David All 29, Republican
Before going to work on the Hill at age 24, David All never really considered himself a "tech guy." He had already served as a speechwriter for a U.S. senator and managed a Republican congressional campaign, but when he started work in the office of Rep. Jack Kingston, All hadn't even made his first YouTube video yet. Now he stands on the leading edge of a new generation of Republicans trying to bring the Grand Old Party into the new Internet era. "I started realizing in late 2005, there were all these bloggers out there that absolutely no one was talking to," All says. He made engaging the online community a major peg in his boss' communications strategy and helped earn Kingston the moniker "King of the Blogosphere" as well as an award for "online politician of the year." All spearheaded a modern media strategies workshop for other staffers, and blogs started popping up all over the Hill. "At that time it was like explaining water to people who had only lived in the desert," says Kingston. "It was such a foreign concept, but David changed all that." In early 2007, All founded Slatecard PAC, which he bills as the GOP's answer to ActBlue, the online fundraising vehicle for Democrats. In less than a year, Slatecard has raised more than $350,000 for Republicans.
J.J. Balaban 34, Democrat
A media consultant with the Campaign Group in Philadelphia, J.J. Balaban has been involved with campaign advertising in 27 states and 42 congressional districts. A TV spot he co-wrote for Michael Nutter's successful mayoral bid in Philadelphia last year was broadly credited with helping Nutter win. But his favorite story comes from an earlier race. "In 1996, I had a great time working for [Pennsylvania Democrat] Ron DiNicola in his fierce challenge to then-freshman Congressman Phil English," Balaban says. "Ron was Muhammad Ali's attorney, so Ali came to Erie to help Ron the afternoon before the election. The press hadn't publicized the visit ahead of time, so people opened their doors and were astonished to see The Greatest standing outside. His appearance caused enough of a splash that election eve TV and the Election Day newspaper provided fantastic coverage-something the media is usually loath to give so close to the election."
Luke Bernstein 29, Republican
A career in politics never crossed Luke Bernstein's mind until the days after Sept. 11. At the time, he worked for a financial firm in the south tower of the World Trade Center. After the terrorist attack, Bernstein says he decided almost immediately to devote his life to public service. A staunch conservative, he moved to Washington, D.C. and decided he wanted to work for Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.). "If you want to know how naïve I was, I actually walked into his office with a resume and asked to meet with the senator," Bernstein recalls, laughing. "I'm just glad they didn't think I was totally crazy and have me hauled out." Before he knew it, Bernstein was working as a staff assistant and driver, shuttling Santorum back and forth from D.C. to Pennsylvania. "It was right around the time Enron collapsed and [Santorum] knew my financial background, so he would ask me how a bill might impact investors or certain sectors of the market," Bernstein recalls. "And I always had a good answer." Soon he was working in Santorum's press office and served as deputy campaign manager for Santorum's 2006 re-election bid. After tough statewide losses (including Santorum's seat), the state party tapped Bernstein as executive director. He helped lead the state GOP to critical wins in 2007. "Luke was always able to navigate the grassroots folks and bring together parts of the party that might have been unhappy with me because of a particular stance or a vote I had cast," recalls Santorum. "He did all of that so well, and those are the skills you need to be a successful executive director."
Robert Bluey 28, Republican
Robert Bluey came to Washington hoping to make it as a political reporter, but it wasn't long before he became enamored with the blogosphere. Working as a reporter at Cybercast News Service, Bluey gained national recognition as one of the "Rathergate bloggers," a group of bloggers and reporters who broke the story of the falsified documents CBS relied upon for its report on President Bush's National Guard service. "I remember looking at the documents the day after the story ran and saying, ‘Wow, these look like they were typed on a computer,'" Bluey says. "So I got a few sources on the phone, put a story up and the next thing I knew it was the lead story everywhere." Bluey went on to become the managing editor at the conservative newspaper Human Events, where he developed the paper's first blog. "He's an online entrepreneurial genius," says Terry Jeffery, the paper's editor-at-large. Now at the Heritage Foundation, Bluey leads a weekly gathering of conservative bloggers to talk media strategy and public policy. "He's taught people how to bypass the establishment media," Jeffery says, "and that's been so valuable to the conservative movement."
