By Betsy Rothstein - 12/05/06 12:00 AM EST
If there is one thing that binds the aides in Rep. Brian Baird’s (D-Wash.) office, it’s that many are dedicated to the nation’s West Coast. Born and raised in various cities out west, such as Portland, Ore., Olympia, Wash. and San Diego, Calif., they want to work for a lawmaker who represents that part of the country.
Baird recently found a new press secretary in Ciaran Clayton, 29, former spokeswoman to Rep. Rub�n Hinojosa (D-Texas). One of the main reasons she made the move was because she is a San Diego native and yearned to work for a lawmaker who is at least a little closer to her hometown. “I think everyone ultimately wants to work for their hometown member,” she said.
Clayton graduated from the University of San Diego with a degree in English. She had her sights set on attending medical school, but something happened.
“Organic chemistry happened,” she said, explaining that she was failing the class and so decided to shift gears and switch her major to English.
Clayton, whose hometown congressman had been imprisoned former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R-Calif.), grew up 10 minutes from the beach. Her junior high school had a surf team, but she wasn’t on it. “I’ve only been surfing three times and it’s been disastrous every time,” she said.
Growing up she had no strong interest in politics. The desire to be politically involved came post-college after moving to San Francisco and attending Young Democrat events. Clayton has worked on Capitol Hill since July of 2004.
And her name? It’s usually meant for an Irish boy; her mother was living in London in the ’60s and became fond of an actress with the name and thought if she ever had a daughter, that would be her name.
Baird’s other office changes are inner-office promotions.
Andrew Dohrmann, 24, moves from legislative aide to policy adviser. He has worked for the congressman for about two years. “He’s my representative,” he said proudly.
Dohrmann grew up in Olympia. In high school he had a stint painting houses. But politics, it seems, piqued his interest most. At Western Washington University he majored in political science. In the winter and spring of 2003, he interned for Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) and in 2004 worked on his campaign.
Ian Rogers, 23, grew up in Portland and graduated from Carlton College in Northfield, Minn. He didn’t know he’d work in politics, explaining that he thought he’d be a consultant of some kind.
He moves up from staff assistant to legislative assistant covering housing, energy and education. Rogers has worked for the congressman for six months. Previously he interned for Rep. David Wu (D-Ore.). “I enjoyed working in an office,” he said of the experience. “I don’t think anyone likes being an intern, but I think it was as good as it could have been.”
Rogers’s claim to fame is that he has spent the last few summers being a whitewater river guide. Life on the water wasn’t rough, but it was wild at times. Frat boys jumping into the water was common, he said, as was the occasional death — though thankfully not in his company. “It’s a definite change from the West Coast,” he said of living in Washington.
Brian Wagner, 22, is another aide Baird is promoting. He jumps from executive assistant/scheduler to a legislative assistant. He came to work for the congressman six months ago. Also a native of Portland, he graduated from Columbia University with degrees in politics and history.
Wagner has a strong interest in Chinese history. He studied the language for a year in college and plans to resume classes next month.
In high school, he was an “avowed liberal” who started his own political club. Clubs were not allowed to be associated with any certain party, but he stresses that the wave of liberalism was prevalent out West. And now? “I think I’ve become a lot more nuanced over time,” he said, adding that he served as a delegate to the state Democratic Convention in 2000.