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Since 1988, Campaigns & Elections has recognized the up-and-comers of the campaign world with its coveted Rising Star award. Over the years, 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 the 2015 class of Rising Stars. The people on this year’s list are shaping the future of the campaign world, and they're just getting started.

The 2015 class will be recognized on July 27 at the 34th annual Art of Political Campaigning conference.     

 

Andrew Abdel-Malik, Republican
National Media/On Message

Melissa Bell, Democrat
Benenson Strategy Group

Brent Buchanan, Republican
Cygnal

Samuel Coates, International
Communications Strategist

Melissa Cressey, Democrat
DSPolitical

Michelle Coyle Edwards, Democrat
Rising Tide Interactive

Courtney Eimerman-Wallace, Democrat
Blue Labs

Andrew Eldredge-Martin, Democrat
Precision Network

Andrew Feldman, Democrat
Feldman Strategies

Tyrone Gayle, Democrat
Hillary for America

Emily Hoffman, Republican
Vertical Strategies

Daniel Huey, Republican
NRSC

Arinze Ifekauche, Democrat
Baltimore City State's Attorney's Office

 

Domonique James, Democrat
RMS Interactive

Byron Koay, Republican
America Rising LLC

Joe Lestingi, Democrat
The Chadderdon Group

Brandon Lorenz, Democrat
Human Rights Campaign

Christopher Maloney, Republican
Black Rock Group

Heather Philpot, Republican
Wiland

Kristal Quarker Hartsfield, Republican
Republican National Committee

Don Seymour, Republican
Facebook

Rena Shapiro, Nonpartisan
Pandora

Sergio Torres Avila, International
Politiks 360

Anton Vuljaj, Republican
IMGE

Andy Yates, Republican
Red Dome Group

 

 

 

Andrew Abdel-Malik, Republican
National Media/On Message

C&E: How did you get your start in the political world?
Abdel-Malik: The first campaign I worked on was Bush-Cheney ‘04. I started as an intern, and whenever I wasn’t in school at Gorge Washington University, I was in the campaign office. It was an incredible experience and that’s when I decided I really wanted to do this for a living. My first real paying job was at the RNC where I worked in the political department. That got me exposed to committee life and being a part of a political family. My boss there ended up managing Rudy Giuliani’s presidential campaign so who can say no to working on a presidential campaign in New York City?

C&E: Do you have a campaign that was a particular highlight for you?
Abdel-Malik: I think the best move of my career was probably going to work for Rick Scott in Florida. There are no words to describe how many states Florida really looks like—politically. It has east coast tendencies, Midwest tendencies—the more north you are, the more it’s like southern Georgia; the more south you are, the more it’s like New York City. So you learn so much working in a state like that. And going up against Charlie Crist was no easy task. I oversaw eight folks and almost $8 million. We spent it in all the right ways to squeak out a win and really got to build an organization and a team that I was really proud of.

C&E: What’s the most significant evolution for you on the digital side for Republicans over the past cycle or so?
Abdel-Malik: Frankly, Republicans have started to take it more seriously. You look back at 2008 or 2010, it was kind of a fringe thing. Now, we’re just so far beyond that. We’re not asking for a seat at the table anymore. There is a seat at the table. You now see candidates that are really committed to digital. We see committees that are actually investing now. Over the last two years, we’ve seen a trend where we aren’t looking at digital as a separate silo. It’s fully integrated into the campaign and really part of the architecture. It’s something I stress a lot with the clients I speak to. It’s a huge step forward and something I’m happy to be a part of.  
 

Melissa Bell, Democrat
Benenson Strategy Group

C&E: How did you get your start in the campaign world?
Bell: I took a bit of a different route into politics. I came up through academia and not necessarily working in the professional campaign world. My first job out of college was as a governor’s fellow for Mark Warner in Virginia. I spent that first year working as a special assistant to the secretary of public safety for Warner’s administration and then for Tim Kaine before I left for a PhD program. Before I left I got to meet and talk with Tim Kaine and was telling him that I was going off to study how campaigns worked and how voters thought about politics. And as it turned out the very first race I ended up working on when I went to Benenson was Tim Kaine’s Senate race.

C&E: What drew you to the statistical and research world?
Bell: It’s just such a watershed moment right now. It completely fascinates me. 2006 was really right at the time that research started to take off in the field of political psychology and now it’s a great time because the campaign world is much more open at the moment to the ideas that are coming from the academic world. It’s just a great time to be a part of it. That may be me speaking more from my own experience, but at Benenson that sort of approach is embraced and encouraged, and that’s generally the case on the Democratic side of things.
 

Brent Buchanan, Republican
Cygnal

C&E: Tell us about the first campaign you worked on.
Buchanan: It was 2001 and I started volunteering for an Alabama congressman who was running for governor—Bob Riley. Everybody in this business has had a moment where they caught the bug, and that campaign was it for me. By 2004 I was actually able to convince people to pay me to help their campaigns—both of those candidates are now in the state legislature after starting way down the ladder.

