Most Hill staffers who left for Kerry have found new jobs

As the results of the Nov. 2 election rolled in and it became clear that President Bush would be reelected, more than 70 people who had left their well-sought-after jobs on the Hill to take a gamble with Sen. John Kerry were unemployed.

Although they had left Hill jobs that took them years to attain, the former Kerry campaign aides said they have no regrets — except for the fact that Kerry is not in the White House.

Only 28 have made it back to the Hill since. The rest have found jobs in nonprofit organizations, political action committees or consulting or have returned to school. Seven of the 54 people the Hill spoke with remain unemployed four months after the polls closed.

“The job search was tough for all Democrats,” said Jennifer Tsaki, who accepted a position in Rep. Joseph Crowley’s (D-N.Y.) office in mid-February. The easiest way for these former campaign staffers to get a job is to elect more Democrats to Congress. That did not happen in this cycle, but most campaigners found jobs regardless.

Forty-seven of the people the Hill contacted were able to secure jobs within four months of the campaign. Of those 47, only eight left politics altogether.

“Some people found jobs, and some people did not,” said Ari Rabin-Havt, who is now the director of Internet communications in Sen. Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) office. Rabin-Havt was a legislative correspondent in Rep. Ted Strickland’s (D-Ohio) office but did a few other things before joining the campaign. He said, “It depends on the person and if they were able to find the right fit. It is a very hard situation for Democrats in D.C., but most people I know who worked on the Kerry campaign have found jobs.”

After the polls closed on Election Day, more than 550 people on the Kerry-Edwards campaign were without a job. They had been in the spotlight for the past few years, advocating for the jobless and the uninsured. Suddenly, they had joined their ranks.

For many who had worked on the campaign, the time they spent unemployed was a well-needed vacation. After 16-hour days and seven-day workweeks, many campaigners were content with temporary unemployment.

“To say that presidential campaigns are exhausting is an understatement,” said Anthony Coley, press secretary for Sen. Jon Corzine (D-N.J.). Coley joined the Kerry campaign last April, having worked for former Sen. Zell Miller (D-Ga.) and Rep. Harold Ford (D-Tenn.). “It is the longest and most grueling experience many in politics will ever face. After the campaign, I spent a great deal of time reconnecting with family and friends.”

While the campaign was stressful, The Hill spoke to no one who was panicked about securing employment.

“Nobody thought beyond November 2,” Tsaki said. “Every day was concentrated on November 2. We did not have time to think about anything else. If anything was shocking, it was the fact that it was over.”

Sarah Bianchi, who worked on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee before joining the campaign, would agree: “During the campaign, you don’t have time to do anything else. It is so intense. You have to accept the fact that results are unpredictable and your time is too limited to think beyond Election Day.”

Here is a sampling of where some of Kerry’s high profile campaign staff ended up:

• Mary Beth Cahill, former chief of staff for Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), served as Kerry’s campaign manager. She is now a fellow at Harvard University.

• Political Director Steve Elmendorf, who served as former Rep. Dick Gephardt’s (D-Mo.) chief of staff before serving on the campaign, now has his own bipartisan policy firm, Bryan Cave Strategies.

• Marcus Jadotte, deputy campaign manager, returned to the Hill to work in Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s office but then accepted a job as media outreach manager for NASCAR. He was previously chief of staff for former Rep. Peter Deutsch (D-Fla.).

• David Wade left Kerry’s office to be the deputy communications director and traveling press secretary. He returned to Kerry’s office to be the senator’s communications director.

• Research Director Mike Gehrke, a former Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee aide, now works as research director for the Democratic National Committee.