Hill Climbers: Staffers Diverse in Geography, United in Goals

Posted May 21, 2010 at 4:00pm

East and West coasts and a state in between — fittingly, Michigan — are represented in a slate of new staffers in the office of Rep. Mark Schauer. But despite their diverse geographical backgrounds, all four hires find unity in a passion for their new jobs.

[IMGCAP(1)]In January, Anne Brady started as deputy chief of staff for the Michigan Democrat. Brady brings six years of D.C. experience to the job, with prior stints at the National Association of Broadcasters and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Today, Brady wears many hats and oversees day-to-day office operations in the D.C. office. (Schauer’s chief of staff works full time in Michigan.)

“He filters basically everything through me, so if he needs something or needs someone or needs talking points … I get it or I draft it. It’s really like a catchall,” she said.

Brady, a 2003 graduate of Pepperdine University, joined Schauer after a three-year stint at the NAB. She most recently served as a vice president in the government relations department, overseeing the organization’s political action committee and lobbying on television and radio issues.

The 2004 Kerry/Edwards presidential campaign brought Brady to Washington shortly after she finished college. After the campaign, in 2005, she joined the DCCC and was assigned to Midwestern politics under then-Rep. Rahm Emanuel (Ill.). Right after the 2006 elections, she moved over to Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) as a Western political liaison. It was a good geographical fit for Brady, who was born in San Francisco and grew up in Seattle.

For Brady, her Capitol Hill comeback came down to wanting a more complete experience. “I think I left the Hill too soon, specifically that we finally won back the House,” she said. “At the end of the day, Mark was the perfect fit. He not only had a great reputation, but he is just a nice guy that I thought I could really learn from.”

Another addition is Brian Tucci, who started as a Congressional aide in March. The staffer is the only Washington-area native on Schauer’s new slate. Tucci, 30, was born in Washington, D.C. — his father was then a Secret Service officer — and grew up in Maryland.

Oddly enough, Tucci has the longest connection to Schauer. After graduating in 2004 from the University of Maryland, where he earned degrees in criminal justice and environmental science, law school drew Tucci to the Wolverine State. In his second year at Thomas M. Cooley Law School, he interned with Schauer, then the Minority Leader in the Michigan Senate.

After earning his law degree in 2008 and passing the bar, Tucci joined the private sector with a firm handling immigration cases. But after the lawmaker won election in 2008, Tucci set his sights on Capitol Hill.

His portfolio includes energy, immigration, banking and small business along with constituent correspondence.

Tucci said he admired his new boss’s personal touch — down to shaking every person’s hand at an event — and, as an outdoorsy guy, spoke highly of the lawmaker’s athletic prowess. Schauer is a daily crack-of-dawn runner and beat all of his staff in last month’s ACLI Capital Challenge.

[IMGCAP(2)]A second new Congressional aide is April Bennett, who hails from Schauer’s 7th district and grew up in Grand Ledge. Bennett, 27, joined Schauer three weeks ago. She handles science and technology, telecommunications, natural resources and non-agriculture environmental issues and is starting to learn constituent correspondence.

Bennett is a 2006 graduate of Michigan State University, where she earned degrees in environmental economics and policy. Fresh out of college, she worked as the campaign coordinator for a 2006 statewide ballot proposal to protect natural resource and recreation funds. The proposal passed with 80 percent of the vote.

Following the successful campaign, Bennett joined Michigan United Conservation Clubs, a statewide hunting, angling, trapping and conservation group, where she worked for the past four years. As policy staff liaison, she worked on Great Lakes federal policy and frequently lobbied Congress, especially the Michigan delegation.

After several years, Bennett found herself wanting to be on the other side of the process. In January, she attended a career fair, where she was placed in touch with Schauer’s district-based press secretary, whom she’d known since childhood. In a few months, Bennett was on her way to Washington.

As November approaches, Bennett said she looks forward to lobbying her district friends and family to support her boss’s re-election.

“I’ll be sending out e-mails for sure,” she said.

The final Schauer addition is Valeria Carranza, who started as a staff assistant in March. For Carranza, 22, the job marks her first Capitol Hill position and her second stint in Washington, D.C. After graduating from Dickinson College in 2009, Carranza earned a fellowship with the Center for Progressive Leadership. As a fellow, she was placed in an internship at the White House Office of Presidential Correspondence.

While interning in the executive branch, Carranza said she was bit by the political bug.

“My background has been with local politics” — Carranza has worked on city council races in Los Angeles and Albuquerque — “so I decided to pursue the Hill so that I could have more of that political background. … I started going to events on the Hill and getting my name out there.”

Schauer was her first Hill interview, and the lawmaker immediately put Carranza at ease by speaking Spanish. Schauer spent time in Mexico while in college and returned to the country many times with Habitat for Humanity.

Now Schauer and Carranza often converse in Spanish in the office.

“If you ever hear our conversations, it’s mainly him doing the talking. I’m like, ‘Uh huh, uh huh.’ He’s good at Spanish.”

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