C&E: When did you decide to start your own firm?
Buchanan: I started the company in 2007, and I learned a lot in the first year—both good and bad. We made our niche filling holes down the ballot. We saw that down-ballot campaigns needed polling, but they often couldn’t afford they survey research options out there. That’s a huge hole that we have been able to fill for campaigns. It took us a good two cycles to get the firm to where we wanted it to be. We also do a ton of direct mail and digital advertising, and we take the same approach there

C&E: What advice would you give to someone thinking about striking out on their own in this business?
Buchanan: First, you need a believable enough record before you start your own firm. You also need something that makes you different—what can you offer to clients that your competitors can’t? And make sure you develop skills that transfer to into the corporate world, because you’ll need to have business outside of politics to sustain your company, no matter how small.
 

Samuel Coates, International
Communications Consultant

C&E: How did you get your start in politics in the UK?
Coates: I’m from Liverpool, which is a bit of a left wing city in the UK, but I got involved in the Conservative Party quite young. I just started going into London and getting involved in local campaigns. My first break was when I was running a popular website called Conservative Home – it was in that period when people were just starting to look online for news and politics. It was a lot of fun—I was a kid from Liverpool in an ill-fitting suit attending press conferences and asking questions of the leaders. I learned a lot in those first few years.

C&E: How has digital politics in the UK evolved from then until now?
Coates: It started to play a role quite quickly in the political and media world. For a while I was hired to be a speechwriter for David Cameron and eventually went on to run online for the Conservatives. There was a lot of talk in the 2010 election about the role of digital innpolitics. But at that point it was still more style than substance. What we saw in the most recent election in the UK was that it actually had a much more meaningful impact in terms of the size of the budgets devoted to online. 
 

Melissa Cressey, Democrat
DSPolitical

C&E: How did you get involved in campaigns?
Cressey: I actually started out as an intern at the American Association of Political Consultants. Then they were like, “Do you want a job?” I knew I wanted to be on the consulting side. I had done campaigns in the past, but only a few of them.

C&E: How’d you end up in the data space?
Cressey: I knew both Jim [Walsh] and Chris [Massicotte] since I was at the AAPC. About a year and a half ago, I saw Jim at a Christmas party and told him I wanted to come work for him. Being at the AAPC and seeing all the different kinds of mediums you can use in campaigns, digital is what actually really interests me. It’s the future. It enhances the traditional media you always use. The key is the data and then the technology. If you don’t have good data, you’re not going to reach the right people.

C&E: You grew up in Sweden, is there anything that carries over to American politics?
Cressey: I’ve always been interested in American politics, even when I was at school in Sweden. But it’s a completely different environment. They don’t have the budgets that we have. It’s a socialist country, very left-wing politics. They actually want to learn from us so I’m working with some people over there who are in politics. But that’s where I ran my first campaign.
 

Michelle Coyle Edwards, Democrat
Rising Tide Interactive

C&E: Tell us about working for Dick Gephardt’s presidential campaign in 2004.
Coyle Edwards: I was young, it was my first-ever campaign. He came to my town, which was Burlington, for an event and I went out to brief him on the important people in the front row and the names he should know. The bus was delayed and I ran out when it pulled in. He just looked at me and said, "Where is your coat? It’s freezing out here." And I remember thinking, I’ll do anything to get this man elected. I love working that hard for something I believe in.

C&E:What happened after Gephardt dropped out?
Coyle Edwards: I did another 2004 race for Blair Hull in the Illinois Senate primary and then I worked for Julian Mulvey for a couple years. At one point, he said to me, a 23 year old, "I want to go make beautiful ads and I don’t want to worry about lawyers or accountants or all that stuff. You’re going to worry about that." So I ended up running the business end. As we grew, I ended up managing the finances and doing the hiring and making sure everything was running day to day. I really started to find a love of that business administration work. I went to business school after that for two years.

C&E: What are some lessons you’ve learned during your career?
Coyle Edwards: Never to take anything personally and always work as hard as you possibly can. If you do those two things, everything else will fall into place. And never lose sight of why you started doing this in the first place. Remembering those ideals is what’s going to get you up in the morning.
 

Courtney Eimerman-Wallace, Democrat
Blue Labs

C&E How did you get your start in politics?
Eimerman-Wallace:
The first thing I did was Obama ’08 in Milwaukee. I worked with the team that called for donations and then did GOTV stuff. But growing up, my parents made sure we understood that you don’t have to be a one-percenter to have privilege. You don’t have to be white to have privilege, or a man to have privilege, because there’s someone else who’s less fortunate than you are. My dad was and still is a union member with the IBEW. I can still remember the jacket he would wear. My mom, who was a nurse, started one of the first food banks in Colorado. That was probably my first experience with social justice. We used to hand out turkeys every Thanksgiving. The turkeys would be frozen and my hands would be frozen handing them out to people, but it didn’t matter.

