How Many Kenyon Graduates does it take to Keep Track of all the Governors?
Molly Flanagan and Grace Van Cleave both majored in political science, interned with their respective political parties in Washington, D.C., and returned there to work full-time just days after leaving Kenyon. Today, each works with her party's governors association, Flanagan with the GOP, Van Cleave with the Democrats. Although their political affiliations and job responsibilities differ, each has a good view of state politics on a national level, as well as a few favorite state leaders. Here's the scoop on each of them.
Grace Van Cleave '04
Kenyon major: Political science
Position: Major donor program director, Democratic Governors Association
First D.C. job: Opposition researcher at the Democratic National Committee (DNC). She graduated on a Saturday, flew to D.C. on Sunday, and started work Monday morning. She had interned at the DNC the summer before her senior year, after Professor of Political Science John Elliott (her "favorite Kenyon professor and mentor") connected her with an alumnus there.
Current job: She describes her post as "match making" between potential donors and governors. The position requires research into donors' interests and a good understanding of how each governor might appeal, because, Van Cleave acknowledges, some governors are more compelling than others. After the gangbusters fundraising effort of the 2008 presidential campaign, she says, some deep pockets have "donor fatigue." Thanks to donation rules that differ from the restrictions that apply to the national party, Van Cleave can ask for unlimited amounts of money.
Favorite governors: Brian Schweitzer of Montana (who chairs the governors association this year), Jack Markell of Delaware, and Jennifer Granholm of Michigan. "All the governors are very much creatures of their state."
Biggest job challenge: "I would say 90 percent of my job is taking rejection, but what makes you successful is what you do with that 10 percent. I've never worked for Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, where people always want to take the meeting. I've always kind of had these underdogs. Governors are very hard to sell because it's not the Senate; the Senate is a little bit sexier."
What constitutes a great day at work: Checks coming in, pledges fulfilled, finding out that a governor can go on a trip or has agreed to meet with a donor, getting more yeses than nos.
Kenyon major: Political science
Position: Staff director and governors' liaison, Republican Governors Association
First D.C. jobs: Executive assistant in intergovernmental affairs, then associate director in strategic initiatives in the Bush White House, helping to coordinate the president's domestic events and briefing materials. The pace of working at the White House, she says, was like "drinking out of a fire hose." She also interned there the summer before her senior year.
Current job: She coordinates the activities of staff such as fundraisers, communications people, and event planners, and works directly with the governors at events. She works on arranging the travel of the chairman and vice chairman as well as compiling briefing materials for meetings. She describes it as similar to a chief of staff, minus the responsibility of deciding how to spend money. From her current office on 17th and Pennsylvania she can see her old office one block away at the White House.
Favorite governor: "It's really hard to pick just one. The best way to describe it is that mom always had a favorite, but she actually loves them all the same but for very different reasons. Haley Barbour [of Mississippi] is one of my favorites because I admire his political instincts combined with his policy rigor. Bobby Jindal in Louisiana is very much an innovator, also very strong politically, although not quite the king maker that Governor Barbour is. Governor Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota has an interesting approach to how to be a conservative in the twenty-first century. He comes from a very blue-collar background and is always pushing the Republicans to champion the working class. I really admire Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue for his loyalty to his staff; they really become like a family to him."
Biggest job challenge: "I have my fingers in a lot of different things, so it's keeping all of the balls in the air. All the governors have different needs. One governor is particular about knowing who will be there [at an event]; another will want to know who he is going to sit with and why; and one pays a lot of attention to introductions, so I'm always tracking down anecdotes for him to tell."