Mike Bober 29, Republican
So how did Mike Bober get into the fundraising game? "I was just looking for a paid position out of college," he says. He landed at Hammond & Associates, a PAC fundraising firm. "Some of my classmates were taking unpaid internships in congressional offices or on [congressional] committees. I just couldn't afford that." Luckily, Bober found he has a head for numbers and rose to senior associate. Now executive director of the House Conservatives Fund, he is a one-man juggernaut. In the past year, Bober has helped grow the fund's donor base from 3,000 to more than 10,000 individual donors, and he's a regular at Grover Norquist's weekly gathering of conservative activists. "He's exactly the kind of young guy that you know is going to be around in this business for a long time," Norquist says. "He's obviously raising money in an environment that's not that great for Republicans, which makes what he's been able to do even more impressive." Bober is also a two-time Jeopardy champion, winning some $27,602 from his stints on the show.
Meredith Chaiken 32, Democrat
Since graduating from Cornell University in 1998 with a degree in labor economics, Meredith Chaiken has been involved in numerous key Democratic races, including serving as John Kerry's deputy New Hampshire political director and developing critical GOTV models for Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm in 2006. She's currently a senior analyst at the Mellman Group in D.C., a firm that specializes in Democratic polling and general strategy. "I would say that I relish the analytical role I have now, but also draw on my campaign experience constantly-what it means to run a walk list, how hard it is for volunteers to knock on strangers' doors," she says. "It is important to me to be able to understand the constraints of both polling and running campaigns and to communicate effectively in both worlds."
Shane Cory 33, Nonpartisan
When Shane Cory took over the helm of the Libertarian National Committee in 2005, he worked overtime to turn the financial situation of the organization around. After 9/11, the LNC suffered financially due to a lack of contributions and other budgetary constraints. But slowly, largely through direct mail efforts, Cory stabilized the LNC's finances, and even brought them into the black. His prudence served the organization well, along with his constant mantra of thriftiness to his staffers. There was the time, for instance, that he decided to remove the office watercooler. No, it wasn't a prank; he apparently didn't want people lolling around the machine wasting time. Late this spring, Cory moved on from the LNC to take a position as president of the Internet division at American Target Advertising, as well as to serve as a senior political adviser to Libertarian Party presidential candidate Bob Barr.
Julie Germany 29, Nonpartisan
Julie Germany, director of George Washington University's Institute for Politics, Democracy & the Internet, has devoted herself to examining how evolving technologies impact the political process. She has already authored an impressive assortment of papers examining the roles and potential of online political fundraising, peer networking groups, and other web-based technologies that are quickly becoming critical to waging effective campaigns. Germany, who runs 50 to 60 miles a week, has a reputation among colleagues for being extremely disciplined and focused. Carol Darr, who is Germany's predecessor at IPDI, says her former student is a strong leader and effective manager who always stays ahead of the curve. "Julie stays on the cutting edge of the new communication technologies and has a consistent record of spotting trends well before the political community is aware of them," Darr says.
Amy Gershkoff 27, Democrat
The director of analytics for MSHC Partners in Washington, Amy Gershkoff has already established herself as a major authority on microtargeting, polling and campaign strategy. Her most impressive accomplishment to date is SmartClus, a software program she designed last year that improves the accuracy of the clusters used in targeting. Prior to joining MSHC, Gershkoff taught at Princeton University and then served as a senior associate at Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research in Washington. "My favorite professional experience was when [MSHC's president] Hal Malchow told me that he wanted to include a section on SmartClus in the new edition of his book, Political Targeting," Gershkoff recalls. "I remember reading the first edition of his book when I was in graduate school and hoping one day to meet Hal. So ... that was the greatest professional compliment I have ever received." But Gershkoff's intense programming projects came at a cost. "I actually broke the first computer I had when I started working here," she laughs. "I was like, wow, I've worked here less than six months and I just broke a $4,000 machine. I was a little nervous how that was going to go over. The IT guy took it as a challenge to find a computer I couldn't break."
Carrie Giddins 34, Democrat
Carrie Giddins became a familiar face as communications director of the Iowa Democratic Party before the historic caucuses back in January, traveling the state to help explain the quirky system to voters. "This past year, working in Iowa was a real highlight for me," Giddins says. "Iowa was the center of the universe for almost a year, and to have an opportunity to be out there was amazing." The high-profile journalists she met in Iowa have helped Giddins make a smooth transition into analyzing the races for national media outlets. But her most ambitious undertaking yet has been creating her own business, Giddy Up! Communications, a political communications consulting firm in Washington, D.C. Giddins also explains that her ever-growing eraser collection stands at 1,700 and counting. "It all started when I was a kid and my parents would travel to places like London or Tokyo, and couldn't get me a souvenir shot glass, because I was so young. So they got me erasers instead. I hope when people read this they send me some new ones!"
