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Hill Climbers: House Staffer Makes Safe Landing in Senate

Jonathan Lipman, the former communications director for Rep. Melissa Bean (D-Ill.), had a lot on his mind during the midterm elections.

A week after election day, with Bean’s race still too close to call, Lipman’s wife gave birth to their second child.

“I’m in the hospital, my baby is sleeping on my chest, and we hadn’t lost yet, but I was thinking, ‘I need to play it safe. My diaper and milk budget is about to double,’” he said.

As the single-income family’s breadwinner, Lipman knew he needed to step up his job hunt.

Bean conceded the race a week later. Luckily, Lipman wasn’t out of work long. He secured a job as communications director for Sen. Jeanne Shaheen the day after Bean stepped aside.

The 33-year-old didn’t land his gig with the New Hampshire Democrat using the usual job-searching techniques. Instead, the new father got some help from an unlikely source: his dad.

His parents had attended a New Hampshire get-out-the-vote rally before the elections, and his father decided to put in a good word for his son.

“My father fought his way to the rope line and said, ‘Senator, we’re big supporters. Also, my son is on Capitol Hill and looking for a job,’” Lipman said. “I couldn’t believe he did it. But when I sent my résumé to the chief of staff, I mentioned this incident, and he said the Senator remembered this moment.”

Parental endorsements aside, Lipman’s extensive political experience and ties to the state helped seal the deal. Lipman spent most of his childhood and adolescence in the Granite State before attending Northwestern University.

Politics wasn’t always the plan for the New Hampshire native. He received a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism and completed internships with Newsday and the Tampa Tribune. In 2000, Lipman started as a suburban beat reporter for the Chicago-area Daily Southtown newspaper, where he stayed for seven years and worked his way up to covering Chicago City Hall and Cook County.

But when the paper’s parent company, the Chicago Sun-Times, went bankrupt, Lipman knew his job was at risk. With his first baby on the way, he faced the same choice he did this November: wait around or play it safe.

Ultimately, Lipman ditched his press pass for politics and headed to Capitol Hill. He said his experience as a reporter was a “great political education” and prepared him for the three-year stint in Bean’s office.

“When I applied for the job [with Bean], they asked if I thought I could handle Washington politics,” he said. “I said ‘With all due respect, this ain’t Cook County. I’ll be fine. Chicago politics are a little more rough and tumble, even in Washington.’”

The staffer started his job with Shaheen on Dec. 6.  Before he can dig into his new responsibilities, Lipman joked that he still needs to work on basics, such as finding the Senate-side cafeterias and learning how to transfer phone calls.

Lipman is excited to work for the Senate because it offers political communicators a bigger megaphone than the House does. Mostly, though, he enjoys participating in politics, instead of just watching it.

“I was really excited to get off the sidelines. I spent years watching and writing about politics and government, and I always thought about ways we could do it better,” he said. “I wanted to stop throwing spitballs and be a part of the solution. I am incredibly fortunate to be where I am today.”

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

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