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Pennsylvania’s Rising Stars: 30 Under 30

Here they are, Pennsylvania’s top politicos under age 30. Thank you to everyone who helped us put this list together – we had over 300 nominations. We flipped a coin for who went first.


Fiona Conroy, 27, Executive Director, HDCC.
Captain of the ship in a difficult political tide. Organized, efficient and hard-working, Conroy oversaw one of the best fundraising efforts in HDCC history. She helped to stymie what could have been catastrophic losses for the Democratic caucus.

Jonathon Dworkin, 26, Communications Director, Joe Sestak.
Dworkin was possibly the hardest-working campaign staffer in PA, if not the country. Sestak’s press operation was the most robust part of a robust campaign. Dworkin brought more research to public attention than some DC think-tanks, and was crucial to boosting Sestak’s name ID in the primary.

Dan Hartman, 26, Field Director, Tim Holden.
There’s a reason Hartman has the ear of elected officials and party leaders across the state. Politics, field, management and a master of political targeting, Hartman is an all-around weapon and he’s sought-after nationally. Under him, Holden’s field program was top-ranked in the country. As SEPA Political Director for Specter, Hartman was one of the architects of the non-endorsements in Sestak’s own backyard. Hartman is a pro with a record of leading his candidates to over-peformance.

Rachael Heisler, 27, Campaign Manager, Jason Altmire.
Altmire had a big target on his back this cycle. Thanks to Heisler, he escaped with one of the narrowest wins in the state. Heisler managed the campaign from nuts to bolts, including an impressive $2.5 million in fundraising. There is little question that if Altmire had had a different manager in 2010, the 4th district would have a different congressman in 2011.

Lauren Mahoney, 25, Campaign Manager, Jesse White.
Mahoney has emerged as a major behind-the-scenes player in southwest PA. She moved from labor unions to the Specter campaign where she directed politics and field in the region (and won crucial SW PA state committee support for the Senator). As Campaign Manager and Fundraiser, she protected GOP-target State Rep. Jesse White from the Democratic bloodbath despite gaffes on the official side.

Matthew Mazonkey, 27, Chief of Staff and Press Secretary, Mark Critz.
Mazonkey is a powerhouse. He started as a low level staffer for the late Congressman Murtha and worked his way up to Press Secretary. Critz wisely chose to give him a bit more responsibility and made him Chief of Staff. And Press Secrtary. And military & defense legislation. And appropriations.

Sabrina McLaughlin, 28, PA Democratic Party.
McLaughlin, a professor and onetime assistant to famed writer Norman Mailer entered the political arena as an Obama staffer in 2008.  In 2009, she elected an underfunded candidate to the Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas in a stunning upset.  She has since served as assistant to the Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party.  She is the consummate taskmaster who can be counted on to make things work.

Aubrey Montgomery, 27, Finance Director, Bryan Lentz.
Montgomery carries a long resume including Executive Director of NARAL-Pennsylvania and as a fundraiser for the likes of Senators Leanna Washington & Daylin Leach, Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams and more recently the Lentz for Congress campaign.  She is among the best at raising money in SEPA and is a champion of many liberal causes.

Rachel Moore, 24, Campaign Manager, Tim Solobay.
It might have seemed like Solobay was ready to take anyone on, but Moore proved her mettle as Campaign Manager for his tough State Senate bid. Moore helped deliver Solobay to victory in highly targeted race. A former Finance Director for the PA Democratic Party and President of the PA College Democrats, Moore’s resume and the track record put her in the big leagues.

Jeff Mozdziock, 25, Personal Aide, Bob Casey.
Every statewide candidate needs a good personal aide to facilitate face-to-face meetings, follow up on conversations, and keep to a schedule. For Casey in 2006, this was Mozdziock. During that time and since (including as Obama’s Deputy PA Political Director in 2008), Mozdziock has gotten to know elected officials, union leaders and party activists across PA. He even writes speeches for the Senator. Expect Mozdziock to play a significant role in Casey’s 2012 campaign.

Eric Nagy, 26, Campaign Manager, Tim Holden.
Nagy has a skill set Democrats sorely lacked this year. A pro at electing Democrats to Republican seats, Nagy led the Holden campaign to an 11 point win in a +6 GOP district.  Nagy managed two races that Democrats won in 2008, and lost this year: State Reps. Tim Seip and Paul Drucker (Drucker was the first Dem ever to hold that seat).

Corey O’Connor, 25, Community Development Director, Mike Doyle.
The son of former Pittsburgh Mayor Bob O’Connor has come into his own. O’Connor plays a big role in directing federal funds to Doyle’s district in the heart of Pittsburgh, and he knows all of the big players in town. The buzz has already started for a potential run for City Council.

Natalia Salgado, 28, Political Coordinator, SEIU 32BJ.
The consummate community organizer. Salgado is involved with the PA Immigration and Citizenship Coalition, the Police Advisory Commission, and the Coalition of Labor Union Women. She got her start organizing low-income workers and Latino immigrants in Philadelphia, where she was noticed and hired as Field Director by Councilwoman Maria Quiñones-Sánchez. During the past election cycle, Salgado led a $2 million statewide SEIU campaign and oversaw the work of hundreds of canvassers in Philadelphia and the Lehigh Valley.

