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Since 1988, Campaigns & Elections has recognized the young operatives who will shape the future of political campaigns with its coveted Rising Star award.
Among those honored over the years: titans of the campaign industry, including David Axelrod, Ben Ginsberg, Celinda Lake, Mark Mellman and Stan Greenberg.
Rising Star recipients have climbed to the heights of politics, launching dozens of successful consulting firms and serving at the highest levels of state and federal campaigns.
We're proud to introduce a new class of Rising Stars. The 2016 class will be recognized on June 15 at the W in Washington, DC as part of our annual Campaign Expo conference.
Alexandra Angel, Republican
Vice President, America Rising LLC
Angel has one of the toughest jobs on the right: Finding new oppo research on Hillary Clinton, one of the most known-commodity candidates in U.S. history. Leading a team of eight analysts, Angel directs day-to-day research and rapid response operations focused specifically on the 2016 presidential race. Before going to America Rising, Angel spent two years as an account executive at DCI Group, where she tracked federal legislation. She’s also done a couple stints at the RNC and worked as deputy operations director on Steve Poizner’s 2010 gubernatorial run in California. She’s also put her research and analytical skills to use as an instructor for the Close Up Foundation, a group that promotes civic participation.
Georgina Arellano, International
Partner, Sirac Communication
One of the leading public opinion analysts in Mexico, Georgina Arellano’s qualitative work helped lay the groundwork for the presidential race of Enrique Peña Nieto. Currently a partner and the chief opinion analyst at Sirac Communication, Arellano has advised government agencies across Mexico and more than 30 campaigns, highlighted by Nieto’s winning presidential race. Over the past two years, Arellano has put her digital communications expertise to work for the Office of the General Prosecutor (Mexico’s Attorney General) during some high profile crises, including the escape and subsequent capture of the drug lord El Chapo.
Ali-Jae Asselstine, Republican
Account Executive, Google
After working for Sue Lowden's 2010 Senate campaign in Nevada and directing the Western Republican Leadership Conference, Asselstine joined Targeted Victory and managed advertising teams for Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign. After joining Google, she's continued to work with presidentials and this cycle has advised Ted Cruz for President, Donald Trump for President, and Rand Paul’s effort, which she helped livestream a full day in the life of the candidate on the trail. She’s also worked with down-ballot campaigns to test messaging ahead of major TV buys. Now, she uses her experience as an "online field staffer" to push even the most recalcitrant Republican candidates to try new ideas, an effort that earns hat tips from other digital professionals.
Elizabeth Bennett, Democrat
Account Manager, Revolution Messaging
Bennett shares some of the responsibility for keeping the Democratic presidential primary going as long as it has. As deputy digital advertising director for the Bernie Sanders campaign, Bennett has helped the Vermont senator compete – and win – against the juggernaut Clinton campaign. Her tenure includes a number of notable firsts: the Sanders camp was the first political campaign to purchase a sponsored content piece on Politico in Spanish for targeted states, the first to place a national homepage takeover on nytimes.com and the first to advertise a multi-day sponsored Snapchat filter starting with the Iowa caucuses. Before joining Revolution Messaging, Bennett worked with Squared Communications and served on the battleground press team for the 2012 Democratic National Convention.
Hans Goff, Democrat
Primary State Regional Director, Hillary Clinton for America
From laying the groundwork for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign as the southern regional organizing director at Ready for Hillary to serving as primary state regional director at Hillary for America, the field organizing prowess of Hans Goff has paid dividends for the presumptive Democratic nominee. Goff started his career in New Jersey, working in the Trenton mayor’s office and later in the New Jersey General Assembly Majority office. He also worked Jon Corzine’s gubernatorial campaign, several targeted campaigns for the DNC, and Obama’s 2012 reelect. This cycle, he coordinated field teams that helped Clinton to sizable primary victories in a slew of southern states.
Ashleigh Grant, Republican
Director, Political Accounts & Strategy, IMGE
Grant could have been a teacher if she hadn’t caught the campaign bug. During her time as the digital political director at the NRCC and on the Republican State Leadership Committee’s digital team, Grant estimates she’s trained more than 50 candidates and campaigns on digital strategy. Moreover, while at the NRCC she developed an in-house digital fundraising program for congressional candidates that’s still in use. In 2015, she joined IMGE as a senior account manager on its political team and the Florida native was quickly promoted to director, political accounts and strategy.
