Michael Moschella, 31, Democrat
Truman National Security Project
When Michael Moschella arrived at Cornell University, he picked up a copy of The Cornell Review and it practically got his blood boiling. “It was filled with all of this ridiculous stuff,” Moschella recalls. “And then I discovered that Ann Coulter had founded it.” It pushed Moschella toward helping rebuild the campus Democrats at Cornell, and he has been working on Democratic campaigns and causes ever since.
The encounter that really cemented Moschella’s desire to devote his career to politics—a meeting with then-Sen. Elect Hillary Clinton, who was on her thank you tour after winning her seat. Moschella had worked Tompkins County for Clinton—it was one of the few counties in the state she had won. Next up for Moschella was a gig on the gubernatorial campaign of Robert Reich in Massachusetts in 2002, followed by field work for a handful of congressional campaigns. After Sen. John Kerry lost in 2004, Moschella and a handful of other operatives began looking at just why it was so tough for Democrats to find post-campaign gigs.
“Republicans had created an amazing network to train their folks, so we wanted to change what we were doing,” he says. “We started to realize that [Democrats] really didn’t have a core base of people who understood national security and defense.” So in 2008, Moschella took over the political shop at the Truman National Security Project and began developing leadership and development training camps across the country. The organization trains staffers—from both sides of the aisle—all across the country on national security issues. He also founded the New Leaders Council (NLC), which now runs campaign training institutes everywhere from Iowa to San Francisco.
Casey Phillips, 31, Republican
Founder, RedPrint Strategies
Anne Crockett-Stark was just the scrappy, upstart challenger that Casey Phillips gravitated to early in his career. During her first race for the Virginia House of Delegates the flame-haired Republican, who boasted a distant relation to frontiersman Davy Crockett, was considered a long shot. “I totally threw everything I had into that race. I actually lived in a gas station,” says Phillips, chuckling. “An abandoned gas station.” The South Dakota native, who started in 2002 with Sen. John Thune, rolled into Wytheville in his sticker plastered Jeep Cherokee and got to work recruiting volunteers. At the time, Phillips’ bass player-length long hair was a hit at campus parities.
“We had a very robust GOTV effort,” he recalls. In the heart of Virginia coal country, Phillips helped put Crockett-Stark over the top. The victory was dubbed a “Southern Surprise” and earned Phillips some notoriety. In fact, it’s what got him hired to manage Van Taylor’s 2006 race against then-Waco Rep. Chet Edwards (D) in the Texas 17th.
The NRCC came calling after that. They wanted him for a senior field position, but didn’t have the budget to hire him until the following year. Instead of waiting by the phone, Phillips went south to Mississippi. There he took charge of Delbert Hosemann’s secretary of state campaign and took Hosemann from third place to first with a brilliant TV ad that featured an old lady sitting on a bench messing up the name Delbert. “It opened my eyes to the power of a really good, creative political ad,” he says.
Video production was something Phillips had an interest ever since “Dances with Wolves” was filmed near the century-old family ranch where he grew up. “One of my earliest memories is being on that set,” he says. “Fast forward 20 years and I go to work at the NRCC as a regional field director.” He worked the 2008 cycle as a kind of Mr. Wolf of the political world, standing up House challenger campaigns around the country. Two years later, he spent 200 nights on the road for state-level candidates on behalf of the Republican State Leadership Committee.
As Phillips moved to establish himself as a media consultant, many of those ambitious politicians became his clients. “I concentrate really hard on writing and producing top quality ads that tell a story,” he says. “Every time you do a good ad you get more phone calls.”
Justin Schuck, 31, Republican
President and Founder, Influential
Not too long ago Justin Schuck was having second thoughts about a career in politics. With a couple cycles under his belt, he’d landed gigs consulting for a few issue groups during the 2008 campaign. But post-Election Day, they evaporated and left him with tens of thousands of dollars in uncollectible bills. “That was kind of rough,” he says.
