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Roll Call

Hill Climbers: D.C. Is ‘Like Politics in a Blender’

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
Although he’s working on a different kind of sideline now, Abe Rakov said his sports reporter education has come in handy in the political realm.

Four years ago, Abe Rakov was on track to graduate from Northwestern Universitys Medill School of Journalism and become a sports reporter. But the college newspapers editor-in-chief decided to add Congressional intern to his résumé, and everything has just kind of snowballed since then.

Rakov, the new communications director for Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), had always been interested in politics, thanks to nightly political discussions at the dinner table with his parents and brother. 

Although he had completed four reporting internships while in college, he had kept the idea of pursuing a Congressional internship in the back of his mind. When the opportunity arose to intern in Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbins Chicago office located near Northwesterns Evanston campus Rakov jumped at the chance to work for the Illinois Democrat. I was thinking about it for four years, he remembered thinking, I might as well try it this last year.

Almost immediately, Rakov decided to change his career path. After that first week working for Sen. Durbin, he said, I was pretty sold on, Wow this is going to be something that I want to do for a while.

While in Durbins office and still a student at Northwestern, Rakov was presented with a unique opportunity, for which he should probably thank Northwesterns student housing department. The universitys student government president, and Rakovs roommate from freshman year, needed a deputy campaign manager for his older brother, Stephen Webber, who was running for Missouri state Representative. With my monthlong experience working for Sen. Durbin, I said, Sure, that sounds like a good idea, he said.

Rakov also served as campaign manager for Illinois state Rep. Elaine Nekritzs re-election bid.

He went two-for-two, with Webber and Nekritz both winning.

He also spent a few months as a researcher at D.C. political consulting firm Angle & Associates. After nine months there, the South Florida native returned to Missouri to work for Secretary of State Robin Carnahan. 

I thought it would be a good opportunity for me to get some government experience, he said, although his time there also included some campaign work in Carnahans failed 2010 Senate race.

Rakov enjoyed the experience but was eager to return to D.C. when he was offered the position in Nortons office. So much goes on here, he said. Its like politics in a blender.

Although hes working on a different kind of sideline now, Rakov said his sports reporter education has come in handy. The skills I learned at Northwestern University are something that help me in every aspect of my job, he said, whether its using [Associated Press] style or writing quickly on a deadline. 

Rakov explained that Northwestern also provided him with new-media skills such as creating podcasts, editing video and using social media tools that have helped him. 

And while hes not writing about sports, hes still a fan. Probably three-quarters of my tweets involve sports, he said, the majority of which pertain to his beloved Wildcats. Im an irrational Northwestern fan, he admitted, a distinct labor of love. The schools football team hasnt won a bowl game since 1948, and its basketball team has never been to the NCAA tournament.

Now that hes in the District, Rakov is trying to become more of a D.C. sports fan. Although he will always root for South Florida teams, Rakov said he will make a point of going to Washington sporting events. For now, hes focused on finding a team to cheer for when his alma mater isnt playing. I still havent decided between Georgetown and Maryland, he said.


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