C&E: Do you have a favorite moment from a campaign you’ve worked on?
Eimerman-Wallace
: I do remember on the Obama campaign at one point I had to go knock on doors, which is not my strong suit. The phone is my preferred method of canvassing. I remember we were going into a predominantly black area of Milwaukee. I remember meeting this woman, and I’m black and she’s black and we’re discussing electing America’s first black president. Then she looks at me and says, “America’s not ready for a black president.” It was actually kind of a jarring moment. It was the moment I realized we had to work twice as hard.

C&E: You left the industry after working Obama 2008, why’d you come back?
Eimerman-Wallace:
Government’s great, but I just wanted to be involved in the process of helping people get elected. Democrats take hard hits in the midterms, so I wanted to come back in a midterm year and help elect local and federal candidates.

C&E: What’s the next frontier in campaign tech?
Eimerman-Wallace
: Right now, one of the things that we think about is how to reach people turning 18. In our last election, we used Facebook. This younger generation is not using Facebook the same way. They’re on Snapchat and Instagram. Figuring out we reach them, on their phones, on the go, is really going to be important for us going forward.
 

Andrew Eldredge-Martin, Democrat
Precision Network

C&E: Tell us about your first campaign job.
Eldredge-Martin: My very first paying job in politics was during the 2004 cycle with the Kerry-Edwards campaign. I did the press overnights – gathering news clips from papers all across the country. I got to work at about 10pm and was there until about 7am, seven days a week. I actually took a semester off from law school to do that. After I graduated I worked on the Carney for Congress campaign in Pennsylvania in 2006. This was my hometown district—rural and conservative. I never expected to have a Democrat elected in our district, but we ended up having a unique opportunity. The Republican opponent had a major scandal so it wasn’t only an opportunity to take on a huge challenge it was an opportunity to move back home and do something I was really passionate about. The experience of that campaign and that victory was definitely formative. That was when I knew I wanted to do this long-term.  

C&E: When did you transition to the digital side?
Eldredge-Martin: My career has largely traced the evolution that we’ve seen in paid media. Over the last decade I’ve been working in professional politics it has become increasingly hard to find those places and campaigns where you have one answer to your strategic imperative on the paid media side. I managed three congressional races in a row and then was doing direct mail in DC with the Strategy Group and I found that the ability to target off the voter file with this incredibly granular data set was totally different from the way broadcast media was bought. After the 2012 cycle we were at the beginning of our ability to take that targeted data set and put it into a broad array of digital and other types of targeted paid media. But now every six months or every year there’s a new and really rich opportunity for campaigns to interact with voters on a one-to-one basis. It’s a revolution that’s playing itself out in politics, but it’s also playing itself out across advertising.

C&E: Heading into 2016 what might we expect?
Eldredge-Martin: One of the things you saw in the 2014 cycle was that a lot of the capabilities and strategies used on the 2012 Obama campaign were scaled down to smaller races. From a technical perspective, something that was new in 2014 but that I think will be more broadly used in 2016 is competitive ad tracking—the ability to go out there and identify digital ads that your opponents are running, look at their tactics and draw conclusions about who they’re trying to reach and the types of objectives they’re trying to drive. That can really inform your media planning from a digital perspective.   
 

Andrew Feldman, Democrat
Feldman Strategies

C&E: When did you know you wanted to work in politics as a career?
Feldman: I originally thought I wanted to be a journalist, but after an internship in a local newsroom I realized I was far too opinionated for that. So I knew I needed to be on the other side of things. In 2007 I worked odd jobs on the ground in New Hampshire for Joe Biden’s presidential campaign. I was knocking on doors and making phone calls, but I managed to meet a lot of great political people. During the 2010 cycle I worked at Devine Mulvey, a media firm, and learned a ton. I ended up as one of the first staffers on John Delaney's 2012 race for a congressional seat in Maryland. We ended up winning the primary against an establishment candidate. And at 23 years old, I had my first congressional win.

C&E: You decided to start your own shop at a young age. What was the deciding factor for you?
Feldman: After the Delaney campaign I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I knew I didn’t want to work on Capitol Hill. So John suggested I start my own firm. I thought he was nuts, but the more I thought about it the more it felt like the right thing to do. I knew it was a real risk, but we were able to pick up some great work in our first cycle and it was the best decision I could have made.

C&E: What’s your advice for other young operatives trying to make their own way in this business?
Feldman: I like to say I straddle the line between persistence and annoyance. That’s how you move forward in this business. Ultimately, it’s about following your heart. If you really want to do something, with the right amount of hustle, you can do it. Just don’t be afraid.
 

