By Whitney Smith
July 25, 2016
“There is not a liberal America and a conservative America; there’s the United States of America,” said a young and exciting state senator from Illinois in the middle of a campaign for a United States Senate seat. Barack Obama’s keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention was inspiring, motivating and an unexpected preview of the 44th president’s efforts to unite the party.
President Obama will be speaking again at this year’s convention, but this time to endorse presumptive Democratic nominee and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I – Vt.), First Lady Michelle Obama, President Bill Clinton, Vice President Joe Biden and even Chelsea Clinton will be taking the DNC stage this week in support of Clinton.
In addition to the established Democrats taking the stage, Clinton also has many A-lister endorsements leading to rumors of surprise entertainment invitations given to crowd-pleasers like Lin-Manuel Miranda, Katy Perry, Demi Lovato, Christina Aguilera, Beyoncé, Amy Schumer, Lena Dunham, Steven Spielberg, Rob Reiner and Oprah Winfrey.
Entertainment options aren’t the only options Clinton has for the convention. In this election year with the possibility of the Democrats reclaiming Congress, many up-and-coming leaders in the Democrat party have earned media attention since before Clinton announced her running mate. Here are ten up-and-comers of the Democratic party to watch at this year’s convention.
- Sen. Tim Kaine (D – Va.)
The number one spot is for Clinton’s newly announced running mate Sen. Tim Kaine. Often called the conventional running mate choice for this unconventional election year, Kaine’s experience is traditional, centered around self-proclaimed optimism and diverse experience. Kaine climbed in the ranks of public service from serving on Richmond City Council, mayor of Richmond, lieutenant governor, governor, DNC chairman and now US Senator on the Armed Services, Foreign Relations, Budget and Aging committees. Adding this Harvard Law graduate to the ticket may further Clinton’s emphasis on experience for her campaign. Kaine told Meet the Press, “I am boring, but ‘boring’ is the fastest growing demographic in this country.”
Kaine will certainly get the largest boost of publicity from the DNC over anyone else making this list. At only 58-years-old, a win for Clinton could set the stage for a presidential run of his own succeeding Clinton, and a loss could still leave room for a Kaine ticket in 2020. Regardless of outcome of this election, Kaine’s presence in national politics is far from over, making him the number one up-and-coming Democrat to watch for at this year’s DNC and years to come.
- Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro (D – Texas)
The 2012 DNC keynote speaker and the Housing and Urban Development Secretary brings further interest to the Clinton campaign as a Hispanic and southerner, especially in contrast to Trump’s repeatedly controversial anti-immigration ideas. However, Castro is bringing much more to the table than his heritage. As former San Antonio mayor, Castro focused on community-based goal setting by beginning programs such as a college guidance program and an effort to expand pre-kindergarten education through a $30 million sales tax fund. After declining an offer for the position of the United States Secretary of Transportation, Castro was appointed the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Castro cites successes under his leaderships as the Federal Housing Administration lowering mortgage insurance premiums, the launching of the ConnectHome project which provided 28 communities with broadband and other technology.
“Julián is a proven leader, a champion for safe, affordable housing and strong, sustainable neighborhoods,” said President Barack Obama about masking the former San Antonio mayor the youngest member of his cabinet.
Castro did not deny being vetted for vice president and deferred questions to the Clinton campaign, reported Politico. As someone who has already made the DNC stage and finds himself gaining more and more media attention as he travels with the Clinton campaign, Castro is one to watch for not just this election cycle, but for years to come.
- Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D – N.Y.)
