Pennsylvania’s 2014 Rising Stars: 30 Under 30

pa-state-capitol-b175d9a07740ecf3Here they are, Pennsylvania’s top politicos under age 30. These are the men and women who will be running the show in a few years – if they aren’t already.

(Also keep an eye out for our Top 20 Political Operatives piece coming out soon).


Meghan Blickman, 26. PA Organizing Director, Enroll America.

There’s been a ton of press coverage focused on the Affordable Care Act. Yet for all the cable news chatter you probably don’t know that there’s a 501(c)(3), Enroll America, working to sign up eligible Americans. Blickman is leading the PA chapter of Enroll America. Too often commentators complain organizers don’t show up in odd numbered-years, but the dedicated never go away.

Charles Boruchowitz, 23. Finance Director, John Kane for State Senate.

The only thing in politics that may be harder than raising money is raising money for first-time candidates in down-ballot races. Yet Boruchowitz was able to bring in $2.69 million for 26th District State Senate nominee John Kane. As a result, the Democrats were able to compete in the closely-watched race. Although they came up four points short, it wasn’t for lack of funds.

Joe Corrigan, 29. Principal, Edge Hill Strategies.

Corrigan has worked in Democratic politics since he was a teenager. The Montgomery County native got his start volunteering for campaigns like Josh Shapiro and Bryan Lentz. He went on to serve as Finance Director to Councilman Cindy Bass and then became her Director of Communications and Senior Policy Advisor. After working as Executive Director of Brian Sims’ Sims4PA PAC, he formed the political consulting firm, Edge Hill Strategies.

Rob Ghormoz, 25. Personal Aide, Tom Wolf for Governor.

You may not know Ghormoz’s name, but trust us, you’ve seen him before. He’s the bearded body guy who accompanies the Governor-elect to all his events. You’ll find him in the background of nearly every photo of Wolf. There’s certainly something to be said for being the gateway to the next Governor. That follows several years of filling a similar role for Senator Bob Casey.

Chris Goy, 27. Policy Director, Councilman Jim Kenney.

The best measure of influence is results and Chris Goy has been able to get results. An advisor to Philadelphia Councilman Jim Kenney, he already achieved a major victory when the LGBT Equality Bill passed in 2013. According to this profile in Philadelphia Magazine, Goy not only pushed for the legislation, he actually wrote it. Just like that, he effected major change in the largest city in the commonwealth. Not many people of any age can claim that.

Julie Hallinan, 23. Deputy Finance Director for Western PA, Tom Wolf for Governor.

Primaries often leave bruised feelings, especially contentious ones. Still, when the Wolf campaign made its first hire from Allyson Schwartz’s primary effort, they chose Hallinan. She had already proven herself as Schwartz’s sole fundraiser in Pittsburgh and had experience in the 2012 Bob Casey campaign. She’ll be an asset so long as having an affinity with donors is a necessity in politics.

Dan Kessler, 24. National Finance Chair for Young Professionals, Ready for Hillary.

Dan Kessler comes from the PA Chapter of “Ready for Hillary,” one of the most high-profile grassroots groups in the country right now. Kessler fundraised for the group, organized events (he even helped get longtime Hillary fan Ed Rendell to come to one) and is setting up events to help bring the 2016 Democratic National Convention to Philly as well. Should Hillary jump in, Kessler would have the inside track on a prominent position in her PA staff.

Nikki Lu, 25. Western Pennsylvania Political Director, Local 32BJ SEIU.

Lu worked her way from the Pittsburgh campaigns of City Councilman Dan Gilman as well as City Councilwoman Deb Gross and now works for one of the most influential labor unions in the state. SEIU is carrying the banner for progressive Democrats in Pittsburgh including in their fight with healthcare giant UPMC and Lu helps determine how to deploy the union’s considerable assets.

Beth Melena, 24. Deputy Communications Director, Tom Wolf for Governor.

Melena was just an entry-level tracker when Gov. Corbett’s team zinged her at a Harrisburg Gridiron a few years ago. She is one of the numerous party officials that jumped over to the Wolf campaign after the York native won the primary. She helped develop the message that would allow the front-runner to comfortably hold onto victory in November.