Tyrone Gayle, Democrat
Hillary for America

C&E: How did you get your start in the campaign world?
Gayle: To answer that I’m going to take you all the way back to the fifth grade. That’s when I started in student government. Then I ran my first campaign for someone else when I was in my senior year of college and that’s when I got the itch. I combined my interest in politics with a communications degree and I moved to DC. I worked at the Center for American Progress and then at Media Matters. By the 2012 cycle, I wanted to get on a campaign so I ended up working for Tim Kaine’s Senate race in Virginia. I spent 16 months traveling around the state with him—helping with press, logistics and scheduling. By the 2014 cycle I was at the DCCC as western regional press secretary where I implemented press strategy in more than 20 congressional races. I came to the Clinton campaign in April as a regional communications director.

C&E: How has the day-to-day role of communications staffers evolved over the past couple of cycles?  
Gayle: You really do have to be a jack of all communications trades now. You still have to wake up and read the headlines of the major papers, but you also need to make sure you’re tracking the conversation on Twitter. We have to monitor a much wider range of platforms than ever before and you need to be able to get your message out effectively in more areas. When news breaks, we can see real-time reactions and that allows an operative to immediately engage and shape the coverage.

C&E: How about on the more local or regional level?
Gayle: It’s changed and it hasn’t at the same time. If you’re working on a smaller or more local race, the fundamentals are still there – generating letters to the editor and the op-ed pieces. In many districts, the ability to get your message out on TV isn’t as affordable or it might not be readily available so you focus more on your new media options. But as a communications person you still need to be able to react well in the moment while keeping the bigger goal in mind.     
 

Emily Hoffman, Republican
Vertical Strategies

C&E: Where did you get your start in politics?
Hoffman: I come from a marketing background so I actually started out running the social media strategy for Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia. But I knew I needed to get to DC. When I was given the opportunity to work with the Advocacy Group, I jumped on board. We worked with businesses, industry associations and nonprofit organizations to help optimize their issue advocacy campaigns through grassroots and online efforts. I served as the firm's creative director. That’s actually what got me into politics—I just made my way to DC and went from there. From the Advocacy Group I went on to Scott Walker’s most recent gubernatorial campaign.
 
C&E: Talk about the impact of digital in the Walker effort?
Hoffman: Well, I ran several of the day-to-day tasks, with focus on more of the online brand presence of the digital effort and I also ran the email strategy. The task there was to keep the donors in the marketing funnel, but also make sure we weren’t burning them out. You learn that it’s so important to see voters as consumers and how impactful it can be when you talk to them from a marketing standpoint rather than just talking at them politically. You need to customize the messaging depending on where the user is and what’s important to them. It was a lot of message testing and optimizing to get the voters to where we wanted them to be.
 
C&E: What’s on the horizon for you?
Hoffman: Now that I’m at Vertical Strategies, it’s nice to be able to focus on the big picture of digital strategy for our clients. We go in and help people set up their digital infrastructure—things like making sure the email platform, donation platform, and website are working cohesively and also ensuring everything is properly optimized for mobile. We’re already working on some 2016 races and with some other advocacy and nonprofit clients so we’re well into the cycle already. 
 

Daniel Huey, Republican
National Republican Senatorial Committee

C&E: How did you first get involved in campaigns?
Huey: When I came to D.C. for college I was on the [The George Washington University] soccer team and basically the first thing I did was tear my ACL. I gave up on that and went up to the Hill and got an internship there. I quickly went to the campaign side, and then worked at different firms: digital, television, mail. I wanted to learn all sides of it. I would take months off school and just go work on races or go work at committees. In the fall, I barely went to school. I would leave D.C. and go out on races.

C&E: As a Millennial, do you have an affinity for digital media?
Huey: The first political advertising thing I ever did was write direct mail, but I’ve been involved in north of 700 web and TV ads. I also do a lot of polling here. I’ve learned TV and mail through the lens of politics. I learned digital through the lens of just being a Millennial and also I had an interest in it. I’m completely agnostic when it comes to advertising from a campaign perspective. I think there’s a time and a place for everything and it’s about matching the tools to your budget and the situation that you’re in.

C&E: Have you been doing any experimentation?
Huey: Last cycle we were pushing campaigns to do more advanced media buying and to put more money into digital. We put a lot of emphasis and thought and research behind really improving our targeting across screens. But let’s say you’ve got your 100,000 target voters, I’ve got the cookie matches for them on digital, I’ve got their mobile-device IDs, I’ve got custom ratings books to target them on television. Well, now you need the creative for all of them. Just as much as we’ve been pushing innovation on the targeting side, we’re also pushing ways to create enough content to make use of all those audiences. I actually think Millennials expect a higher quality of content regardless of which screen it’s on. My parents are also on Facebook and see really well-produced social campaigns on there. Our ads on TV or on the Internet are not just competing with our opponent, they’re also competing for attention with brands. We can’t forget that.
 

