When Virginia Gov. Mark Warner (D) hosts the kickoff event for his recently-formed political action committee tonight — billed as his national fundraising debut as he contemplates his 2008 plans — it will also, in a sense, be a coming-out party for one of his most trusted and long-standing political lieutenants.
Mame Reiley has been one of Warner’s top political advisers since he was elected governor in 2001. But while she has been a well-known player in Virginia political circles for years, she has not garnered the household name status and limelight that some other Warner operatives, such as Steve Jarding or Dave “Mudcat” Sanders have at the national level — at least not yet anyway.
Reiley has worn many hats during the current administration, including overseeing Warner’s inaugural festivities, but since 2003 she has served as director of Warner’s One Virginia political action committee. In that capacity she has also been an unofficial political spokeswoman for the governor.
This summer, Warner formed the Forward Together federal PAC, which is holding its first big event at the Ritz Carlton in Tysons Corner tonight. Warner’s hiring of former deputy chief of staff to then-Vice President Al Gore to run the PAC garnered national press attention, as it was viewed as a reflection of the governor’s future ambitions.
But Warner’s growing national profile means Reiley’s may grow as well. Reiley has long been considered one of the most influential players in Warner’s political kitchen cabinet, although not all of her endeavors have been met with success.
She was among the leading advocates of Warner’s 2002 regional sales tax referenda — which sought to fund transportation costs in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads but was soundly defeated by voters. She served as campaign director of Citizens for Better Transportation, the umbrella group for the referenda’s proponents.
A veteran Democratic activist, Reiley began her career in politics as a volunteer for Robert Kennedy’s presidential campaign in 1968 and her background includes work in many social justice movements.
To this day she remains one of the most active party loyalists in the Commonwealth.
For more than a decade, Reiley has been a DNC Committeewoman, and she currently serves as chairwoman of the
DNC’s women’s caucus. She is also a member of the Virginia Democratic Party’s state central committee as well as its steering committee.
Reiley, who runs an events-planning organization in Washington, D.C., was co-chair of Gore’s campaign in Virginia in 2000.
Like Warner a resident of Alexandria, she also has close ties to Capitol Hill. She managed Rep. Jim Moran’s (D-Va.) first Congressional bid in 1990 (he is a former mayor of Alexandria) and became his chief of staff after the election. She remains a close adviser to Moran and deeply involved in 8th district politics.
Reiley grew up in Northern Virginia and graduated from Sacred Heart College in Belmont, N.C., in 1974. After college, from 1975 to 1983, she was assistant manager of the Watergate Hotel.
“She’s indomitable. She’s phenomenal,” Moran said. “There’s nothing that she can’t accomplish. One of the strongest, most capable and most lovable people I’ve ever met in my life.”
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., takes a selfie with his cut-out head during the Hoops for Youth 16th annual charity basketball game held at George Washington University's Smith Center, September 8, 2014. The members of Congress team beat the lobbyist team 46-40. Buy photo here.