J.T. Jezierski (left), who is presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romneys top staffer for legislative affairs, worked for Rep. David McKinley (right) in 2011.
He attended graduate school for public policy at Regent University before moving to Washington, D.C., to be a junior opposition researcher for the Republican National Committee in 1999. There, Jezierski dug through the Nashville Tennessean’s microfiche to research Vice President Al Gore under the tutelage of future Romney campaign manager Matt Rhoades, as well as now-Rep. Tim Griffin (Ark.), then the RNC deputy research director.
Jezierski worked at the White House Office of Personnel Management in the Bush administration until the space fanatic became the president’s liaison to NASA in 2003. Four years later, he departed for another frontier: Boston.
During his stint with Romney’s 2008 campaign, Jezierski slept on a leaky Coleman air mattress and bought dinner at 7-Eleven. He saved most of his time for Romney’s campaign, doing similar work by collecting Congressional endorsements.
In the 2008 cycle, Romney had an immense challenge courting support on Capitol Hill against Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the eventual nominee. By the time Romney suspended his campaign in mid-February, he had collected more Congressional endorsements than McCain.
“In the primary, we faced John McCain, who obviously has a lot more connections on Capitol Hill than a governor from Massachusetts,” said Josh Ginsberg, Romney’s national field director in 2008.
At Romney campaign headquarters, Jezierski’s low-key, agreeable personality made him a target for practical jokes. Fellow Romney aides falsely alerted staffers that the sweet-toothed Jezierski’s wife demanded he stop eating candy because of his diabetes. Even the campaign’s receptionist bought into the candy ban, much to the bewilderment of the nondiabetic Jezierski.
Diet aside, Jezierski earned the respect of his colleagues as an arduous and unassuming worker with a sneaky sense of sarcasm.
“Give J.T. a BlackBerry and an air mattress and he’s got all he needs to put all heart and all might into taking back the White House for Republicans,” said Joanna Burgos, a top House Republican campaign operative and friend of Jezierski.
It wasn’t until 2009 that Jezierski made his first stop on Capitol Hill. Continuing his interest in space, he served as legislative director for then-freshman Rep. Pete Olson (R-Texas), who represents part of the NASA campus in Houston.
In 2011, he transitioned to a similar role for his hometown Congressman, freshman Rep. David McKinley (R-W.Va.), the first Republican elected to that district in 50 years. He then worked for Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.), chairman of the Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics, before beginning his second stint with Romney.
In April, Jezierski arrived in Boston, again, with an air mattress in his carry-on luggage. The campaign’s city and staff might not have changed, but Jezierski’s challenges are different this cycle.
This year, Romney’s campaign must grapple and coordinate with a House GOP majority, including a diverse and undisciplined freshman class. His efforts will be complicated by the fact that, as the nominee, Romney must appeal to independent voters while appeasing the House’s most outspoken conservatives.
But one former House Republican aide said that is why Jezierski is perfect for this job.
“He’s a true believer,” the aide said. “In terms of the offices who are most likely to fret about a moderate tack that Romney will be taking, J.T. will be seen in those offices as an advocate for conservative causes in the Romney campaign. He will not be seen as an establishment guy who is trying to marginalize conservative guys on the Hill.”
Roll Call has launched a new feature, Hill Navigator, to advise congressional staffers and would-be staffers on how to manage workplace issues on Capitol Hill. Please send us your questions anything from office etiquette, to handling awkward moments, to what happens when the work life gets too personal. Submissions will be treated anonymously.