Hill Climbers: Learning to Love Politics

Posted December 18, 2009 at 3:05pm

With a career spanning two presidential campaigns, several Congressional offices and a stint with the Democratic National Committee, Josh Rosenblum has unquestionably earned his stripes. So it’s not surprising that Rosenblum, 31, was hired early this month as Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy’s (D-Ohio) new press secretary.

But Rosenblum is an unlikely political guy.

[IMGCAP(1)]While in college at the University at Albany, Rosenblum interned at the New York state Legislature. That internship experience almost drove Rosenblum to abandon politics just as he started his career.

Rosenblum said, “I had a realization: ‘Oh, politics isn’t for me and that’s OK.’—

A year later, that outlook would change when Rosenblum volunteered for then-Vice President Al Gore’s 2000 primary campaign. Rosenblum remembers his first enjoyable foray into politics very well: “The first day I walked into that office, everyone was on their hands and knees sorting through these papers and they kind of looked at me: ‘Who are you? Get down here and help us.’ That was a team atmosphere environment and I really liked it.—

After graduating from college, Rosenblum signed up again to volunteer with the Gore campaign. That free labor would eventually lead to jobs in field organizing in Missouri and New York during the 2000 elections.

When the Gore campaign ended, Rosenblum switched gears to state politics and was campaign manager for a local race in Albany.

In 2001, Rosenblum transitioned to the world of political advocacy after nearly a year of campaigns and worked as a legislative representative for the Albany American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO chapter.

But as the 2002 election cycle came into swing, Rosenblum began itching for change. “I had a feeling that I wanted to try D.C. and in that year South Dakota was the biggest race,— Rosenblum said.

In 2002, Rosenblum enlisted as a field organizer for Sen. Tim Johnson’s (D-S.D.) re-election bid. To this day, Rosenblum easily recalls Johnson’s margin of victory: 524 votes.

The Johnson campaign would have a strong impact on Rosenblum’s appreciation for political messaging.

“The message was so important because we had to deliver it to every voter, because it’s such a small universe,— Rosenblum said. Voters “were getting the over-saturation with the commercials and the mail.—

After a close Johnson victory, Rosenblum wasn’t quite ready to abandon the 2002 election cycle, so he headed south to Baton Rouge, La., for the runoff election between Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) and Suzanne Terrell (R).

[IMGCAP(2)]But Rosenblum’s excitement over the Johnson and Landrieu victories didn’t match his job opportunities back in Washington with a Republican-controlled Congress. So in 2003, Rosenblum signed up with another presidential campaign and worked as a fundraiser for then-Democratic candidate Sen. Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.).

When Lieberman’s campaign ended in 2004, he was hired to work in the DNC’s field and political department.

After Sen. John Kerry’s (D-Mass.) presidential campaign loss, Rosenblum again went on the job hunt. This time, Rosenblum didn’t have to look too far for a job and was hired as Johnson’s press secretary in 2005.

Rosenblum said his transition into his first Capitol Hill job was easy.

But after nearly a year on the Hill, Rosenblum made a tough decision and left Johnson for a job in Colorado as executive director of the Colorado House Majority Project. “I have always been interested in Colorado since I was a kid,— Rosenblum said. “I love skiing, I love outdoors stuff and I always wanted to try living there.—

But because of limited political opportunities in politics in the state, Rosenblum would switch to the private sector when that job ended after five months. Rosenblum worked as a senior account executive with a Denver-based public relations firm.

It took Rosenblum less than a year to hanker for a return to politics. So he returned to the East Coast.

Shortly after coming back to Washington, Rosenblum landed a job doubling as a campaign manager and communications director for Rep. Ciro Rodriguez (D-Texas).

Rodriguez would score a victory with 55.8 percent of the vote in 2008. Rosenblum then headed back to Washington to manage the press for Rodriguez.

Rosenblum said he’s ready to start something new with Kilroy and the Congresswoman’s district, which includes Columbus and the surrounding area. “This is the smallest size-wise district that I’ve ever worked in,— Rosenblum said. “Compared to 20 percent of Texas and the whole state of South Dakota, it’s a lot less to digest.—

Rosenblum said he also appreciates the added challenge that comes for working with a vulnerable Member.

“Tough races really interest me,— Rosenblum said. Kilroy “obviously had a tough race last time and she may have one this time. I like helping Democrats that are in those situations develop messages to communicate with their folks.—

In between getting a handle on his new job, Rosenblum is an aspiring novelist. While living in Colorado, Rosenblum began writing a book that traces the struggles of an aspiring Capitol Hill aide after the 2000 election.

“I need to edit it,— Rosenblum said. “I kind of finished it sometime in 2008 and then I was working on the campaign and let it sit for a while.—

Next year, the staffer hopes to start on the hunt for a publisher.

Submit news of hires and promotions on Capitol Hill to Hill Climbers here.