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Hill Climbers: 'Into the Fire' on Way to Washington

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
Carnes’ student government stint at North Greenville University helped the broadcast media major realized he wanted to be involved in politics, not just report on the issues.

A self-described jack of all trades, he thrives in the unpredictable environment that is Capitol Hill, where one minute he finds himself writing a speech, and the next turns toward researching and writing a press release on the greater sage-grouse, for example.

And it’s his ability to know “a little bit about everything” that makes him so welcome in Franks’ office.

Music is also a passion for Carnes, who plays drums, guitar, mandolin, banjo and some piano — and it’s something he said he has considered trying to integrate on Capitol Hill, where there are plenty of other talented musicians to be found, including among members of Congress.

“The difficult thing would be to sync that with also being a communications director,” he said.

Days are often long and busy enough without having to haul instruments up to Capitol Hill.

It’s not unusual for a Hill staffer to sleep with one eye on his or her inbox, but not a lot of them are single parents waking up to check on two kids at the same time. Carnes is going through a divorce and has custody of the children.

“I’m to the point now where I’ll often roll over at 2 or 3 in the morning and just — it’s like a reflex to turn on your phone really quick and check and turn it off — it’s a little bit worrying, I guess,” he said.

But Franks has been more than accommodating and has given plenty of leeway for Carnes to see to his family obligations.

“The way he treats his staff engenders loyalty,” Carnes said.

“He is exactly the same behind the scenes as he is when you see him on camera — I consider myself extremely lucky,” he said.

Send news of hires and promotions on Capitol Hill to climbers@rollcall.com.

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