Scroll To See More Images
Can you imagine, just a few years out of college, being asked by a presidential nominee to draft a very angry, very public statement about the Pope on his behalf? Or having to testify for six hours straight in highly controversial court hearings about your boss, one of the most powerful politicians in the world? Such are the daily responsibilities of the women who run Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump’s campaigns.
While their ages, skills, backgrounds, and values are all deeply diverse, these women share a passion for politics and an aptitude for the political game that got them to the top of the world’s most competitive field. Many of them are risking their careers for the chance to join the inner circle of one of the most powerful leaders on the planet.
Here, find out more about how 10 campaign power players are helping to get their candidates closer to the White House and, in the process, shaping a historic election.
When she was 24, Drane quit her job at a law firm to campaign for Barack Obama. “God put me in that position back in 2008 and it came full circle by me joining the campaign this time around,” she told Essence last July. Originally from Cleveland, from there, Drane became executive director of the Congressional Black Congress; she went on to be named Hillary Clinton’s Director of African-American Outreach, and is now Clinton’s Deputy Director of Congressional Affairs.
It’s important that folks get out to vote. We cannot sit this out.
Now 33, LaDrane says that one of the key issues of this election, especially as it relates to African Americans, is the economy. “The fact that millennials have so much student loan debt, but don’t have jobs that pay what they need to get paid to be able to live and pay their debt is a problem. [Clinton’s] plan for the economy is what’s going to be most important… we’re talking about direct investments that are going to create jobs and good paying jobs, here in the United States.” Oh, and she’s not cool with anyone who rides the bench on November 8th. “It’s important that folks get out to vote,” she says. “We cannot sit this out.”
At age 41, Abedin has risen to the top of the ranks in Clinton’s army of aides. Born in Michigan and raised in Saudi Arabia, Abedin first started working with Clinton at 19 as an intern after graduating from George Washington University, and has been by Clinton’s side ever since. (The media has jokingly called her Clinton’s “shadow.”) Her titles have included everything from Body Woman to Traveling Chief of Staff, Senior Advisor, and Deputy Chief of Staff. Now, Abedin is the Vice-Chair of Clinton’s 2016 campaign. “Whatever the title, the job she performs for Hillary has always been essentially the same: confessor, confidante, and constant companion,” wrote Vanity Fair writer William D. Cohan in a profile of Abedin last February.
I feel like, in some small way, I’m helping her help other people.
Abedin has recently been in the spotlight for more unwelcome reasons than campaign trail drama: Her husband, former Congressman Anthony Weiner, has been involved in a number of sext scandals (causing him to resign from his post in 2011). In August, after news of his latest indiscretion, Abedin finally separated from Weiner, a wise choice given that some speculate his activities could dredge up public memories of the Clintons’ own sex scandal. But with a month to go before the make-or-break day that will decide Clinton—and the, largely, the United States’—fate, Abedin seems more laser-focused than ever on winning the presidency. Article after article catalogs her deeply entrenched loyalty to the Democratic nominee. As she told Vogue in an interview published in August, “I feel like, in some small way, I’m helping her help other people. A lot of it is just being around her. I understand the way she wants things done.”
41-year-old Renteria got her start in politics working under Democratic Senator of California Dianne Feinstein after attending Stanford, Harvard Business School, and working briefly at Goldman Sachs. Born in California the daughter of a school secretary and a Mexican immigrant, Renteria eventually became the first Latina Capitol Hill chief of staff for Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan.
This is my calling. I love it.
Now based in Brooklyn as Clinton’s National Political Director, Renteria focuses on building support for Clinton among various constituencies across the U.S., from women and millennials to business leaders and union members. Of her job, Renteria has said, “This is my calling. I love it. I think when you find the job that you wake up every day and feel good about what you’re doing and what you’re trying to do, you just know it’s the right place. Certainly being the first Latina Chief of Staff, I never really thought about it—I was just working hard, doing my job, and being excited to wake up every day being able to make a difference.”
Harris, now 49, became one of the youngest-ever law school deans in the U.S. when, at 29, she was hired to head up Lincoln Law School of San Jose in California. Raised in Berkeley by her single mother, an endocrinologist and breast cancer researcher, Harris and her sister Kamala (now California’s attorney general) grew up watching their mother participate in the local civil rights movement. Harris went on to attend U.C. Berkeley and become a private civil rights attorney.
Language matters… it is important how issues are talked about.
Seen as a bit of a surprise hire by Clinton, Harris was tapped to become a Senior Policy Advisor in April 2015. Since then, she’s helped Clinton refine her point of view on criminal justice issues and police reform. When asked by an ELLE writer last November if the political process’s focus on rhetoric and language frustrates her, Harris replied, “No, because I think that language matters. I think that people who are in public life have an opportunity to help the public understand issues and understand the urgency of issues. And to that extent, I think it is important how issues are talked about.”
As Chief Technology Officer for Clinton, Hannon’s job must come with a lot of pressure just because of its title—and the unending email controversy it evokes (even if that’s not directly related to her job). At 41, Hannon is the first woman to hold that title on a major presidential campaign. Formerly a Director of Product Management at Google and, before that, at Facebook, Hannon now manages a team of more than 50 engineers and software developers who are tasked with using social media, mobile apps, and even games to help motivate and engage voters.
The journey to put the first woman in the White House was just too big not to be part of.