Erin Wilson, 27, Director of Outreach and Special Projects, Bob Casey.
Based in Philadelphia, Wilson has emerged as a go-to staffer for Senator Casey and looks to be a big player in the 2012 effort. Wilson started as Casey’s Deputy Political Director in 2006, then moved into the Senator’s Philadelphia office. She expanded her reputation as someone who gets things done, got promoted, and now coordinates the Senator’s events and meetings statewide.

Josh Young, 28, Democratic State Committee.
Young has become a fixture in Philadelphia Suburban politics.  Currently in his second term as a Caln Township Supervisor, Young was recently elected to Democratic State Committee and actively serves on the board of the Chester County Young Democrats.  To further his credentials, he helps run his family’s automotive business and was recently elected as Chair of the Board of Trustees for Slippery Rock University.


Rob Brooks, 25, Executive Director, Chester County Republicans.
Chester County saw a big Republican swing this year, and it’s in large part thanks to him.  Brooks has worked in one of the GOP’s most important counties for one of the party’s biggest leaders, Skip Brion.  He has established himself, he’s counted on in Chester to deliver GOP wins, and he almost always delivers.

Bob Bozzuto, 29, Elections Director, PA GOP.
Republicans had a great 2010, but their near sweep of the 2009 judicial elections is what set the stage for the GOP’s 2011 redistricting plans. More than anyone, Buzzuto is credited with this important, under-the-radar victory. (Of course, he also played a hand in the GOP’s important, on-the-radar victories this year). He comes highly recommended at all levels of the party.

Valerie Caras, 23, Executive Director, Dauphin County Republicans.
Caras is a veteran field staffer and understands how to get out the vote.  Dauphin County has enjoyed a lot of success recently due in large part to the work that she has done.

Caitlin Ganley, 25, Political Director, Pat Meehan.
Well-connected and a profile that is continually growing, Ganley is a veteran of suburban Republican campaigns. With prior work for State Senators Erickson, Mensch and Pileggi, she really showed her stuff this cycle. Meehan’s campaign far surpassed even optimistic Republican expectations. When the new Congress starts, Ganley will be Meehan’s District Director.

Mark Harris, 25, Campaign Manager, Pat Toomey.
Harris led the most disciplined campaign in Pennsylvania and earned national prestige. Harris’s operation combined the power and money of the Republican establishment with the enthusiasm of the Tea Party. Few Republican campaigns in the country, let alone a state with a massive voter registration advantage for Democrats, were able to even come close to such an accomplishment.  Expect a long line of clients when Harris opens his Harrisburg consulting firm next year.

Jonathan Hopcraft, 25, Campaign Manager,  Mike Kelly & Dave Argall.
Hopcraft has the distinction of being nominated by his former boss and his opponents’ staffers. He managed a tough general election campaign which was out-spent by $1 million. And Hopcraft’s expert work steering Rep-Elect Mike Kelly’s campaign through a crowded primary field would be enough to earn him a spot on the list.

Sean Joyce, 25, Special Projects Coordinator, Bill Shuster.
Joyce is a versatile young staffer who is continually building contacts in DC and back in the district. Policy, constituent work, and campaigns, Joyce does it all and he’s getting noticed. (By fellow staffers, too, who named Joyce one of Captiol Hill’s “Most Beautiful People” this year.)

Adam Maust, 27, Political Director, HRCC.
While most election day headlines focused on national races, Maust helped to orchestrate the biggest GOP gain in PA’s State House in decades. A pro at running state House races, Maust has already established himself as a fixture in the PA House GOP.

Joe Murzyn, 28, Field Director, Tom Corbett.
Murzyn built and managed the impressive Corbett ground team. Before that, Murzyn worked Corbett’s AG races; he also worked on Jim Roddey’s 2003 campaign. He knows everyone and has built a reputation as one of the hardest working and brightest guys in politics.

Andrew Ritter, 28, Executive Director, Majority Whip Stan Saylor.
Ritter is extremely well respected and one of the most knowledgeable staffers on the hill. Already a Harrisburg veteran, Ritter was ED of the House GOP Policy Committee under Saylor. His star will continue to rise when he begins his new duties coordinating GOP floor activity and whipping votes. Ritter is now a key player in Republicans’ Harrisburg agenda.

Megan Sweeney, 25, Deputy Communications Director, PA GOP.
Strong GOP messaging is largely responsible for the outcome this November, and Sweeney earned her stripes assisting numerous candidates with their earned media efforts.  Sweeney is one of the most gifted writers in politics, and there is considerable buzz around her name for Communications Director in some of the newly opened congressional offices.

Peter Towey, 26, Political Director, Pat Toomey.
Where some analysts called the Tea Party a liability for Toomey, Towey saw an opportunity for a groundbreaking field operation. Towey is sharp and organized – he coordinated the Toomey ground forces and the campaign’s GOTV efforts to perfection.  Don’t be surprised to see Towey in Iowa or New Hampshire next year.