Schuck, who specializes in marketing, video production and website design, remembers thinking: “I can’t throw $60,000 down a hole every cycle.” So he moved to New York, began taking more corporate work and tried hard to forget the cash he’d been stiffed. Then, in 2010, the Republican Governors Association came calling. They’d seen Schuck’s portfolio on a design website and invited him to D.C. for an interview. Schuck, 31, went somewhat reluctantly. During the interview, he made it clear: he wasn’t some plaid-shirt-wearing, jean-clad tech kid who needed cash for pizza.
Paul Bennecke, then the RGA’s political director, recalls asking Schuck to come up with a website design concept in 48 hours. He came back with two—one of which the committee ended up using. “Justin demonstrated he was the person we were looking for,” Bennecke says. The experience at the RGA that cycle was so rewarding that Schuck shifted back into the political consulting world full-time, launching the politically focused boutique creative agency Influential. “It renewed my faith in the party,” he says. “It renewed my faith in politics.”
Regina Schwartz, 28, Democrat
Deputy Director, Analyst Institute
Regina Schwartz is at the heart of the evidence-based revolution in politics. As deputy director at the Analyst Institute, Schwartz schools progressive groups and campaign staffers on best practices based on the latest scientific testing. It’s an analytical trend that more and more campaigns and organizations are embracing with the Analyst Institute right on the cutting edge. \
“We’ve been able to help lots of different organizations spend their limited resources in a smart and effective way,” says Schwartz. “The goal is to help groups become better with every election cycle.” Schwartz has been with the Analyst Institute from its inception in 2007 after working as a regional field organizer on Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s (D-N.Y.) first congressional race, as well as union and campus organizing.
Following a stint as a staffer on Capitol Hill, Todd Rogers called Schwartz to see if she wanted to be his first hire at the Analyst Institute. “I really did enjoy being out in the field, but this was a great way to put my academic background to work,” says Schwartz, a Harvard graduate. She started as an analyst, and has worked her way up to the role of deputy director. In her time at the Analyst Institute, Schwartz honed the reputation of the organization’s training department, which helps build the data and analytical skills of progressive staffers across the country.
“A lot of groups in Washington have great data and analytical departments,” she says. “They’ve only grown and become stronger over the past couple of years using randomized experiments and employing best practices.”
Dylan Sharpe, 28, International
Communications Director, Countryside Alliance
Talk about a baptism by fire. Five years ago, Dylan Sharpe went from working as media officer in Britain’s Department of Education to working press for Boris Johnson—the closest thing the U.K. had to a celebrity candidate. On Johnson’s successful 2008 London mayoral campaign, Sharpe handled press inquiries and traveled with Johnson on campaign stops across London.
“We’d go and speak to University students in London and Boris would be mobbed afterwards,” recalls Sharpe. “I’d have to drag him out of crowds constantly. He was our Arnold Schwarzenegger.”
Given Johnson’s background in television, questions about the candidate’s career and personal life were often more frequent than questions about his policy positions. For Sharpe, it hammered home the value of repetition, and of staying on message. “The press will always want to talk to you about something else,” he says. “But we stuck very rigidly to what he was going to do for London. It was a great lesson.”
After Johnson’s mayoral campaign, Sharpe went on to serve as campaign director for Big Brother Watch, a pressure group focused on civil liberties and privacy. Colleagues credit Sharpe for significantly raising the group’s profile and helping turn it into a leading voice on privacy. This past spring, Sharpe ran the press office for the No to AV campaign. The so-called alternative vote referendum would have altered the way U.K. voters elect MPs. During Sharpe’s time as head of press, supporters of the No to AV campaign went from underdogs to victors. On Election Day, voters rejected the referendum handily.
Currently, Sharpe is the head of media and campaigns for the Countryside Alliance, an organization focused on furthering the interests of the country’s rural areas. Countryside has already seen an increase in coverage and exposure with Sharpe heading the press office and developing its communications strategy.