Having helped lead two GOP Senate campaigns to victory, Sarah Morgan knows what it's like to face an onslaught of outside voices trying to influence a race.
Now political director at the National Republican Senatorial Committee , Morgan hopes to filter out that noise for GOP Senate campaigns as Republicans defend their majority in 2016.
"That’s what I felt was so helpful from the committee in 2012," Morgan, who served as campaign manager to Arizona GOP Sen. Jeff Flake's campaign then, said of the NRSC's role in helping her focus on campaign fundamentals and not outside distractions.
"You live and breathe these races, and so being able to have somebody who is engaged, knows what’s going on, but is able to filter out and say, 'OK, this is actually what’s going to matter on Election Day' and help you see the larger picture. ... I try and provide that."
Morgan is the first woman to hold the role in recent memory in an industry dominated by men — though Morgan says she hopes to stand out for campaign experience and not her gender.
Those who have worked with Morgan, including former Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl, are not surprised she landed in a top role at the NRSC — where she's tasked with making sure GOP Senate campaigns have the resources to stay on a path to victory.
"She is well liked and she has been through all of the different things that can happen in a campaign, so I don’t think anything will surprise her anymore so she can strategize well," Kyl, whose 2006 re-election campaign Morgan helped manage, told CQ Roll Call in a phone interview.
Morgan got her start in politics in Arizona in 2000, waiting tables to make ends meet as she worked as a volunteer on George W. Bush's presidential campaign after graduating from Iowa State University.
From there, Morgan worked on an unsuccessful House race in Arizona's 1st District before landing a job in Kyl's office in 2002. She spent four years there, starting as an office assistant and constituent caseworker before ascending to deputy campaign manager for Kyl's 2006 re-election campaign.
After Kyl easily beat back his Democratic opponent, even in a tough year for Republicans, Morgan left the political side to do government affairs at Arizona's chapter of Associated General Contractors. But when Kyl announced his retirement in 2012, Morgan headed back to the campaign side to manage Flake's bid for the open seat.
Morgan helped Flake beat a self-funding primary opponent, who spent more than $9 million of his own personal wealth to attack Flake on immigration, among other things. And in the general election, Morgan guided Flake to victory over former George W. Bush administration Surgeon General Richard Carmona — a top Democratic recruit.
"I think the world of Sarah," Flake told CQ Roll Call of Morgan. "I had heard the good work she had done for Senator Kyl and others she had worked for before I hired her, and they were all right, she did a great job."
Flake added that Morgan paid attention to even the smallest of details, including planning frequent stops to Dairy Queen — a treat that kept Flake going during long days of campaigning.
"Mormons like me, that's about all we’ve got is ice cream," Flake joked. "And so she made sure that every campaign trip had at least one or two stops at DQ for me, and that’s important."
After Flake's victory, Morgan landed a job as western regional political director at the NRSC, working under then-Political Director Ward Baker to assist Republicans in picking up seats in states such as Alaska and South Dakota — which gave Republicans the Senate majority for the first time since 2006.
Baker, who now runs the committee as executive director, said Morgan was an "indispensable member" who was a natural fit to lead the political shop in 2016.
"She is battle-tested and tough as nails," Baker said. "Sarah’s efforts in Alaska, Kansas and South Dakota were integral in securing the majority, and she will play an essential role in retaining the majority.”
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