Pennsylvania’s 2014 Rising Stars: 30 Under 30
(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.