Brittany Tressler, 26, Executive Director, Montgomery County Republicans.
Chair of the Pennsylvania Young Republicans and a former staffer to State Rep. Mike Vereb, Tressler is giving Republicans a chance in a county that has been trending blue. And just in time – her county will be a big battleground in the otherwise subdued 2011 cycle. Will Republicans continue to hold two Commissioner seats? The outcome of the race will tell if Montgomery County can be flipped back into the GOP column.

Ben Wren, 25, Western Regional Director, PA GOP.
Ben is the go-to GOP staffer in southwestern Pennsylvania.  He knows all the players in the southwest and they know him.  He has a reputation as someone who can get things done – namely GOTV for GOP candidates.

Jen Holman Zaborney, 29, Fundraiser, Tom Corbett & Jake Corman.
Zaborney is one of PA’s premier fundraisers, with clients like Tom Corbett, the SRCC, Pat Meehan, Bill Shuster, Mike Vereb, and more. She’s also running the logistics of Corbett’s Inaugural. And one of her clients is prospective Casey challenger Jake Corman, so you can be guaranteed that her stock is only going up.

PA’s Top High School Politico:

Omeed Firouzi, 17, Campaign Manager, Phyllis Mundy.
That he managed a winning Democratic race this year is remarkable enough, but Firouzi co-managed Mundy’s campaign as a high school student. Throughout, Firouzi helped to direct polling, messaging, door-to-door canvassing, phone banking, social media, and even debate prep in this HRCC-targeted district. Attention college admissions: throw every scholarship you’ve got at this kid.

One small note: due to the massive influx of nominations for staffers, we decided to exclude from eligibility those who’s main political accomplishment is elected public office. Apologies for the change – we will be doing a new list for elected officials down the road.

22 Responses

  1. They missed out on KEN ALTMAN fomerly of Senator Specter’s office and now with Senator Colins. Also, the missed Joe McGinn from the DelCo YR’s. A former Curt Weldon guy and now an integral part of the DelCo machine.

  2. Make a note of this name for the future: Brian Oglesby. He is the most brilliant and strategically sound young man I have met in a long time. Has been doing a ton of behind-the-scenes work in both PA and NJ. I shudder to think what he’ll accomplish once someone has the good sense to get him in the game full time.

  3. I agree with Michael Monsour. The anonymous, hateful remarks about some of my colleagues are deplorable, and frankly, they are acts of cowards.

    Congrats to all and Merry Christmas!

  4. I am a huge fan of freedom of speach, but these posted comments about these hard working bright young individuals are shameful, I mean its the holdays.

    Mary Smith you should be ashamed of yourself

    and Jay, clearly you have not been paying attention, there isnt a democratic organizer on the planet that has an answer to the last election cycle, and if you weren’t so busy trying to bring your fellow party members down maybe you could provide some insight that could help future elections, maybe you can act as a contributor rather than the prosecutor.

    The only reason why I even like the holidays is that it seems to brings out the best in people “most of the time” Maybe a new years resolution for all of us politicos out there should be to start looking for new ways of picking each other up rather than finding more ways for keeping us down.

  5. Fiona Conroy – “She helped to stymie what could have been catastrophic losses for the Democratic caucus.”

    WTF???…a 13 seat loss and the largest Democratic minority in generations?…good Lord…the title of this article should be “Failing Up.”

    Her inclusion is almost as comical as her boss running for Leadership.

  6. I’m surprised Ceisler didn’t put anyone affiliated from his bosses at Local 98 up on this list considering how much money Ceisler gets from Johnny Doc . . .

  7. Apparently, some of the people commenting were too busy playing peeping Tom into the hdcc windows and not enough time learning the ALPHABET.

  8. Fiona Conroy is a genius that took the helm of the HDCC up against the worst tide the PA Dems have seen. They raised more money, hired more staff and were more professional than any previous HDCC. T

    hey will be lucky if they are able to keep her for another cycle. She put together a rock star team. If you looked up at their office windows late at night, you’d always see the lights on and people bustling about. There’s a reason she was first on the list!

  9. Where’s jake diegal? He deserves to be on this list. Especially with how well he did with carney.

  10. If by stopping catastrophe you mean getting obliterated and sent into a super minority, I guess she did a good job. If by double agent standards, yea she sabotaged things. If by making any significant wins, nah, not really.

  11. I’m glad the Bob Casey’s personal assistant made the list. I’m sure it was the extra Equal in Casey’s afternoon tea that put him over the top.

  12. Fiona Conroy???? Seriously? She’s the worst thing that happened to House Democrats since Tom Stish.

  13. If DCCC thinks that Lentz’s field program was better than Holden’s, then that totally explains why the Dems suffered near-historic losses this cycle. Holden won by 11 points in an R- plus 7 district while Lentz lost a D- plus 3 by 11 points with triple the staff. Somebody has been hitting the egg nog (or the crack) a little too hard.

  14. No Richard Shermanski? When he is President you will fear his wrath…the wrath of his awful campaign, the wrath of his hair and the wrath of his alter-ego, the Shermanator.

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    Total Voters: 30

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