Peter Greenberger 34, Nonpartisan
Some people say Peter Greenberger, manager of elections and issue advocacy with Google Inc., has memorized the names and faces of every politico listed on the popular search engine. Once, in New York City, he and a co-worker were stuck in traffic, so they jumped out of a car and started sprinting to their meeting. "As we are running, sweating, trying to hold onto our bags, figuring out where we are, Peter goes, ‘Oh, there's Steve Forbes!'" recalls Rena Shapiro, who works in the same division with Greenberger. "Sure enough, Steve Forbes was down the street walking towards us. Not only is this a testament to how Peter stays calm under pressure, but it shows how he keeps things in perspective in the most crazy moments of his job." Greenberger continues to face many sweat-inducing challenges, largely centered on convincing candidates and advocacy groups that they should be spending more on search and site targeted advertising. His early advice that politicians buy up "AdWords" on Google, for example, led to Sen. John McCain becoming one of the first to buy in. The Republican nominee now gets six to seven fundraising dollars for every dollar spent on AdWords.
Aaron Houston 29, Nonpartisan
When Aaron Houston, director of government relations for the Marijuana Policy Project, appeared on The Colbert Report in July 2007, he was prepared for the munchies jokes. As the only full-time lobbyist in the U.S. dedicated to ending the government's criminalization of marijuana, he's used to it. Stephen Colbert didn't disappoint, asking Houston if he was "high right now" and proceeding to chow down on Doritos throughout the interview. Keeping a straight face, Houston just kept hitting home his talking points-just as he does when he regularly contacts members of Congress to educate them on marijuana policy. "People who are closeted about their marijuana use sometimes regard me as a person they can confide in, almost like a priest," Houston says. He's heard the confessions of everybody from bike messengers to members of Congress. "I'll never tell who they are," he says, "but if everyone who tried it knew in reality how many people are just like them, I think there might be much less stigmatization of its decriminalization."
Bill Hyers 32, Democrat
Bill Hyers is currently up in Manchester, N.H., managing Jeanne Shaheen's Senate campaign, but it's not his first high-profile campaign. He managed Kirsten Gillibrand's unlikely victory in her 2006 congressional bid in Upstate New York, and managed Michael Nutter's surprising rise to Philadelphia mayor last year. Hyers has often jumped at the opportunity to work for candidates the punditry initially dismissed-and with Hyers' help, most ultimately won. "To me, this business is all about getting good people elected to great positions," he says. "And while a lot of people send their resumes to the top campaigns with the best salaries, for me, working for decent people-not just the hottest candidates at the time-is very underrated."
Daniel Jester 32, Democrat
As a media supervisor with GMMB, a D.C.-based political media firm, Daniel Jester served as Sen. John Kerry's lead media-buying strategist during his 2004 presidential bid. Most recently, he directed Sen. Barack Obama's general market media buys. "So far, my most gratifying professional experience has been working with such an incredibly well-run presidential campaign for one of the most inspirational candidates that we've ever seen," Jester says. "And it comes at a time when we need hope and excitement in our politics." Jester, who was the first person in his family to attend college, grew up in southern Delaware, which he describes as having "many more chickens than people." Jester's clients include A-listers like the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Montana Sen. Max Baucus and former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner.
Jonathan Karush 28, Democrat
President and founder of Liberty Concepts in Boston, Jonathan Karush was also a co-founder of WinWinCampaign.org-one of the first vote-swapping sites-to soften the blow of Ralph Nader's presence in the 2000 presidential election. "Two of my best experiences in this business were helping Tammy Duckworth run for Congress in Illinois in 2006-even though we didn't win, she's one of the absolute best people I've ever worked for-and growing my company 500 percent a year while I was at Harvard in grad school," Karush says.
Jessica Keegan 31, Republican
It was the spring of 2005 when Jessica Keegan realized just how much she missed politics. "I was writing press releases about engine technology, and I said, ‘I just can't do this anymore,'" she remembers. For someone who had managed some $20 million in media expenditures for the National Rifle Association when she was only 27, doing PR for an ad agency focused primarily on aerospace technology just couldn't cut it. So in late 2005, Keegan headed back to Edmonds and Associates, where she had worked for 6 years as a production manager. Now, as a vice president, Keegan is pushing the firm into the digital age. She launched a new media division in 2006 and was soon winning accolades for her online media campaigns. Tom Edmonds, the firm's principal, was glad to have her back. "I joked with her that maybe I shouldn't actually make the decision to bring her back," says Edmonds. When Jessica first interviewed with Edmonds and Associates, other staffers liked her so much that Tom wasn't even allowed to interview her. "My first impressions are notoriously wrong," he explains. "So, they were afraid I would say, ‘Don't hire her.'"
