Hill Climbers: On Deck

Posted September 18, 2009 at 4:31pm

It’s not every day that you run across someone on Capitol Hill with a background in sports broadcasting. But Paul Kincaid brings just that — and a whole lot more.

[IMGCAP(1)]Kincaid, 32, began working as press secretary for Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) earlier this month, but his entry onto the Hill is a lot more interesting than it might seem at first glance.

While in college, Kincaid got to try his hand at broadcasting for minor league baseball teams in Kansas. “While I was there, I actually got to do play-by-play for future Cardinals’ first baseman Alberto Pujols,— Kincaid said. “Pujols was extremely talented, but was really just biding his time to sign with the majors.—

A 2000 graduate of the University of Florida with a degree in journalism, Kincaid did a short stint in telemarketing after graduation.

And what was it like being one of those pesky telemarketers? Kincaid said that the job unexpectedly was good preparation for politics. “Working in telemarketing really helped me to gain a greater appreciation for what field organizers have to go through — you have to call people who don’t want to be called and who don’t want to listen,— he said.

Eventually Kincaid headed up to Michigan to work at a local radio station covering high school and local sports.

[IMGCAP(2)]But even telemarketing and sports reporting do not provide the complete picture of Kincaid. After nearly five years, Kincaid headed back to his home state of Florida in 2005 for a job as spokesperson for the Gainesville Fire and Rescue Department.

Primarily writing press releases and acting as a liaison to the public, Kincaid said there were also cool perks to

the job, even though he was not fighting fires. “I actually got fitted out for a full fire suit because part of the job involved public education, which required being able to communicate what the firefighters use,— Kincaid said.

While working in the fire department, Kincaid also got his first job in politics, as campaign manager for Rep. Cliff Stearns’ (R-Fla.) 2006 challenger, David Bruderly. “My candidate actually did better than he had done before, and as a first-time campaign manager he allowed me to make a lot of mistakes,— Kincaid said. “Being campaign manager was a great experience because the district happens to be in the same town where I went to college. So campaigning was also fun because we got go to Gator football games.—

With his first foray into political work, Kincaid said he was sure that was the career path for him, with a job on the Hill as his ultimate goal. Shortly after leaving the Gainesville Fire Department in 2007, a friend connected Kincaid to a job with New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson’s (D) presidential campaign. “I really didn’t think about not going and jumped at the opportunity,— Kincaid said.

Although Kincaid said that he swore he’d never go back north after working in Michigan as a telemarketer, he said his time in Iowa was surprisingly rewarding. “I was based out of Des Moines, which is a really cool city,— he said. “In campaigning for the Iowa caucus, I got to travel to all 99 counties in the state. Along the way, I got to hang out with a bunch of great people, many of whom went on to work for the Obama campaign.—

After the Richardson campaign fizzled out, friendship delivered yet another job for Kincaid — working in Colorado as advance director for now-Rep. Jared Polis (D) in the 2008 primary campaign.

Kincaid spent four months with the Polis campaign. Then, thanks to a friend in Iowa, Kincaid took his third political job within a year as press secretary for the Campaign for Change/Nevada State Democratic Party, just a mere two days after the Democratic National Convention in Denver.

Having honed his political chops, Kincaid headed to Washington, D.C., in January for a shot in the “big leagues.—

“I knew I always would come out to Washington after the election. … Fortunately, my girlfriend lives in Columbia, Md., which also happens to be in Rep. Cummings district, and was able to provide me with a place to stay while I searched for jobs.—

The many political jobs Kincaid landed through friends’ connections were not ultimately what got Kincaid a job on the Hill. “Diametrically opposed to every other job I applied for on the Hill, I had no connections whatsoever in Rep. Cummings’ office, but simply sent in a cover letter and a résumé,— he said. “I was called in for an interview, and he apparently liked what I said and hired me.—

And how are things going so far for Kincaid, now that he has reached the political big leagues? “You know, starting work in this legislative season has been a lot like my work for the Obama campaign,— he said. “It’s been a little weird to be getting my feet wet into the game but I think I am adjusting well.—

Kincaid said he is still learning about the District but that he already has figured out a couple of his favorite things here — the view of the Capitol and the best neighborhood in the city.

“I really like U Street because that is where Ben’s Chili Bowl is located,— he said. “I’m a much bigger fan of chili half-smokes than I should be.—

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