A guide to some of the most influential players in his 2016 presidential bid.
Marco Rubio is keeping his staffing operation small, for the time being. The Florida senator and 2016 presidential hopeful lacks the vast political and fundraising network enjoyed by the likes of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who has been on the political scene for decades. And he hasn’t invested as much time in staffing up as fellow senator and 2016 rival Rand Paul.
Instead, Rubio plans to focus his resources on introducing himself in places like Iowa and New Hampshire. To help him do that, Rubio is tapping into a close-knit, fiercely loyal circle of advisers, many of whom are expected to take on influential key roles in the campaign. Several of the most prominent voices in Rubio’s orbit have been with him since his long-shot 2010 Senate bid, or even earlier, and like Rubio, who is the son of Cuban immigrants, several staffers have ties to Miami and the Cuban-American community
Here’s a look at Rubio’s most influential operatives and how early staffing moves are shaping up.
• Terry Sullivan will be Rubio’s campaign manager. He was a top South Carolina operative and adviser to former Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) who worked on Rubio’s 2010 Senate campaign and then joined his official team in 2011 as deputy chief of staff. Most recently, he has been running Rubio’s leadership PAC, Reclaim America. In the Palmetto State, his business partner was Warren Tompkins, who is now running the pro-Rubio super PAC.
• Rich Beeson, a Republican operative, will be Rubio’s deputy campaign manager. Beeson, who previously worked as a political director for the Republican National Committee and founded a voter contact firm, in 2012 also served as political director for then-GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
• Alex Conant, formerly Rubio’s Senate press secretary, will be communications director. He has previous presidential experience after working for former GOP candidate Tim Pawlenty in 2012. He also has Iowa experience: Conant assisted Sen. Joni Ernst in her 2014 race in Iowa, building relationships in the first-in-the-nation Hawkeye State, a boon for Rubio as the Iowa Caucuses near. Brooke Sammon, Rubio’s current press secretary in his Senate office, is remaining in Washington for now, but could also transition to the campaign.
• Jessica Ennis will be Rubio’s political director. She is also an alum of the Romney campaign, where she served as deputy director of operations, and before that she was a regional political director for the Republican National Committee.
• Jim Merrill, a respected New Hampshire Republican who led Romney’s Granite State primary efforts in 2008 and 2012, is a senior adviser to Rubio’s PAC and is positioned to lead Rubio’s New Hampshire and broader Northeast efforts.
• Alberto Martinez, Rubio’s chief of the staff in the Senate, isn’t expected to make the jump to the campaign. But Martinez is a highly influential voice in Rubio’s orbit and is very protective of the senator. The two came up together in Florida politics, with Rubio ultimately serving as speaker of the statehouse while Martinez was communications director for the statehouse GOP majority.
• Todd Harris, Heath Thompson and Malorie Thompson are all GOP political operatives who worked closely together on Rubio’s longshot 2010 Senate campaign, then with another colleague formed the consulting group Something Else Strategies after his victory. And all are seasoned strategists who are involved at high levels in Rubio’s 2016 efforts, focused on strategic and media consulting. Harris has worked for a host of Republican politicians, including John McCain, Jeb Bush and Ernst. Heath Thompson, who shepherded George W. Bush’s South Carolina victory in 2000 — at the time working against Harris in the primary — has also worked for Republican candidates including Rudy Giuliani and DeMint. And Malorie Thompson started her career working for Jeb Bush and has worked for a number of GOP party committees and on Senate and gubernatorial campaigns (she and Heath Thompson got married after working for Rubio’s Senate bid).
• Alex Burgos, Rubio’s communications director in the Senate, had a similar role on the 2010 campaign. Burgos is one of the senator’s main gatekeepers and is a liaison to the Spanish-speaking press, an important constituency for Rubio. He will stay in the Senate.
• Todd Reid, Rubio’s state director, is expected to maintain that position, but is also part of the senator’s inner circle and has helped lay the groundwork for his Monday announcement in Miami.
• Whit Ayres, a well-regarded GOP consultant in Washington, is expected to be Rubio’s presidential pollster.
• Anna Rogers, who served as finance director at the Karl Rove-linked super PAC, American Crossroads, is set to be Rubio’s finance director.
• Dorinda Moss, who has been working with Rubio’s team for several years, will be a finance consultant.
• The super PAC Conservative Solutions PAC will be steered by Tompkins, the veteran South Carolina strategist who has worked for a host of presidential candidates, including George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush. Jon Lerner, a conservative strategist, will be a media consultant and pollster for the PAC. Jon Graham, a Republican fundraiser, will spearhead fundraising for the PAC. And Jeff Sadosky, who has worked for Republicans including George W. Bush, John McCain and Rob Portman, is handling communications. Mega-donors who have indicated support for Rubio so far include Wayne Berman, a major GOP fundraiser and senior adviser at the Blackstone Group; Miami auto tycoon Norman Braman; and potentially some members of the Fanjul family, who made a fortune in sugar.
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