Justine Lam 28, Republican
Prior to her role on Republican Rep. Ron Paul's presidential campaign, Justine Lam had never worked for a politician-and she's not sure she ever will again. "It was about the ideas and the message from the get-go," she says. After college, Lam spent a few years in the non-profit world. She met Paul in 2004, while she worked at George Mason University's Institute of Humane Studies. Looking back, did she ever envision herself working for a candidate even then? "Never, ever, ever, never," she says firmly. But Paul was a different kind of politician, and Lam says he spoke to her political philosophy. As the campaign's second hire, she was tasked with setting up most of the traditional campaign infrastructure, but in her free time she would scan the social networking sites and read the blogs. "He had a lot of support online, and it only made sense to use that." Lam developed online strategies that encouraged supporters to network and raise money outside of the campaign's website. The result: a record for the most money ever raised by a candidate online in a single day, and arguably the most successful netroots campaign in political history. Lam says she's been approached by the Republican National Committee and other GOP groups inquiring about her post-Ron Paul plans. "Something has to really appeal to me emotionally for me to do it," she says.
Byron LaMasters 25, Democrat
During the 2004 presidential campaign, the blogosphere was still relatively foreign territory to many, including those in the mainstream media. But in a historic display of online triumph, Byron LaMasters, who founded the Burnt Orange Report blog, and about three dozen other bloggers were credentialed for the first time to cover the Democratic National Convention. But LaMasters, a senior strategist in the D.C. office of The Tyson Organization, says his most gratifying professional achievements have often involved working on small campaigns. "I'm actually proudest of the work that I've done in down-ballot races, particularly at the state legislative level," he says. And, according to LaMasters, he's always been skilled when it comes to memorization. "I've always been interested in memorizing seemingly random bits of data," he explains. "When I was a kid, I'd memorize baseball statistics. When I was in high school, I started memorizing political trivia-and I asked my parents for the National Journal Almanac of American Politics one year for Christmas. My friends thought that was a little weird."
Louis Levine 30, Democrat
Nine years ago, Louis Levine joined NGP Software, a firm that provides technical assistance for Democrats, including creating online contribution programs and maintaining FEC compliance. In that relatively short time, he has become a central force behind raising the company's profile and a leader in campaign finance compliance law. "My proudest professional accomplishment was the first time I saw NGP listed as a line item in a job description: ‘prior knowledge of NGP a plus,'" Levine says. "It's a great feeling, knowing something that I have helped create is that central to what campaigns do." Levine is the architect of NGP's "global domination plan." The goal seemed a reach when the firm was still in its infancy, he says. "Back then, it was hard to imagine NGP being in the position it is today, involved with nearly 75 percent of Democratic federal incumbents and almost every major race out there."
Steve Marchand 34, Democrat
In 2005, at the age of 31, Steve Marchand was elected mayor of Portsmouth, N.H., the youngest in the state's history. The distinction gave him statewide credibility that helped launch his brief Senate bid last year. Hoping to unseat incumbent Republican Sen. John Sununu, Marchand vowed to bow out if former New Hampshire Gov. Jeanne Shaheen entered the race. He made good on that promise once she announced, winning him the good graces of party elders sure to help him in the future. After putting his Senate ambitions aside for the time being, he founded the Marchand Group, a political and public affairs consulting firm. Marchand says his initial ambitions were to go into sports broadcasting, and that it wasn't until a friend, MSNBC anchor Contessa Brewer, suggested he explore a public administration program at Syracuse University that he considered getting into politics. "One of the things that made me realize sports casting wasn't my destiny, was when I started dating a girl who was a sports broadcaster," Marchand says. "I actually realized that when your favorite recreational activity is also your job, it can be too much. You need some separation between what you do for leisure and what you do professionally."