Jim Green, Democrat
Industry Executive, Quantcast
Green’s first foray into politics came at the age of 6 when he raised money for Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey. As an adult, he’s a field organizer turned digital ad pro who started his professional career working for Democrat Inez Tenenbaum’s Senate campaign in South Carolina. He returned to his native Nebraska in 2008 and worked with the state Democratic Party, Obama for America and Senate candidate Scott Kleeb. Beyond working field, Green also served as a fundraiser for Eric Ferguson’s Virginia delegate race – a position he also held for Illinois Democrat John Fritchey’s 2009 run for House. In 2013, he returned to his hometown of Omaha to manage the reelection bid of then-Mayor Jim Suttle. Meanwhile, Green put his campaign experience to work as an account executive for NGP VAN, a partner at VoterTide and a senior director of business development at DSPolitical before joining Quantcast.
Michael Harinstein, Republican
EVP, Vertical Strategies
Michael Harinstein has been at the forefront of digital campaigning over the past two cycles. Most recently, Harinstein served as digital director of Marco Rubio’s Reclaim America PAC ahead of the Florida senator’s 2016 run, substantially building the PAC’s email list and social outreach efforts. Prior to that, he played a leading role in building out Americans for Prosperity’s marketing department. Harinstein managed the ad and acquisition program for the NoStimulus.com campaign—an AFP effort that generated some 750,000 email acquisitions during the 2008 cycle. That also included a robust online ad and email campaign paired with a social outreach effort. He ran AFP’s online platform for its volunteer phone program in 2010 and managed digital efforts around AFP’s initial field program in ’12. Currently, EVP at Vertical Strategies, Harinstein is managing digital strategy for multiple Senate and Congressional races, as well as several PACs this cycle.
Mark Jablonowski, Democrat
Partner and Chief Technology Officer, DSPolitical
By the end of Barack Obama’s first presidential campaign, Mark Jablonowski had worked his way into the hierarchy of the groundbreaking campaign’s technology structure, developing a new and more efficient framework to connect the IT infrastructure between campaign headquarters in Chicago and OFA offices in the states. Jablonowski went on to serve as CTO of the presidential inauguration. Ever since, he has been a tech innovator on the left. Jablonowski founded his own digital consultancy, Rogue Global Solutions, and along with four other alums from the Obama campaign launched Atlas Voter Protection, an online tool campaigns can use to manage their voter protection operation. Two years ago, he joined DSPolitical to launch DemocraticAds.com, the company’s self service platform that has helped scale sophisticated digital advertising tactics down the ballot to benefit smaller Democratic campaigns across the country.
Greg Jackson, Democrat
National Field Director, For Our Future PAC
Political activism is personal for Greg Jackson, not just because of his belief in the causes of the progressive movement, but given his firsthand brush with DC gun violence while working for Organizing for America in 2013. Jackson was hit by a stray bullet on a DC street—the recovery process spanned nearly two years. Jackson ran field for President Obama’s 2012 campaign in North Carolina, later serving as field director of the DCCC during the 2014 cycle. Last year, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser tapped Jackson to lead the district’s office of community relations, where he launched a new civic engagement initiative to bring together government agencies, residents, business and community leaders. For the ’16 cycle, Jackson is back on the campaign trail as the national field director of For Our Future PAC, a coalition of unions and Democratic groups that will help push the progressive agenda in states across the country ahead of November.
Steve Johnston, Republican
Account Executive, U.S. Politics, Google
Johnston began working campaigns before he got his driver’s license – a start that goes back roughly 17 years. A break came while he was an undergraduate at Harvard. Johnston got an opportunity to intern on John McCain’s presidential, and it was serendipitous timing. In 2008, the campaign’s digital department was under staffed, and Johnston would up managing the campaign’s YouTube channel. After graduation, Johnston came down to D.C. and worked for then-Rep. Eric Cantor (Va.). After close to three years, he left for the tech startup Quora before enrolling at Wharton. Still, Johnston couldn’t resist getting back on the trail. After getting his MBA, he quickly returned to campaigns, running digital on Dan Sullivan’s 2014 Senate win in Alaska.
