Wherever you’re from, there are certain people that shape our government and legislative agenda who everyone should know. In this week’s blog, we reveal some of the power players behind the scenes for you to keep your eye on.
Vincent Gray: Whether you’re in DC full-time or just for a few months, it’s important to know the laws and who makes them happen. Because DC is not a state, the mayor plays a huge role in shaping policy in the District. DC Councilman Vincent Gray recently won the democratic primary for mayor. With no credible GOP challenger, Gray will become DC’s new mayor after the general election in November. He unseats reform minded Mayor Adrian Fenty. By the way, Fenty had three internships under his belt before he began his own career. He was an intern for Senator Howard Metzenbaum (D-OH), Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), and Representative Joseph P. Kennedy II (D-MA) before becoming involved in local politics.
Michelle Rhee: The chancellor of the DC public school system, Michelle Rhee, has instituted numerous reforms since attaining the position in 2007. Aside from founding the New Teacher Project to bring qualified teachers into schools that are underperforming, Rhee has become an outspoken activist for public school reform and has attempted to bring about change in one of the nation’s lowest performing school districts. She garnered national attention and has become the face of school reform in the U.S. She was featured on the cover of TIME magazine. Incoming Mayor Vincent Gray is not a fan and most expect her to leave her post in the coming days.
David Axelrod: David Axelrod got his start as many powerful people do, with an internship. He began his career as an intern at the Chicago Tribune and has worked his way up to the position of Senior Advisor to President Obama. As the President’s go-to man, Axelrod has the opportunity to offer his opinions and advice on everything and anything that is presented to the President. He is responsible for communicating the President’s policies and vision to the public, the press and the party faithful. While he may not be a name you hear often, he is one to remember when thinking about those shaping policy decisions. Recent press reports say that he’ll leave his White House post some time next year and begin working full time on the Presidential re-election of 2012.
Nancy Pelosi: As second in line after the Vice President in the Presidential succession, it is always important to know who the Speaker of the House is. Nancy Pelosi is the first female Speaker, which also makes her the highest ranking female politician in American history. She got her start interning in the 1960s for a democratic senator from Maryland. Regardless of whether she keeps the speaker’s gavel or not after the election in November, she’s made her stamp on history.
Harry Reid: As the Senate Majority Leader, Reid represents Democratic opinions to the Senate and to the public. As leader of the Senate he’s responsible for opening the day’s proceedings, keeping legislation moving, and protecting the rights and interests of fellow democrats. Originally from Nevada, Reid knew DC was where he could truly get his career started – he graduated from George Washington Law School while working for the United States Capitol Police. His political future hinges on what happens in November. The most recent polling shows his Republican Challenger, Sharon Angle, closing the gap. Election watchers say the race is too close to call – a clear toss up.
John Boehner: House Minority Leader John Boehner is currently a major mover and shaker in American politics. Outspoken and demanding reform, he represents the Republican minority in the House and has been making headlines as of late. With a background in sales and coming from a family with 11 siblings, Boehner seems well prepared to take on any challenges that come his way.
Think Tanks: While not an individual, there are five major think tanks in DC that play a large role in shaping public policy decisions. Brookings Institute, Heritage Foundation, the Center for American Progress, American Enterprise Institute and the Cato Institute all put out policy papers, act as advisors on bills and sit-in on hearings to offer counsel regarding government decisions. While there are many more think tanks throughout DC vying to sway the policy decisions one way or another, those five are the oldest and largest in the DC area, and important for everyone to be familiar with.