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Hill Climbers: Coons Media Director Took Roundabout Path

Correction Appended

It was the primary election heard round the political world.

The Republican nomination of Christine O’Donnell in Delaware for Senate changed everything for Ian Koski, new media director for her Democratic opponent, now-freshman Sen. Chris Coons.

“Before the primary race, it was hard to get people’s attention. But that all changed overnight,” he said. “A lot of people started taking my calls the next day that wouldn’t return my calls before. People were beating down our doors to get interviews.”

After the national spotlight quickly shined on the previously quiet race in the First State, Koski knew he had his work cut out for him. The 30-year-old, who was a consultant for Coons’ campaign, said he stuck to a media strategy based on the issues and not on tea-party-backed O’Donnell’s controversial personal life.

It was enough to make Koski decide he wanted to stay with the Senator beyond the campaign. On Election Day, he worked up the courage to ask Coons for a job as communications director.

“We were at the second polling place and I knew Chris and I were going to part ways,” Koski said. “So I pulled him aside and said, ‘I just want you to know I’m really proud of the campaign that you’ve run, I think you’re going to be a phenomenal Senator, and to be honest, I really want to work for you.’”

He was worried that he caught Coons off-guard. But shortly after the swearing-in ceremony in November, the Senator turned to Koski and said — unofficially — “Welcome aboard.”

The New York native started his gig on Capitol Hill in January, but working for a Member of Congress wasn’t always the game plan. His first job after graduating from Villanova University was reporting for the Daily Times in Delaware County, Pa.

In 2001, he moved back to New York to become a managing editor for a bilingual community newspaper in the South Bronx. It was during his stint at the paper that he realized he might want to work in politics.

“I was covering a campaign event for the New York City mayor race. Mark Green was a Democrat, and they made this lame, disappointing attempt at trying to reach Puerto Rican voters with this event,” he said. “It was terrible. It was poorly staged, poorly managed, poorly messaged. I thought to myself, ‘Hey, I could do this better.’”

The event prompted Koski to take a job with a political think tank in Virginia while he earned a master’s degree in political management from George Washington University. After just two years with the company, he decided to start his own business: On Deck Communication Studio.

He worked with Democratic campaigns to consult on their communication strategies, online strategy and graphic design, a field that was beginning to take off at the time. Koski also built websites for his clients.

Meanwhile, he and a friend started a baseball blog about the Washington Nationals, They picked up a significant following and were granted credentials for the games.

But the pressures of working from home — and not knowing where his next paycheck would come from — started to wear on Koski. He folded up shop in 2008 and took a job with Blue State Digital.

Koski was a senior client manager for two years. He worked with several high-profile clients, including President Barack Obama’s inaugural committee and the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.)

In March, because Koski said Blue State Digital was taking a less-political focus, he moved over to Kennedy Communications, where he was assigned to the campaigns of Coons and now-Washington, D.C., Mayor Vince Gray.

Juggling both campaigns at the same time was difficult — he said he was in the Gray war room when he found out O’Donnell was nominated and had to draft a flurry of e-mails — but the hard work paid off.

Koski’s job with Coons has been equally eventful, as he has already drafted speeches for the Senator and watched him cast a vote on “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

“I continue to be in awe of this experience almost as much as the Senator has been in awe,” he said.

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

Correction: Feb. 14, 2011

The article misstated the company that Ian Koski worked for after Blue State Digital. It was Kennedy Communications.

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