Molly Parzen, 26. Development Director, Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania.

Parzen has risen quickly in one of the most established interest groups in the state. She works to increase the CVP’s impact throughout the commonwealth. After starting out on Joe Sestak’s campaign, she gained valuable experience as a financial director for two candidates. Expect to hear from her on any and all environmental issues.

Jake Pawlak, 26. Chief of Staff, State Senator Matt Smith.

After leading Sen. Smith to victory in 2012 at the tender age of 24, Pawlak took over the role of Chief of Staff. That responsibility took on additional importance when the Allegheny Senator was named co-chairman of the SDCC for 2014. Pawlak also has an extensive resume already, including stints on Bob Casey’s Senate staff and the campaigns of Rich Fitzgerald and Dan Onorato.

Martin Santalucia, 26. Field Director, Tom Wolf for Governor.

Santalucia had the all-important task of building up grassroots strength across the Commonwealth. In a midterm election, in an atmosphere that favored Republicans, he led a GOTV effort that was still able to secure a ten point win for Wolf. He also led the HDCC’s field effort in 2012 and got his start as a South Central PA field organizer for the Obama campaign in 2008.

Talia Stein, 27. Finance Director, Senator Bob Casey.

Stein already has a deep enough resume that she is in charge of bringing in the early money for Senator Casey’s re-election effort. She’s led the Casey campaign fundraising apparatus for close to two years now and has experience in the state party and congressional campaigns. With Casey’s next election four years away, she’ll have plenty of time to build her profile even more.

Anne Wakabayashi, 25. Communications Director, Senate Democratic Campaign Committee.

There are many reasons the Senate Dems lost ground in 2014, but Wakabayashi wasn’t one of them. A talented operative and sharp strategist with experience in all phases of campaigns, she will be an asset to whichever campaign she chooses to work for next cycle.

Ben Waxman, 29. Press Secretary, State Senator Vincent Hughes.

Despite the Dems’ State Senate minority, as the Democratic Chair of the Appropriations Committee, Sen. Vince Hughes is always a politico worth keeping an eye on. As an early ally of Gov-elect Tom Wolf, Hughes is Philadelphia’s voice in Harrisburg now more than ever. So, since Waxman is Hughes’ official voice it’s a good time to get to know him.


Darin Bartholomew, 23. Travel Assistant, Tom Corbett for Governor.

Not many people jump from college to the right hand of the Governor; Darin Bartholomew did just that. A College Republican Chair and Temple University grad, Bartholomew served as the travel aide to Governor Tom Corbett during this busy election year. If proximity correlates to influence, then he has done quite well, quite fast.

Sam Bolstein, 25. Campaign Manager, Fitzpatrick for Congress.

Mike Fitzpatrick was expected to have the most difficult path to re-election of any incumbent PA Congressman. The toss-up nature of the district and a DCCC-backed challenger was supposed to make PA-8 a competitive contest. It didn’t turn out that way. Bolstein lead a campaign that realized the best strategy in an incumbent-averse time was to do as little overt campaigning as possible. As a result, Fitzpatrick emphasized his close ties to Bucks County and walked away with 62% of the vote.

Sam Chen, 27. Northeast Regional Director, Tom Corbett for Governor.

In a short period of time, Sam Chen has become a valuable asset among Republican circles. Governor Corbett’s campaign reached out to Chen last summer to serve as their Northeast Regional Director. Chen was working as Rep. Charlie Dent’s campaign manager at the time and also served on Senator Pat Toomey’s staff.

Margot Crouch, 25. Deputy Finance Director, Pennsylvania Republican Party.

There may be no more tedious, yet critical, job in campaigns than fundraising. Crouch aided the party to a big fundraising year and was the liaison to the PA GOP’s exclusive Commonwealth Club. She also served as one of the party’s event coordinators in 2012.

Jake Felker, 25. Central Regional Field Director, Tom Corbett for Governor.