Alissa Ko, Democrat
Associate Director of Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Engagement, The White House
Spending almost two years as the deputy director of Ready For Hillary helped prepared Ko for her own role in the White House. The Obama 2012 alum is now the lead on Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) outreach for the White House Office of Public Engagement. It’s a reprisal of her role on the 2012 campaign, where she was responsible for directing the national AAPI outreach program, which reportedly increased AAPI support for the president by 11 percent. Her campaign experience also includes serving as the deputy PAC director for Consumer Attorneys of California and as a political organizer for the SEIU Local 1000 based in Sacramento, Calif.
Elise Kelly Lewis, Republican
Director of Media Optimization & Strategy, Deep Root Analytics
Four years ago, Lewis was hired straight out of Georgetown by Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign. While on its polling and data team, she grew into a role developing and running dashboards for the campaign to track media spending and issue sentiment across the battleground states. Following the Romney campaign, she worked for GOP microtargeting firm TargetPoint Consulting before becoming the first employee at Deep Root Analytics in 2013. She’s since added Jeb Bush’s White House effort, dozens of statewide and down-ballot campaigns as well as corporate projects to her resume. In 2014, Lewis helped save clients roughly $4 million in their TV buys just through efficiency and in doing so put more than 50,000 extra targeted ratings points on the air.
Nir Levy, International
Shaviv Strategy and Campaigns
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu doesn’t exactly have a reputation as a warm and approachable political figure. But in last year’s Israeli general election, that’s exactly how admaker Nir Levy set out to portray him. Levy, a senior consultant at Shaviv Strategy & Campaigns and the creative director for the 2015 Netanyahu/Likud campaign, is developing his own brand of advertising in Israel, and in other locales he works in Europe, by finding a way to deliver tough messages while injecting humor and personality. It’s an advertising style rarely seen in Israel. Levy’s firm won accolades for his “Bibi-sitter” ad, in which Netanyahu shows up to a couple’s home to babysit their kids. Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan singled out the ad as one of the best she’d ever seen, calling it “sheer political art.”
Kouri C. Marshall, Democrat
Executive Director, Democratic GAIN
As the executive director of Democratic GAIN, the national membership organization for progressive campaign professionals and organizations, Kouri Marshall is working to build the party’s talent base with an eye toward increasing diversity in the ranks of campaign operatives. A former Obama organizer, Marshall ran Obama for America in the District of Columbia in 2012, helping to recruit and mobilize thousands of DC-based volunteers into the battleground state of Virginia to push the Obama campaign’s effort there. Following the 2012 cycle, Marshall founded his own public affairs firm, 3K1A Strategies. Now, directing the training and development programs at GAIN, Marshall is expanding the organization’s reach with an effort to connect Democratic campaigns and organizations with more diverse talent.
Vanessa Moyonero, Democrat
Vice President, Solidarity Strategies
In addition to her work for the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the Latino Victory Fund, Moyonero has the distinction of being perhaps the youngest VP of a major Democratic consulting firm. She counts VoteVets.org and MoveOn.org as clients, helping the latter push some 30 members of Congress on the passage of President Obama’s Iran deal. Moyonero, an American University alum, was the first in her family to graduate college. She’s since made mentoring a priority by working with a variety of educational youth groups.
Jakob Ohlsson, International
Founder, Reform Act
Jakob Ohlsson is a self-taught operative who is reshaping how campaigns are run in Northern Europe. Early in his career, Ohlsson helmed digital efforts for global Swedish brands including H&M, but decided to do the unheard of, at least in Scandanavia, trade it in to pursue campaign politics. In 2014, Ohlsson ran the digital campaign efforts and coordinated social media outreach for Sweden’s Social Demorats, helping return the party to power for the first time in years. In a campaign environment that’s years behind the United States in terms of tools and tactics, Ohlsson has helped introduce more modern campaign tech—from data and testing to small-dollar fundraising and new approaches to email marketing.
