program for Latin America (GWU)
Israel Navarro’s first campaign experience in his native Mexico came seven years ago in a race for governor of San Luis Potosi. Even though Navarro’s candidate lost, it was on that campaign that he found his way into the political consulting world. He was offered a job at a firm where he learned the art of polling and public opinion. Over the next few years he served as pollster and general consultant on several mayors’ races in his home state in Mexico. He took a three-year hiatus from the consulting world after being appointed to a city government post in San Luis Potosi, but he was set on an eventual return to the consulting trade. “I kept focused on returning to the campaigning world,” says Navarro. “I knew that if I really wanted to succeed in the political world, I would need to improve my skills at the Mecca of political consulting.” So he set out to earn a master’s in political management from the Graduate School of Political Management at George Washington University. There he began working on a training program aimed at better equipping public officials in Latin America to deal with governance issues. Navarro also re-entered consulting, working with candidates in Guanajuato, Mexico and in the Dominican Republic. One of Navarro’s missions: Demonstrating the role of consultants and other outside voices in the campaign process in Mexico. Says Navarro, “In a country where for more than 70 years, the president’s will was the only one that mattered and with a political class that believes electoral victory is only achieved by giving away groceries to voters on Election Day, I believe this is a strong contribution to our discipline abroad.”Gaurav Oberoi, 30, Nonpartisan CEO, Precision Polling
It was while doing some market research for a friend of his that Gaurav Oberoi discovered what looked to him like a giant hole in the self-service political polling market. With one successful software startup already under his belt—Oberoi founded BillMonk, a free website that helps roommates track and split bills, in 2005—Precision Polling was born in 2009. The software company offers a web application that lets anyone design and run their own automated phone polls. “It occurred to me when I saw what the market looked like, that there was really no self-service solution,” he says. “After doing some homework, I realized there was an opportunity to create a business and to bring more structure and rigor to the political process.” The company has been around for less than a year, but dozens of campaigns have already used the software, including the Washington State House Democratic Campaign Committee and the DNC. While he admits that Precision Polling can’t completely replace full service polling firms, Oberoi says the benefits are many, especially for campaigns without blockbuster budgets. The next step, he says, is moving beyond campaigns and into government operations. “Imagine if your local government was running polls to keep a baseline of their performance,” Oberoi says.Santos Ortega, 33, International Public Affairs Director, MAS Consulting Spain
Ten years into his career as a political consultant, Santos Ortega has already left a significant mark on politics in multiple countries. Now a top strategist at MAS Consulting Spain—one of Spain’s biggest firms—Ortega has worked throughout the country and in Brazil. Ortega has worked extensively for the People’s Party of Spain, including the current president of the region of Madrid. All in all, he has written speeches or trained more than 500 candidates in Spain and across Europe. Notably, Ortega has also sought to expand and improve political consulting in Europe. He has launched the first ever post graduate program in public affairs in conjunction with the Pontificial University of Comillas, one of Spain’s top universities. Since 2008, Ortega has worked for the Spanish city of Caceres in the communications and public affairs efforts. As a result of his work, which has been recognized with international awards, the city has raised its profile and improved relations with other European cities. Ortega has also worked in South America. He is currently advising Democratas 25, Brazil’s center-right party, on its strategy for the upcoming state and presidential elections.Robert Silver, 34, International Principal, Crestview Public Affairs
There isn’t as large a market for boutique political consultant firms in Canada, but the market that does exist was quickly cornered by Robert Silver when he launched Dynamic Political Consulting in 2005. In five years, Silver has become one of Canada’s most frequently quoted pundits and recently merged his office with Crestview Public Affairs, giving the Toronto-based liberal a national client base. Silver began his career working in the Ontario premier’s office, focusing on energy and infrastructure issues. When he left that office, he was well positioned to start his own shop and starting from scratch seemed to suit him. “I’m a bit entrepreneurial by nature,” he says. “Because I had been doing energy work both in private practice and in the premier’s office, I just saw a good niche. From day one, I had a good number of clients.” That list of clients grew to over 50 in four years, in part because of Silver’s punditry work; he is a commentator and blogger for the Globe and Mail, one of Canada’s biggest newspapers. “Like a lot of us who are struck by the silly affliction that is politics and business, punditry is a natural extension of that,” he says. One of Silver’s clients is the Association of Power Producers of Ontario. Its president, Dave Butters, says Silver is the only government affairs consultant they need. “Robert is always helpful and always forthright and honest,” says Butters. He has the ability to knit together the pieces that are really important to the people who are paying him.”
Each year Campaigns & Elections chooses a select group of political operatives and strategists to be named Rising Stars. The 2010 winners include not only consultants and campaign managers, but technological innovators, fundraisers and an art director. Every one of the hundreds of applications we received painted a picture of talented and hard-working people who are younger than 35 years old, but the 40 chosen to be Rising Stars stood out above the rest. This year's awards are presented by Aristotle.