Like many people on this list, Jake started out as an intern working for the Governor’s first campaign four years ago. After working on the Inaugural Committee, he transitioned to the role of Central Regional Field Director. As a result, Felker was in charge of getting out the vote in the most Republican area of the state.

Josiah Frederick, 29. Director of Operations, House Republican Campaign Committee.

The most underrated story of election night was how well Republicans did in State House races. With a large majority to defend and a drag at the top of the ticket they picked up eight seats and won just about every competitive contest. Frederick handled messaging, data and general operations and given the HRCC’s success, he’s sure to be in demand for the next election cycle.

Cody Harbaugh, 27. Deputy Political Director, Pennsylvania Republican Party.

In a successful GOP year, Harbaugh was a central player in the state Republican party. After earning his stripes as a field director in 2012, he was bumped up to Deputy Political Director. This year he oversaw the party’s paid communications strategy and proved his bona fides to the commonwealth.

Ashley Jordan, 26. Deputy Finance Director, Tom Corbett for Governor.

Jordan literally worked on the Corbett political team for years. In the 2010 campaign she was a public policy intern and went on to serve on Governor Corbett’s Inaugural Committee. From then on, she worked to rake in the cash for the Corbett-Cawley re-election effort and should be an effective fundraiser in the future.

Joel Jukus, 29. Comptroller, Pennsylvania Republican Party.

Money is truly the mother’s milk of politics. As a result, a lot of attention goes on to the process of raising money. Too little notice is made, however, of how campaigns handle their money. Cash ill-spent is cash wasted, and Jukus was the man in charge of making sure the GOP didn’t waste their cash. Considering Republican legislative victories, it seems like he did a good job.

Vince Paese, 23. Staff Assistant, Tom Corbett for Governor.

Paese climbed the campaign latter quite fast. Just last spring he was graduating from American University. By the summer he was interning for the Corbett campaign, then in the fall he was promoted to full-time staff assistant. Based on that pace, expect to see a lot from Paese in the coming years.

Billy Pitman, 25. Press Secretary, Tom Corbett for Governor.

It’s been a quick rise for Billy Pitman. Just 25 years old, he became the press secretary for the incumbent Governor’s campaign. While Election Day didn’t go the way Pitman wanted, he played a big part of Gov. Corbett’s attack strategy against Tom Wolf. Many of those missives captured the media’s attention and did an admirable job of affecting the framework of the race.

Brian Rengert, 27. Political Director, House Republican Campaign Committee.

He made our 2012 list for his work as Field Director but now he’s been promoted to Political Director. Under his new position, Rengert not only oversees field operations but also manages polling and the ground game. Given the success House Republicans had this year, expect to see his star rise in 2015.

Nick Trainer, 26. Field Director, Pennsylvania Republican Party.

Every year political analysts close the long election year with the trite staple “It all comes down to turnout.” The reason why the phrase is overused is because it’s true. That makes turnout, knocking on countless doors, phoning through numerous call sheets, the essential ingredient of victory. Trainer’s work had an effect on ballots through the Commonwealth and earned him a spot on this list.

Gerry Wosewick, 25. Finance Coordinator, Pennsylvania Republican Party.

As Finance Coordinator, Wosewick was responsible for organizing some of the most important fundraising events of the year for the party. His biggest assignment was the GOP’s Fall Dinner, which featured New Jersey Governor Chris Christie as the headline speaker, and was the highest-attended night in the dinner’s history.

Ben Wren, 29. Campaign Manager, Pat Stefano for State Senate.

You may not remember, but the question of who would control the State Senate was an oft-discussed topic before Election Day. In that battle, the contest between Democratic State Rep. Deb Kula and GOP nominee Pat Stefano for the open 32nd District was a critical race. Republicans, though, picked up the Southwest PA seat with room to spare and campaign head Wren deserves credit for leading the political newcomer to victory.

November 20th, 2014 | Posted in Features, Front Page Stories, Top Stories | 45 Comments

45 thoughts on “Pennsylvania’s 2014 Rising Stars: 30 Under 30”

  1. Nick Ford says:


    I would like to speak with Stephen Rudman, member of the Democratic Party Eastern Division.

