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What’s Next for John Boehner’s Staff?

Boehner may be leaving office, but what does it mean for his staff? (CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Boehner may be leaving office, but what does it mean for his staff? (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Many things will change in the House when Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, resigns at the end of October, including employment prospects of his current staff.  

According to information from LegiStorm, 67 people are listed on Boehner’s personal and leadership office payroll, most of whom will be actively looking for new positions (several are shared staff). Come Nov. 1, a handful of staffers will be retained to handle constituent casework and answer phones for the “Office of the 8th District of Ohio.” Aides can still provide constituent services, though the office is forbidden from taking on legislative work. Staffers may keep those jobs until a new member is sworn in, and he or she will decide who stays and who goes.  

A special election date has not yet been set for Boehner’s Ohio seat, though sources in the state expect it would be held concurrent with their presidential primary on March 15. GOP leadership elections have been set for Oct. 8.  

Staffers faced a familiar uncertainty after former Majority Leader Eric Cantor resigned his seat after losing a primary challenge in June 2014.  

Steve Stombres, who had been chief of staff to Cantor, remembers the initial confusion following his boss’s primary election loss. “The first thing is for each of them to decide individually what they want to do: Stay on the Hill or explore options in the private sector,” he said in an interview with CQ Roll Call. “The good news is that Boehner has a reputation for hiring really good staff. They are viewed in a positive way from the get-go.”  

Like many former Cantor staffers, Boehner aides may have the option to remain in leadership. After Cantor’s loss and subsequent resignation, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., then-ascending majority leader, hired several former Cantor staffers, including Robert Borden, Roger Mahan and Lawson Kluttz, who still remain on his staff.  

Two other former Cantor staffers, Neil Bradley and Robert Karem, were hired by McCarthy but have since moved on to other ventures. Another former Cantor staffer, Nicole Gustafson, was hired by House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., before decamping to the NFL.  

Other Cantor staffers have found highly regarded positions off Capitol Hill, including spots at Purple Strategies, Public Strategies and Harvard Institute of Politics.  

People familiar with Capitol Hill and the private sector community felt that Boehner’s staffers would fare well in their job searches.  

“It’s like an entire World Series-winning baseball team all becoming free agents at once,” said Bradford Fitch, president and CEO of the Congressional Management Foundation. Boehner’s staff expertise lies in their contacts, skill sets and knowledge, which Fitch and others believe is highly valued both on and off Capitol Hill.  

Stombres felt that while a number of Boehner staffers may opt to stay on Capitol Hill, others, including senior staff who had spent the majority of their career with Boehner, may decide it’s time to try something new, either in a lobbying shop, corporation or trade association.  

His advice: Be open minded about the job prospects. “Don’t rule anything out immediately. Go through the job finding process, and you’ll be able to narrow it down based on where your interests are.”  

Some Boehner staffers who want to continue in public service may find themselves at a crossroads with a Democrat in the White House. John Lawrence, a former chief of staff to Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., believes junior staffers who might not have sufficient experience or contacts may try and stay on Capitol Hill, “but moving to another office after working for the speaker can be less than fulfilling,” he said.  

For many staffers, the process to land a new job may take more than a few days. Stombres cautioned that the interview process can take weeks or months, and positions within a corporation or trade association may require five or six rounds of interviews.  

Stombres says taking the time to make the right decision is well worth it.  

”You only leave the Hill once,” he said. “You want to find a job that is right for you.”  

Emily Cahn contributed to this report. 
Correction 3:53 p.m. An earlier version of this post misstated former Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s title.  

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