On a day-to-day basis, that means she can be working on everything from fundraising and organizing to data analytics infrastructure, storytelling, and more, she told FORTUNE. And while it wasn’t easy leaving the cushiness and glamour of Google—nor has it been easy convincing her staff to leave and come on board—in an interview with WIRED, she says she’s sure it was the right decision. “The journey to put the first woman in the White House was just too big not to be part of.”
Trump is famous for many things—his businesses, his TV show, his hair—but when it comes to his relatively new political career, one thing his campaign has become known for is its high turnover. Conway was brought on as a Senior Advisor to Trump just last July. A month later, Trump announced her promotion to Campaign Manager. 49-year-old Conway, who was born in New Jersey, attended Trinity Washington University and George Washington University Law School before starting her political career at a Republican polling firm called Wirthlin Group.
I don’t sugarcoat things, but I’m very polite in delivering them.
According to The Washington Post, Conway has built much of her career “helping conservative men win over female voters.” Her first task after being put in charge of Trump’s campaign was to rein in Trump himself, “devise a plan to reverse his sliding polls, sing his praises on TV, and provide a stabilizing presence in a haphazard operation,” reported TIME—in other words, do damage control on some of the problems set in motion by Trump’s big mouth. In an August interview with Rachel Maddow, Conway said, “I think I got the job through the way Donald Trump has promoted women in the Trump Corporation for decades, through merit. And he saw the way I move. He knows I don’t sugarcoat things, but I’m very polite in delivering them.”
Manigault, 42, originally sprang into the public eye—as well as into Trump’s orbit—when she appeared on the first season of “The Apprentice” in 2004 (in which she was portrayed as a shrewd and scheming businesswoman). Since then, Manigauld has appeared on a whopping 20 reality shows, including the first season of “Celebrity Apprentice.” During July’s National Republican Convention, Manigault announced that she had been named Trump’s campaign Director of African-American Outreach.
I’m surrounded by [African American] people who to want see Donald Trump as the next president.
Asked by MSNBC what she thinks of Trump’s abysmal approval ratings by African Americans, Manigault said, “I look at the data, but my reality is that I’m surrounded by people who to want see Donald Trump as the next president of the United States, who are African-American… He really has an incredible vision for this country… Donald Trump is focused on improving the economic conditions of African-Americans in this country.”
Of all the staff appointments in Trump’s camp, Hicks seems to be the one who confounds people the most. 27-year-old Hicks hails from Greenwich, Connecticut, and graduated from Southern Methodist University in 2010. Post-graduation, Hicks worked at a New York City PR firm called Hiltzik Strategies, where she happened to work on some Trump real estate, hospitality, and fashion accounts. Seems like that was the best thing that ever happened to her career, because after moving to the Trump Organization in 2014, being promoted to work directly with Ivanka, and recruited by Donald himself in 2015. (Reportedly he now calls her “Hopie.”)
The way [people] react to Mr Trump… It is the most unbelievable, awe-inspiring thing.
Of Hicks, The New York Times has said, “She is arguably the least credentialed press secretary in the modern history of presidential politics,” and she has a reputation for ignoring journalists’ requests for comments. Still, it seems that Trump trusts her completely, feels she understands him, and takes her advice. Ironically, despite her young age, Hicks is the longest-serving aide on Trump’s presidential campaign. And the respect is mutual. Of Trump and his campaign, Hicks told Marie Claire, “There is nothing like it. And I would say 90 percent of that is the people you see and the things they say, and the way they react to Mr. Trump. It is the most unbelievable, awe-inspiring thing.”
40-year-old, Kansas-born Pierson has been a National Campaign Spokesperson for Trump since 2015, before which she was a Tea Party activist and communications consultant. Pierson ran for Congress in Texas in 2014, during which Sarah Palin and Ted Cruz endorsed her. Unlike Conway, Pierson’s MO is being as brash as needed, rather than using soft words and diplomatic language. “[Trump is] sort of not politically correct,” she said, according to Politico. “He sort of calls it like he sees it. I’m kind of that way, too.”
He’s sort of not politically correct… I’m kind of that way, too.
Since joining Trump’s camp, she’s been voicing his message on TV and social media, regardless of what facts journalists present. To Megyn Kelly in April, Pierson said, “[Trump’s] critics are going to say anything. We know that there’s a full-scale anti-Trump movement going on, that the mainstream media—everyone is out to stop Donald Trump from winning the nomination.”
Ditto, age 34, graduated from Asbury University in 2004 and went on to work for Republican Senator of Oklahoma James Inhofe and Governor of Kentucky Matt Bevin. Just last month, Trump’s campaign announced Ditto’s appointment to Deputy Communications Director, where she works directly with Hicks to lead the campaign’s communications department, press coordination, and outreach.
Trump is our country’s only choice to stop four more years of a failed liberal agenda.
A relatively new hire, Ditto’s media exposure and interviews are limited—she retweets Trump far more than she herself actually tweets her own thoughts and opinions. It remains to be seen whether she’ll be even remotely as prominent a figure as Hicks quickly became, but she did offer this statement when she was hired: “Mr. Trump is a very successful businessman who offers common sense reforms that take power away from Washington’s rigged system insiders and returns it to the people. Mr. Trump is focused on solving the problems facing everyday Americans and is our country’s only choice to stop four more years of a failed liberal agenda.”
Note: If you’re a Los Angeles-based woman interested in helping more women get elected to Senate, check out the LA Women’s Collective. If you’re a woman based anywhere who hasn’t yet registered to vote, please do so ASAP (find out your state’s deadline here).