  2. Leonila says:

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  3. Marigold says:

    Privitisation of publec asstses,is nothing more than legalized corruption;the very definition of corruptionin fact.Americans;most of us anyway had just better get used to the fact that we are going to loose most everything that makes our lives worth while !

  4. politicalcowards says:

    Obviously “someone who knows” doesn’t know how to read or doesn’t know people’s ages. That’s funny.

  5. Someone Who Knows says:

    The real team of young operatives in the Pennsylvania Senate GOP.

    Darren Smith – Despite what happened to Senator Pileggi, Darren is the best when it comes to policy and knowing the right angles to play. Had he been hired earlier many believe that you would have seen a different result of this years leadership election. Even so, if he stays, his background as a former house staffer and lawyer has him well-positioned to continue to be a force in the caucus.

    Casey Long – No longer Mike Long’s son. He has risen quickly to the top of Scarnati’s staff. Casey had his hand on the pulse of liquor from start to finish, and if the Governor’s office had let him, would have finished it. He knows the caucus and will be considerably more powerful now that Corman is in leadership.

    Ryan Boop – COS to Senator John Rafferty. Ryan came from the AG’s office and is an attorney. He is sharp on the law, sharp on policy, and sharp at representing his boss to the utmost.

    Sean Schafer – Tommy Tomlinson’s guy. Shafer had his bosses ear on liquor, pension, paycheck protection, and the passage of Chapter 14. Then he went and led Tomlinson to a 24-point win against a ton of Democratic Money in a tough district. His close relationship with Southeast Power Broker Pasquale Deon also jumps up his stock.

    Nate Spade – Executive Director of the Senate Transportation Committee. Nate was masterful in the passage of Governor Corbett’s only substantive legislative victory. His ability to work with everyone is well noted and he is respected by all.

    Along with many more. But those mentioned there are a pleasure to work with in the halls of the capitol.

  6. Anthony says:

    Noah Karn would be on the list if anyone on this website actually went to the Capitol.

  7. B.J. says:

    Soooooo many angry people for no particular reason.

  8. Carl says:

    Oh yes it is much better to be recognized by an obscure state political blog than it is to, say, actually win an election.

    Enjoy your participation trophy, losers.

  9. Judy says:

    This comments section is just a bunch of bitter oldies getting all envious of young successful people. Get lives and stop picking on people who are the same age as your own children.

  10. Rob Wells says:

    Why don’t you people get a life. It is only a random list probably just designed to create controversy and discussion.

  11. pinetree says:

    Joanne Kilgour, director of the Sierra Club PA Chapter should be on this list. She works tirelessly to protect the commonwealth’s clean air, water, and public lands that are constantly under siege at the hands of the plundering legislature.

  12. Jim McCall says:

    I would add Michael Moser to the D side of the ledger. Did a great job on the Dahlkemper for County Exec , Kerith Strano Taylor primary and NW PA Wolf general campaigns.

  13. Tommy Tuff Trucks says:

    At the risk of sounding redundant, what exactly was the criteria here? The Corbett campaign, by nearly everyone’s standards, was the single most embarrassing debacle in recent PA political history. How does being responsible for that equate to positive recognition?

    I guess the fact that there are so many “under 30s” on this list from Corbetts office is partially to blame. If nearly 50% of your team can’t legally rent a car on their own he should have probably solicited political advice elsewhere?

  14. Jessica says:

    Definitely no African Americans on the Democratic side listed here. that’s all you need to know.

  15. andme says:


  16. jim says:

    You should have mentioned Eric Hagarty from Pittsburgh. He doesn’t have a donor Dad or any donor relative. He’s a hard working
    Democrat who is second to none.

  17. Liz says:

    I was looking forward to a somewhat balanced and exciting list of individuals. If this is the best PA can put forward, I’m seriously concerned for our future.

  18. Steve from Philly says:

    This list is a bigger joke than the failed campaigns some of these hacks ran or were a part of. The annual [Insert name of current editor of Politics PA] drinking buddy list. What a farce. The qualification should at least be actually winning something (or at least being able to reach the bar without the help of a stool).

