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Capitol Hill was never in Orlando Watson’s plan. Convinced that the private sector creates more value for society and that politics was becoming too divisive, the new press secretary for Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., decided to major in public policy at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va.
But in 2008, on the advice of his college professors, Watson began to take a good look at presidential candidates across the political spectrum — and that’s when then-Rep. Ron Paul caught his eye.
“The more I learned about Dr. Ron Paul, the more I became ... sort of reinvigorated,” Watson said.
It was two years later, when he graduated, that Watson jumped at the opportunity to work on the Senate race of Paul’s son, Rand Paul. The Kentucky Republican’s campaign was the first for which Watson had ever worked.
And timing was everything.
“If I had graduated a year earlier or two years earlier, or a year later, I probably would be doing consulting work like the rest of my miserable friends,” Watson joked.
During the campaign, there was no task that Watson wasn’t tapped for. He traveled with Rand Paul, dealt with press inquiries, handled media booking, videotaped events and helped out with advance work for fundraisers and campaign events. At one point, he was even the candidate’s driver.
His work and adaptability paid off, earning him a job as a press assistant on Paul’s Capitol Hill staff after the senator was elected.
Watson, 24, credits his success to four things: “ambition, hard work, timing and opportunity.”
Having moved from New York to Virginia when he was 16, the move to Washington, D.C., itself wasn’t a difficult transition — but the move to Capitol Hill was all new.
“It’s fun; it’s young,” Watson said of working on the Hill. “The Capitol grounds is like a big campus — so it definitely reminds me of college.”
But the slower pace of work on the Hill, compared with the action-packed campaign, took some getting used to. A lesser frustration was learning to navigate the Capitol complex.
“I’ve got an awful sense of direction. My navigational skills aren’t good ... so I would get lost all the time,” Watson said.
It wasn’t long before Watson earned a promotion to deputy press secretary in Paul’s office.
It was around the same time that Watson’s business drive caught up with him — resulting in the creation of his own hyperlocal news aggregation website for the Washington metro area, DCBulletin.com.