Arinze Ifekauche, Democrat
Baltimore City State's Attorney's Office

C&E: What was the first campaign you worked on?
Ifekauche: Well, I’m originally from Alabama, so after I graduated college I came home and ended up volunteering on Parker Griffith’s campaign for Congress. After about three weeks of volunteering, I was hired on as the canvassing director. At the time I wasn’t entirely sure what the canvassing director did, but after I figured it out. We ended up having one of the most efficient canvassing programs of any congressional race in the country in 2008. After he won, I went to Capitol Hill to work as a legislative aide. As I’m sure you know Griffith ended up switching parties, unbeknownst to his staff, so we all made the decision to walk out. It was definitely a leap of faith, because we ended up without jobs. But it was the right decision.

C&E: What brought you to Baltimore?
Ifekauche: In the 2010 cycle, I worked for [former Rep.] John Boccieri of Ohio. We lost in 2010, just like a lot of Democrats did. I ended up working for Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake's re-election campaign. During that campaign she endorsed Marilyn Mosby's husband Nick Mosby as a challenger for a city council race that he eventually won. That was when I was first introduced to both Nick and Marilyn. Nick later approached me and asked whether I would help his wife run for state’s attorney. It was clear they wanted a paradigm shift in Baltimore and so I was brought on to handle communications on the campaign, and we ended up winning.

C&E: Marilyn Mosby is a name many people now know because of her nationally televised handing down of an indictment against Baltimore police officers in the wake of Freddie Gray’s death. You wrote that speech, correct?
Ifekauche: I wrote many of her speeches on her the campaign trail and so when the time came for this I was asked to put a draft together, yes. I wrote it and she and I went through a couple of drafts on it. I think every operative makes the assessment when you’re working for someone as to whether or not you really believe in that person. Is that person truly right for the job? I truly believed in her and her campaign. Marilyn’s background, her story, and her vision all aligned with Baltimore City and I think you saw that in her words that day.   
 

Domonique James, Democrat
RMS Interactive

C&E: Tell us about your favorite campaign.
James: During the 2012 campaign for President Obama, I worked in Durham, N.C. as a field organizer. I was one of the first organizers on the ground. Later I became the organizer for North Carolina Central University. We had 92 percent turnout on campus. We built an awesome organization there. Great memories. I also really enjoyed Reshma Saujani’s 2013 campaign for New York Public Advocate. It was a young, fresh campaign and also we worked in New York City. There are far worst places to work on a campaign.

C&E: You went on to Girls Who Code, what was that like?
James: More often than not there are few women in the room in politics and even fewer women on the tech side so coding skills are important. Women definitely need to get into the industry, women of color especially. I love that a movement of women’s empowerment is happening across the country.

C&E: What advice do you wish you got before starting on campaigns?
James: Learn to give up sleep and good eating habits, and that relationships matter. You always hear that—your network is your net worth—but I know few industries where it’s more important than in politics.
 

Byron Koay, Republican
America Rising LLC

C&E: What was your first real job in politics?
Koay: My first job was actually working for Gov. Schwarzenegger’s reelection campaign in California. I was part of the policy team for rapid response and it was the first time I had the chance to experience the ins and outs of a well-run campaign operation. It dawned on me that someone was actually paying me to do something I really enjoyed, so I figured I should start thinking about this longer term. After the campaign, I ended up in Washington, DC at RNC Research.

C&E: What drew you toward opposition research?
Koay: I found that I enjoyed the process of crafting research to form the foundation of a communications strategy. You have the ability to drive the headlines working in research, so it’s always rewarding to see the end product.

C&E: What are some of the best hits you’ve worked on over the past cycle or so?
Koay: Well, this is not something I can solely take credit for, because the whole team here at America Rising LLC was a part of it, but the Bruce Braley video that came out in the Iowa Senate race in the 2014 cycle was a big hit. There was also the research we did into Mary Landrieu’s residency and finding the Michelle Nunn campaign memo. It all reinforces that your communications strategy is only as good the information it’s based upon.
 

Joe Lestingi, Democrat
The Chadderdon Group

C&E: How did you get into the campaign world?
Lestingi: Well, like most operatives I initially wanted to become a lawyer. I was studying at the University of Georgia, but I ended up coming to Washington, DC to spend a semester at George Washington University, and that’s where I met Liz Chadderdon—she was one of my professors. After our class was through she pulled me aside and told me she thought I really understood what this was all about and that I should work in politics when I got back to Georgia. I ended up volunteering on a congressional race in Georgia in 2004, and then I was asked by the DCCC to go out and work on a race in Texas after Tom Delay orchestrated all the redistricting out there. I packed everything I owned in my Dodge Neon and drove from Athens, Georgia to Bryan College Station, Texas.