  19. BestChster says:

    Alan Kessler is a very active and involved donor. Dan is just his son. BS if you ask me. A joke to those who dedicate their careers and suceed without Daddy’s connections. I doubt anyone takes this joke of a website seriously.

  20. Pottsvillepolitico says:

    Rob Ghormoz is really hot. #BaberahamLincoln

  21. andme says:

    also just so we don’t let talia off the hook…it is easy to fundraise when you have a spineless boss who votes for the keystone pipeline

  22. Veni Son says:

    Embarrassing post for a whole host of reasons – most of which the other chumps who post here already identified.

    Where is Noah Karn at on this list!?!

  23. Mary says:

    Marlon says:
    November 20, 2014 at 11:22 am
    How did Kane’s finance director make any list? When your guy is a union boss and you get three bazillion dollars from unions? What do you even need a finance director for? Kane could have hired a dead cat as his finance director and nobody would have known the difference.

    I second this. What a joke.

  24. Steve Oldt says:

    Brandon Ferrance and Evan Shircliffe deserve to be on this list. They are doing great things at Ship.

  25. David Diano says:

    Alan is not under 30, so he wouldn’t qualify for the list.

  26. andme says:

    unbelievable list of talent…between them all I can count at least two actual competitive wins…wow!

  27. Joke says:

    Alan Kennedy-Shafer is the Love Canal of people in politics. Just a disgusting superfund site.

  28. Doug says:

    Marlon: Someone had to open that bank account and deposit those checks. As for Team Corbett, I got nothin.

  29. Horton says:

    This list is a “Who’s Who” of “Who?”

  30. Burgermeister Meisterberger says:

    How could you overlook Alan Kennedy-Shaffer?

  31. The Lizard says:

    This is about the quality list that one has come to expect from Politics PA in recent months. @Joke wrote: “Politicspa has become the Weekly World News of Pennsylvania.” More like Weekly World News of Harrisburg.

  32. dr.evil says:

    How about 10 million dollars and M&T Bank? Why are they not listed as rising stars?! They played a huge part in this cycle!

  33. Marlon says:

    Also, with all those top flight Corbett/PAGOP guys, it’s easy to see why Corbett did so well this year!


  34. Marlon says:

    How did Kane’s finance director make any list? When your guy is a union boss and you get three bazillion dollars from unions? What do you even need a finance director for? Kane could have hired a dead cat as his finance director and nobody would have known the difference.

  35. Jokes says:

    Dan’s dad is on actual finance committees that is why he gets jobs

  36. Jokes says:

    Dan is just a son of a known donor

  37. Jokes says:

    Funny how no one mentions Any of the digital consultants who do everything!!!

  38. one thing says:

    Can we also point out there is no staff member from any other gubernatorial candidates on this list? Just b/c they didn’t win, doesn’t mean they aren’t as talented as the Wolf Team.

  39. Mark Stephens says:

    Why isn’t Cliff Maloney on this list? He works as the Northeast a Regional Director at Young Americans for Liberty and gets everyone jazzed for transparency!

  40. Wha??? says:

    What about any of the members of the State party former & current? Elena Cross didn’t make this list… How is that even possible?

  41. Joke says:

    This list is lame. You lost all credibility with the propping up of the SDCC and their people on this list. A lot of questionable people on this list. Politicspa has become the Weekly World News of Pennsylvania.

  42. Jake Farrell says:

    I for one am upset that a young man from Shippensburg was left off. A Mr. Brandon Ferrence.

  43. Jokes says:

    What is going on with wolf’s field campaign being nominated. Martin was a known idiot

  44. Jokes says:

    This list is the biggest joke in the world!!! Are you kidding me. Dscc press was nasty bad, no one knows any of these people. Are they your friends?

  45. Ezekiel says:

    This article will be the only place on earth where someone is lauded for “working on the Corbett political team for years”. Are you going to pretend this election never happened? Every person worth a damn in that operation left in 2011. The only thing notable about those that remained is that in 2014 they made Pennsylvania history. Great job Nan & co, for failing so hard you made the gov a historical footnote. Good luck with your career change.

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