Samantha Osborne, Republican
Digital Director, Republican National Convention
A chance meeting while working as absentee ballot director for an Ohio issue campaign put Osborne on a career path that led to D.C. – and then back to her hometown of Cleveland. Osborne’s encounter with Michael Beach would lead to a position at the GOP digital firm Targeted Victory, but sandwiched in were gigs as a campaign manager of a Wisconsin state Senate race during the recall days of 2011 and as national deputy digital field director for Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential. Now, Osborne is the digital director for the Republican National Convention. If leading the most tech-focused RNC to date wasn’t pressure enough, Osborne is doing it on a stage set in her hometown.
Dean Petrone, Republican
President, Go BIG Media, Inc.
As President and head of strategy at Go BIG Media, a GOP firm that has expanded its campaign footprint significantly over the past two cycles, Dean Petrone is helping candidates and political organizations across the country innovate on the digital front. Petrone played a leading role in Sen. Richard Shelby’s (R-Ala.) primary win this cycle, overseeing digital content and targeted mail campaigns. He also had a hand in Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s only win during the race for the GOP nomination: The Minnesota Caucus. Petrone was the lead digital strategist for the Values are Vital Super PAC, where he directed a digital effort, combined with a robust mail program, in five states where Rubio had strong finishes. This cycle, Petrone is the general consultant and digital lead on Rep. Randy Forbes’ (R-Va.) reelect. After managing Forbes’ race two years ago, Petrone has returned to the campaign team, helping Forbes in a fight to keep his seat after being drawn into a new district ahead of this year’s election.
Will Ritter, Republican
When Will Ritter launched POOLHOUSE alongside Tim O’Toole almost three years ago, the decision to go national came after the pair had worked on Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign. Ritter was the campaign’s director of advance; O’Toole headed up digital video. In the cycles since, the company has built a sizable client base as media consultants for both politics and public affairs. In the 2014 cycle, the firm created ad campaigns for several House and Senate races, including Ed Gillespie’s unexpectedly tight race in Virginia and wins for Joni Ernst in Iowa and Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner. POOLHOUSE work also includes crafting campaigns for leading edge tech companies, issue reform and global manufacturers. This year highlighted work for the National Association of Manufacturers and Anheuser-Busch. This cycle, Ritter and POOLHOUSE served as media consultants for Marco Rubio’s presidential effort and are playing a part in races across the country. As for the party’s presumptive nominee, Ritter is among a number of operatives in the party who don’t show any sign of coming around to the party’s nominee – Ritter is a Republican that remains an outspoken critic of Donald Trump.
Adam Rosenblatt, Nonpartisan
Senior Director, Penn Schoen Berland
Last year, Adam Rosenblatt helped put together one of the toughest media campaigns targeting a Republican candidate, and he did so in a bipartisan effort alongside a California-based GOP strategist. Rosenblatt managed the day-to-day efforts of an independent expenditure effort in the Louisiana governor’s race. The bipartisan Louisiana Water Coalition that Rosenblatt helped run targeted Republican David Vitter with a series of hard-hitting ads. With both a survey research and creative background, Rosenblatt is known for his versatility and ability to contribute to all aspects of the campaigns he works, from research-guided strategy to script writing, and from visual design to paid media execution. Rosenblatt’s considerable public affairs portfolio compliments his campaign work, counting the National Retail Federation, National Association of Convenience Stores, and C-SPAN among his clients.
Tim Saler, Republican
Vice President, Grassroots Targeting
In the digital era when many consulting firms are filling their ranks with one-and-done campaigners, Saler stands out. Over the past decade, he’s found himself in Mississippi, Pennsylvania, Florida, Wisconsin, New Jersey and North Carolina holding jobs ranging from deputy campaign manager to turnout director to state party executive director to statewide director of communications. He’s helped elect some of the GOP’s most prominent governors including Rick Scott and Chris Christie, and the experience has made him into one of the party’s leading experts on grassroots turnout. Now, that he’s established himself in the Republican consulting class, Saler is working for candidates ranging from New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte to North Carolina Rep. Richard Hudson.