C&E: What was your first gig in the DC area?
Lestingi: My first management job was running a delegate’s race in Northern Virginia—it was a district we hadn’t won since LBJ was in office. In 2009, I started working with Liz at the Chadderdon Group. My wife, who had put up with me leaving the first year of our engagement to work on a congressional campaign in Nebraska, came to me and said she wanted to join the foreign service. She asked me to take a break from my career and move overseas with her. Knowing the fact that I married up, I told her of course I would. In 2012, I worked in Bosnia and Herzegovina with the National Democratic Institute. And when I got back to the U.S., I started working with Liz again and now we’re business partners.

C&E: What parts of U.S. politics influenced your work overseas?
Lestingi: The approach is so different from how we approach campaigns in the U.S. We think in terms of left and right; they have many different spectrums. The parties are also very strong, which was so much different for me. Our mission in Bosnia was to talk to people about supporting parties based on issues—support a party that wants to invest in public education, for example. One of the things we took from the West to bring to folks in Bosnia was door-to-door communication and polling. We would conduct polls in local races and then show the campaigns what issues resonated and taught them how to go door-to-door to talk to voters.
 

Brandon Lorenz, Democrat
Human Rights Campaign

C&E: How did you first get involved in campaigns?
Lorenz: After the 2008 election I was working at a magazine and had covered politics off and on for a couple years, but I wanted to do something different with my life. It took me about a year to find the right entry point, and I was very grateful to learn from then-Gov. Doyle how a statewide press operation works. When I took that job, I left a permanent job in journalism to work for a governor who was term limited and would be leaving office in a couple years. But it was really important for me to explore that and it worked out better than I could have imagined.

C&E: Has being in the field helped your career?
Lorenz: Being flexible and having a willingness to take risks is really important. I’m a fan of science fiction and the quote that’s always stuck with me is an old Ray Bradbury quote about jumping off the cliff and building your wings on the way down. That’s what you have to be willing to do if you really want to succeed. You have to move to places folks wouldn’t want to and take on the races that others might not want to because it gives you a chance to demonstrate your capabilities.

C&E: How has the communications landscape changed?
Lorenz: As much as the media landscape has changed, I think there are some rules that are timeless. Your personal relationships are still really important. I spent a year in Nebraska working on the Senate race talking to a lot of reporters and political operatives and that became really important when I went to the DCCC and was working on House races. As much as technology and the business model of journalism is changing, I think it’s easy to overlook that the relationships you build and nurture over the course of your career are still really important.
 

Christopher Maloney, Republican
Black Rock Group

C&E: Tell us about your favorite campaign.
Maloney: Dan Sullivan’s race in Alaska in 2014 was one of the most interesting campaigns I’ve worked on. Not only were we successful, but Alaska’s a beautiful state to work in with a really great sense of retail politics. We took several trips back and forth to Anchorage, led a media tour around the state and had an RV tour during the primary that covered almost 1,000 miles in the span of about a week. 

C&E: How did you get started in the industry?
Maloney: Shortly before I graduated from George Washington University in 2005, I was hired as a personal aide for Tom Reynolds, who was the NRCC chairman for the 2006 cycle. That cycle we visited nearly 60 congressional districts. I kept my eyes open and my mouth shut and in 18 months I earned a master’s degree in political management. After that I was hooked. In addition to advance work, I’ve also managed races and served as both the political and communications directors for campaigns and state party committees. After nearly a decade in politics, I began to hone my interest in communications.

C&E: Did you get ahead in your career by leaving DC?
Maloney: Achieving balance is important. Washington experience is valuable but I also think it’s important to offer a counter balance to yourself with field work on campaigns or at state organizations. When you’re out in the field, you understand the pulse of the American electorate better. You’re not sheltered by the party committees or a media environment that places a higher premium on winning news cycles. I also think it’s important to work in different aspects of campaign management. It offers operatives an opportunity to become well-rounded.
 

Heather Philpot, Republican
Wiland

C&E: Where did you get your start in politics?
Philpot:
I got the bug in 2004 for the Bush election and my first actual political job was working for the Republican Party in New Mexico. I got to work with a bunch of state and local candidates and I loved that experience because it was just you and the candidate. It was actually the pastor at my church back in New Mexico who told me I had the personality for politics. He encouraged me to just dip my toe in the water, even though I was a business major, and so that’s really how it started for me.

C&E: What brought you to DC?  
Philpot:
I came to DC after being deputy campaign manager on Steve Pearce’s U.S. Senate race. After working on that race I decided I should move to DC, and I remember so many people telling me that it wasn’t the best time for a Republican to move to DC in search of a job in politics. But I decided I was going to make it work. I really found my way in direct mail fundraising and major donor fundraising, which I never thought I would do. Fundraising doesn’t tend to be something you go into unless you make a conscious choice to get into fundraising. I ended up going to work for the direct mail shop that does all of the mail for the NRA.