Patrick Ruffini 30, Republican
Patrick Ruffini first saw the potential for the intersection of the Internet and politics back in 1998. He started a grassroots website and e-mail support list for then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush and grew it into the largest online political community in the 2000 presidential race. Ruffini got noticed by the Republican National Committee and went on to become Bush's web guru for the president's 2004 re-election bid, and later the RNC's eCampaign Director from 2005 to 2007. "It's sort of the classic outsider to insider story," Ruffini says. He oversaw the party's online strategy for the '06 elections, and despite a tough cycle for the GOP, many credit Ruffini with developing new strategies to reach supporters and raise money online. "The goal now is to help the party understand and take advantage of this drastic shift from traditional media to multimedia," Ruffini says.
Chris Russell 34, Republican
It's hard for Chris Russell to imagine not running campaigns. In his six years leading the Burlington County Republican Party in New Jersey, the GOP never lost a county race. In between races, he's tried his hand at state government. "I was never fired, I just quit," he says. "I never got into the ‘put your suit on and work from 9 to 5' routine." Russell has pretty much done it all in New Jersey politics, from GOTV and media buying to direct mail for The Traz Group. "He has tremendous political instincts," says pollster Jim McLaughlin, who has worked with Russell on numerous races. "He's the first guy I'd want on a campaign." And now, Russell is back to what he knows best, running a congressional race in a district highly coveted by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. If Russell's candidate, Republican Chris Myers, makes it through the June 3 primary, he'll face the country's best-funded Democratic challenger: state Sen. John Adler. Russell's other passion is the Caitlin Elizabeth Russell Foundation, which he founded in honor of his daughter Caitlin, who died from complications due to premature birth. The foundation has raised more than $85,000, across party lines, for research into premature birth. "I try not to see people in reds and blues, and the foundation really helps me do that," Russell says.
Melissa Sellers 25, Republican
Melissa Sellers' political education came at an early age. A journalism major, Sellers interned on George Bush's 2000 presidential campaign and a little more than a year later found herself running a campaign for the Texas state House at age 19. "That was when I realized, ‘Hey, this is really fun,'" she says. In her first seven years in professional politics, Sellers has worked on six campaigns, winning five. In 2004 she served as the northeast regional media coordinator for President Bush's re-election campaign and ran the communications shop for Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal's campaign in 2007. Now, as Jindal's press secretary, Sellers has a coveted office directly across from the governor-a space usually reserved for top legislative staffers, but that Jindal insisted on giving her.
Dee Stewart 35, Republican
Watching Ronald Reagan's first inaugural address in 1981, Dee Stewart decided he was a Republican-at the ripe old age of 7. Ever since, Dee says, he's been drawn to the political process, and orchestrated his first campaign victories in middle school. "I've basically been running elections since I was in sixth grade," he says. By age 24, Dee was the finance director of the North Carolina Republican Party. At 25, he became one of the youngest executive directors of a state party in the country. Among his proudest professional achievements: getting some 40,000 people out to the 1999 Iowa Straw Poll, which set an attendance record for a political fundraiser and helped cement the straw poll's status as the kick-off to the GOP presidential primary season. At 27, Dee took a big risk by leaving Iowa to start his own firm in North Carolina. "I literally went from executive director of the Iowa GOP to the absolute bottom of the ladder," he says. But it wasn't long before Dee's firm boasted one of the best winning percentages in the state, and helped lead North Carolina Rep. Patrick McHenry to an improbable victory in a four-person GOP primary. "Dee was the only person, other than me, who actually believed we could win," says McHenry.
Daniel Ureña 31, Nonpartisan
Daniel Ureña, Director of the MAS Consulting Group in Spain, has quickly turned the firm from a startup in 2004 to a leading presence in the international campaign consulting world. A San Antonio-based firm, MAS has offices in Spain and Mexico. During the last Spanish presidential election, he managed the Internet campaign of the conservative People's Party candidate, Mariano Rajoy, and has since developed an impressive roster of political and business clients. He's accomplished all this despite restrictions that American consultants don't have to face. Spain, for instance, doesn't allow campaigns to buy TV ads, campaigns can last only two weeks and the state assigns how much ad time candidates receive. Founder and CEO of MAS Consulting, César Martínez, says Ureña was key in developing the firm's media strategy. "Daniel made me do so many TV shows, radio and print interviews around Spain that I understood the pain our clients go through when they run for office," recalls Martínez. He credits his own growth as a consultant to Ureña's work ethic, along with his motto, "all politics is global."
Note: This page has been corrected since first posted.
Rising Stars 2008
by C&E Staff / May 01 2008
David All 29, Republican Before going to work on the Hill at age 24, David All never really considered himself a "tech guy.
David All 29, Republican