Greg Scanlon, Democrat
Founder, Point Loma Strategic Research
Oppo researchers are storytellers at heart and there’s one tale that Scanlon has become famous for. He was hired by the DGA in January 2013 and helped set up the group's first permanent, in-house research department. A major victory for the nascent department came 11 months later when New Hampshire restaurateur and radio host Chuck Rolecek opted not to seek the state GOP’s gubernatorial nomination after it emerged he’d declared his Hilton Head vacation home as a primary residence to save thousands of dollars in property taxes. But that was small ball compared to Scanlon’s time in Virginia, when as the research director at the Democratic Party of Virginia and House Caucus, he helped trigger the inquiry that led to the nine-and-a-half year federal prison sentence for former state Del. Phil Hamilton (R) on bribery and extortion charges.
Mike Schneider, Democrat
Managing Director, Bully Pulpit Interactive
Schneider was only 15 when he founded his own computer services business in New Jersey. It was a successful venture, but Schneider had his sights set higher. After graduating from Colgate with a BA in political science, he landed at Blue State Digital, where he started to learn the digital advocacy trade. His entrepreneurial skills resurfaced when he joined BPI. The company credits him with building their Vantage platform, which allows advertisers to track persuasion metrics the same way they track impressions or click-through rates. Moreover, Schneider has led digital paid media strategy for an impressive roster of clients including the DSCC, EMILY’s List, Claire McCaskill, Elizabeth Warren, and Terry McAuliffe, to name a few.
Kendall Tucker, Nonpartisan
Having been on both the candidate and management side of politics, Kendall Tucker knew there had to be a better way for campaigns to run canvassing operations. The process for many local races—entering data from canvass sheets into spreadsheets—was just untenable. A waste of resources and a waste of time. And from Tucker’s vantage point, far too many campaigns weren’t employing analytical approaches efficiently. So Tucker launched Polis—a party agnostic startup that hopes to revolutionize the way many campaigns canvass. The app generates more efficient walk routes for canvassers, and automates the data management process. After a string of successes in city campaigns in Boston, Polis made its way to Washington, DC, built a wider client base, and has now grown its team to more than 10 staffers heading into the 2016 cycle.
Jon Waclawski, Republican
Partner, Ashby Law
After running the campaign of current RNC Chair Reince Preibus to head the committee, Jon Waclawski settled into a spot as one of the top advisers in the RNC’s legal department. There, his portfolio ranged from intellectual property issues to party rules and election administration. Following the 2012 cycle, Waclawski played a role at the RNC in drafting the new rules for the 2016 nominating process. The main goal was a lengthier and more competitive nominating contest, which Republicans certainly got this year. Waclawski, say those who’ve worked closely with him in GOP politics over the past four years, has carved out a reputation as an effective operative who doesn’t seek the spotlight at the expense of his clients. During the early part of the 2016 cycle, Waclawski served as in-house general counsel for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign, where he managed the legal team, overseeing campaign finance and ballot access strategy. Now in private practice at Ashby Law, Waclawski is building his client base and rising in the ranks of GOP election lawyers.
Annie Wang, Democrat
Director of Analytics, Analyst Institute
Among the new generation of talented data scientists on the left, Annie Wang stands out. During the 2014 election cycle, Wang was a data scientist at Civis Analytics, the firm founded by Obama alum Dan Wagner. While there she worked with colleagues to design and implement a new message testing process that involves testing either a single message or pairs of messages across large sample sizes in a randomized way – a framework that builds on the results of traditional phone pollsters. Now, as director of analytics at the Analyst Institute, Wang is helping lead the way on experimentation and testing, training junior analysts and furthering AI’s work with other progressive groups. Wang has also overseen an updating of AI’s technical infrastructure, decreasing costs and increasing efficiency to conduct experimental testing at scale.
Bethany Wheatley, International
Digital Director, UK Conservative Party
Digital outreach for campaigns in Britain has increased in sophistication, and you’ll find Bethany Wheatley on the frontlines of those advances for the UK Conservative Party. After heading up digital for Boris Johnson’s 2012 campaign for mayor of London, Wheatley brought her digital experience to bear for campaigns outside of the UK, advising a French mayoral campaign on how to use social to organize grassroots supporters and speak to previously disengaged voters. Following the 2015 general election, which saw the party secure a majority in the House of Commons, Wheatley came on to manage digital outreach for the Conservative Party, working to secure the advances in digital made in 2015 and continue to develop innovative ways to communicate with voters.