C&E: What do you see on the horizon as far as fundraising for this upcoming cycle?
Philpot: Going back to 2004, microtargeting was the buzzword – people used it a lot.  Fast forward to today, microtargeting is no longer reserved for the voter contact space, but now campaigns are using it for their fundraising efforts. I believe this election cycle (and going forward) the focus is going to be on data, and our ability to drill down to find both voters and potential donors. How Republicans and Democrats leverage both the power of data and technology to move their campaign forward will ultimately determine the outcome of the 2016 election. That’s why I’m so passionate about what I’m doing now. We microtarget donors on the fundraising side – being able to put people in front of the right audiences and getting the right messages to them is so important and we have the tools to do it now more than ever before. It’s using the razor instead of the sledgehammer – that’s what will make all the difference. 
 

Kristal Quarker Hartsfield, Republican
Republican National Committee

C&E: Tell us about the first campaign you worked on.
Quarker Hartsfield: The first campaign I worked on was a 2000 campaign for county commissioner in my hometown in Alabama. My cousin was running and he needed someone to lead the campaign. A few years later I was working in Tennessee for the state Republican Party where we helped Bob Corker get elected to the Senate working through the RNC Victory Program. After that race I moved back to DC to figure out what my next step would be. I always thought I wanted to run for office. When I was young I said I wanted to be the first black senator from Alabama. After working in DC for a while, I think I’ve reconsidered running for office.

C&E: What’s your focus at the RNC?
Quarker Hartsfield: My job at the committee is to make sure we’re focusing on minority groups. Last cycle, we were able to hire an historic number of black staffers in key states. We went from five percent of the black vote nationally to 10 percent of the black vote, during a midterm year. And that was because we were actually able to engage black voters in a way we haven’t been able to do before.

C&E: How do Republicans make inroads with minority communities, particularly black voters? 
Quarker Hartsfield:
We need to have one-to-one contact and we need genuine engagement with African American voters. The issue is that we haven’t been in these communities. We haven’t offered an alternative. We haven’t been there to talk about jobs and the economy and school choice. These issues appeal to African Americans and our party has something to offer. So we may not have been in these communities the way we should have, but we’re there now. The RNC is on the ground in these communities and we’re talking to voters. We’re only going to grow that outreach.       
 

Don Seymour, Republican
Facebook

C&E: Tell us about your favorite campaign.
Seymour:
It was Speaker’s Boehner campaign for House majority leader in 2006. That was a fun race, in part, because it was a three-man competition [between Boehner and then-Reps. Roy Blunt (Mo.) and John Shadegg (Ariz.)]. Leadership elections are the ultimate inside baseball affair, but we had a month to fight it out between three strong press teams. Rapid response was critical. The era of new media was coming into its own so the campaign took place over interviews with bloggers, op-eds and daily pieces sent to The Hotline and The Note.  

C&E: How has the communications world changed since you started?
Seymour:
I was on the Hill for the rise of blogs in mid-2003 and was there as a press secretary when Facebook first rolled out the ability for public officials to be on it. We started John’s Twitter account in 2007, his YouTube account the year before. We had to figure out the best ways to use the new platforms. Any time something new comes along now you’re used to adapting and adding it into the arsenal.

C&E: Has the art of the press release and relationship building between reporter and flack gone away?
Seymour:
Both sides have adapted. The way reporters consume information is also different. I’m sure some use press releases, but in my experience the things that often did the best were authentic Facebook or Twitter posts; things the speaker said off-camera or off-the-cuff. Nothing prepackaged.

C&E: What was the secret to your longevity on the Hill?
Seymour:
Drank a lot — no, I’m kidding. It’s a lot of coffee and not a lot of sleep. In Speaker Boehner’s office, every day begins the night before. It’s constant preparation. If there was any secret, that would be it.
 

Rena Shapiro, Nonpartisan
Pandora

C&E: How did you get your start in politics?   
Shapiro:
Growing up in the birthplace of American freedom—Lexington, Massachusetts—I was always interested in politics. I got my official start in politics pounding the pavement door knocking for my favorite candidate—my brother in law Josh. We actually spent the second half of our honeymoon canvassing for his first victory to become state representative.

C&E: What are the biggest changes you’ve seen over the past cycle in your sector of the industry?
Shapiro:
The biggest thing I see is that mobile is exploding. In 2010, about 4 percent of time spent with media was on mobile devices. In 2014, it was almost 25 percent. I think when the numbers come out from eMarketer for 2015, it’s going to be closer to 40 percent as far as consuming media on mobile. This is where the action is and I think this election is going to be decided on mobile.

