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Hill Climbers: Politics Has Been a Lifelong Passion for Staffer

Adam Hodge once was a kid wearing a political T-shirt while riding on a campaign float. So it’s not surprising that today, he’s Majority Whip James Clyburn’s new press secretary.

“I’ve been interested in politics since I was a baby,” Hodge said, only half- jokingly. “My father was chair of the Democratic Party for the Virgin Islands, and my uncle was lieutenant governor for two terms. He re-ran and lost in ’92, and I remember my father saying, ‘He just didn’t get enough votes. But we’ll get up tomorrow, the sun will rise and we’ll have to find another way to help people.’”

His late father’s message stayed with him long after he moved from his hometown in the U.S. Virgin Islands to live in the United States, where he would eventually find jobs in the Majority and Minority Whip’s office, a Senator’s office and several campaign trails.

Hodge’s most recent campaign work began shortly after he started for the South Carolina Democrat this October. The 28-year-old left for Connecticut to help Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.) in his race for re-election. Not only did he assist in the campaign’s press operations, but he also provided special attention to an area that his uncle and father would be proud of: getting out the vote.

“On Election Day, the polling locations had run out of ballots. It was probably 45 degrees, but I stood outside my car and took the names and numbers of people who wanted to vote, and called them when the ballots got there,” Hodge said. “I think the assumption is that folks don’t vote or that turnout is low, but to see people who are on the verge of tears because they couldn’t vote reminds you how of important this job is.”

The political seed may have been planted in the staffer from birth, but it really started growing during his first summer internship at the Democratic National Committee in 2002, followed the next summer by an internship with then-Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.). By 2004, he became the phone bank coordinator for the presidential campaign of former Minority Leader Dick Gephardt (D-Mo.).

All the hours of free labor eventually paid off. Hodge cemented his first job as an African-American outreach director for the re-election campaign of Sen. Chris Dodd just three days after his graduation from Wesleyan University. It eventually turned into a full-time gig as staff assistant with the Connecticut Democrat’s office.

But after two years, Hodge began doubting his career choice. In order to test the waters, he left the Hill to serve two stints as a paralegal in New York and San Diego, and he even contemplated law school. 

“I just needed to find out for myself if this was really what I wanted to do, but it was a definitely a case of absence makes the heart grow fonder,” he said. “I saw the 2008 election unfold and I knew it was something I wanted to be a part of. I had to come back.”

When the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee started adding staff after the presidential election, Hodge immediately hopped on board to work as deputy press secretary and new media director. Two years later, an opportunity arose to work for the Majority Whip, which Hodge said he couldn’t pass up because of the lawmaker’s outstanding reputation in the community.

Since becoming press secretary for Clyburn, Hodge has not only jump-started new media initiatives, but also aided the office in a fight for a leadership position after Democrats lost control of the House in November.

“It was my first foray into a leadership race, with two Members who have great respect for each other, and it was fascinating to say the least,” Hodge said with a laugh. “I’m glad there was a resolution and the Whip is excited about his new position. It was a 24/7 operation, all hands on deck, but that’s just the industry.”

The industry is exactly what brought Hodge back in the first place. After his two-year hiatus from the Hill, the staffer rekindled his innate passion for politics and vowed that he is here to stay.

“I can make more money on Wall Street or as a lawyer. There are other more lucrative careers,” he said. “But the satisfaction for me is not comparable. And that’s why I’m here.” 

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