C&E: Do you feel like campaigns have woken up to that reality?
Shapiro:
Absolutely not. Mobile is still so new. People have a digital strategy, they have a direct mail strategy, but if you go to a campaign and they don’t have a mobile strategy—there’s a problem. There’s another piece now and that’s audio. This is another trend we’re starting to see. People are constantly walking around with their earbuds in. They’re listening to music or they’re talking on their phone. Audio has become so big so quickly that having a mobile strategy and an audio strategy is going to make or break a campaign this cycle.   
 

Sergio Torres Avila, International
Politiks 360

C&E: You come from a political family, so I imagine you’ve been around campaigns since you were very young, right?
Torres Avila:
Yes. My first election was when I was nine years old. My father was a congressman and I worked for his campaign—I was his private secretary. That was my first contact with the campaign world. Some years later, I went to University in Mexico City and I worked in the communications office of former President Vicente Fox. In 2008, I received a scholarship to study political management in Washington, DC. When I got back to Mexico I started working on the campaign of a friend who was running for mayor of my hometown in central Mexico, and we won. So, I decided to found my own company: Politiks 360°.

C&E: Tell me about the process of starting your own company in Mexico and how you’ve built the business.
Torres Avila:
It was a dream of mine. I applied for some different consulting jobs in Mexico and Miami, but I decided to start my own consulting company. Then I moved to Mexico City in order to look for customers who believe in my company and my metholodogy. Some months later, I started to find people who wanted to work and associate with me in this project. Today, we have 12 people working at Politiks 360°. I think if you want to do something great, you need to have a dream. That’s how it was for me.
 
C&E: What’s on the horizon for your company?
Torres Avila:
This year, we worked in the Mexican elections in many states, from north to south. 2016 will be a big campaign year in Mexico: 12 governors will be elected. So there is a lot of work and opportunities in Mexico.
 

Anton Vuljaj, Republican
Senior Advisor, IMGE

C&E: Tell us about your favorite campaign.
Vuljaj:
The first thing that got me involved with politics was interning with Bill Steiner in the strategy division at the RNC during the 2008 presidential election. In 2010, I worked in Connecticut for Rob Simmons. That was my first on-the-ground experience and it was by far the greatest race I’ve been a part of. We ended up losing to Linda McMahon in the primary, but if you look back at the staff on that race, they’re all doing phenomenal things and we stay in touch.

C&E: You’re well-traveled, what’s the secret for knowing when to move on?  
Vuljaj:
A lot of stuff comes to you in the political digital space because it’s so new and there aren’t as many players as in other parts of the campaign world. So there are always great opportunities that are coming to you and you have to evaluate if the next one is better than the current one. I’m never trying to run away from the current position that I have, I’m always trying to run towards that next thing. I’ve had a lot of great people to learn from so when I’m switching opportunities I’m always looking to see who I can learn from and who can mentor me in the new gig.

C&E: What’s some advice you wished you’d received starting out?
Vuljaj:
I think in this space it’s really good to have a tangible skill set. That could be knowing media buying really well or ad operations or knowing social advertising or the design side really well. There are a lot of general strategists who don’t have a specific skill set, and that makes it more difficult to be successful in this space. Learn one thing or two things really well and then you’ll become extremely valuable over time.
 

Andy Yates, Republican
Red Dome Group

C&E: Tell us about your favorite campaign.
Yates:
If I had to pick one, it’d be Ilario Pantano’s campaign for congress in North Carolina’s 7th district in 2010. We were came within six points of unseating then-Rep. Mike McIntyre (D), who had won almost every reelection race by a two-to-one margin. And it was an opportunity to work with the late Jack Hawke, who’s a legendary consultant here in North Carolina. The amount of knowledge I gained from him was just tremendous. It was like getting a Ph.D. in campaigning.

C&E: How do you become a self-made consultant?
Yates:
It’s getting to learn from people in the business. My first race as a staffer was Congressman Robin Hayes’ (R-N.C.) reelection in 2002 when we were one of the top targets of the DCCC. I’ve since had a chance to work on races at every level. I’ve done everything from small town city council races to working on the Super PAC for Ben Carson’s presidential campaign. Don't be afraid to call colleagues and friends in the business and ask what they would do in a new or tricky situation. You get worried that people are going to think you aren’t capable if you ask too many questions, but that’s really what you should do.

C&E: What’s your advice for aspiring consultants?
Yates:
The single best piece of advice that I’ve gotten was from Jack Hawke and that was that it’s just as important who you choose not to work with as who you do choose to work with. One ethically challenged candidate can bring down all of your hard work. The second piece of advice: don’t get discouraged if you’ve done everything you can and the race didn’t turn out the way you wanted it to. You can run a perfect race and it can be the wrong district, wrong environment or wrong candidate. I would also just encourage young people out there to roll up their sleeves and take on some uphill races. I’m very proud of the fact that I’ve never taken a staff position in government. I’ve stayed in politics on the campaign side.