Walking in the footsteps of Hillary Clinton right into her senate seat, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand brings with her degrees from Dartmouth College and UCLA School of Law, a career as an associate lawyer to partner in separate New York law firms, and then a public service resume beginning with a position and a law clerk on the Unites States Court of Appeals. From there, Gillibrand became involved in the Women’s Leadership Forum program sponsored by the DNC, where she heard Clinton speak. “She was trying to encourage us to become more active in politics,” said Gillibrand who began working on Clinton’s 2000 campaign for senate, “and she said, ‘If you leave all the decision-making to others, you might not like what they do, and you will have no one but yourself to blame.’ It was such a challenge to the women in the room. And it really hit me: She’s talking to me.” Gillibrand began a campaign of her own in 2006 as an underdog against a four-term Republican incumbent for New York’s 21st congressional district, and with the help of endorsements from the Clintons and other Democratic Party politicians, was elected with 53% of the vote. When Clinton was appointed Secretary of State in 2008 leaving her senate seat up for grabs, New York Governor David Paterson appointed Gillibrand as her replacement. At 42, Gillibrand became the youngest senator of the 111th congress. Gillibrand has been called “Hillaryesque” by New York Congressman Anthony Weiner who told Vogue, “She was tossed right into that maelstrom, but she handled it the way she has done a lot of things in her career and, from what I gather, in her life: She said, ‘I’m going to try to wear people down by being a good senator and a good person.’ She’s basically outlasted her critics.”
With known endurance, persistence, a passion for the Democratic platform and not to mention a close relationship with Clinton, Gillibrand is easily a up-and-comer in the Democratic Party.
- Attorney General Kamala Harris (D – Calif.)
Called “the female Obama” by CNN during her campaign to become the first female, the first African-American and the first Asian-American attorney general in California, and the first South Asian-American attorney general in the nation, Kamala Harris has seen investigations into the Santa Barbara oil spill, Volkswagen’s emission test scandal and many racially and socially driven protests and cases. Like Clinton, this self-proclaimed “fighter” has a lengthy resume beginning her career in public service as a Deputy District Attorney. Harris then became the Managing Attorney of the Career Criminal Unit for the San Francisco District Attorney, later transitioning into the Chief of the Community and Neighborhood Division for the San Francisco City Attorney, and then winning the 2010 election and 2014 reelection to become California’s Attorney General. Harris matches Clinton’s belief in society’s most vulnerable being children, immigrants, women and the poor, and she has used that platform to build her campaign for her 2016 run for United States Senate. After receiving endorsements from both the California Democratic Party and the governor to run for the seat Sen. Barbra Boxer (D – Calif.) has held since 1993, Harris is in a position similar to that Barack Obama found himself in 2004 before the DNC.
Win or lose the senate race, Harris has received high praise and a grand standing endorsement for a higher executive office from Hollywood. When asked about women in the White House, Actress Kerry Washington told the Huffington Post, “Somebody that I’m a huge fan of, but she’s running for Senate right now, is Kamala Harris in California. I think she’s extraordinary. I do think she could be president one day.” As a young, experienced and proven liberal, Harris is easily an upcoming face to watch for future generations of the Democratic Party.
- Sen. Cory Booker (D – N.J.)
Entering politics in at age 29 as a city council member, Stanford and Yale graduate Cory Booker began climbing the ranks of local politics as he was elected mayor of Newark in 2006, guiding the city into its largest period of economic growth since the 1960s. During his time in local politics, Booker drew attention to the city’s problems through a series of publicity stunts such as a 10-day hunger strike in protest over open drug dealing in housing projects, camping out in an housing project known for drug dealing and later living in a mobile home alongside those areas. In 2013, Booker made the jump to national politics as he won a special election to become the first black Senator from New Jersey, and the first black Senator elected since Barack Obama in 2004. Although he has proven focus on criminal justice reform, small business investment programs and environmental conservation, Booker is not one to simply defer his opinions to the party. Called a liberal, moderate and even neoliberal, Booker has been seasoned by compliments and criticisms from both sides of the isle. In 2012, the Republican National Committee began an “I Stand With Cory” petition in response to Booker’s comments about President Obama’s “ridiculous attacks on the free market.” Alternatively, George Norcross III described Booker as “a new Democrat — a Democrat that’s fiscally conservative yet socially progressive.” Making headlines early in 2016 as a potential Supreme Court nominee to replace Justice Antonin Scalia, Booker is making a name for himself as a rising star in the Democratic Party as he defines it himself.
- Secretary of Labor Tom Perez
As reported by Politico, United States Secretary of Labor Tom Perez brings different qualifications to the table than the traditional Democratic resume might. After a phone call from Clinton to solicit an endorsement from Perez turned into a discussion on prison reform and registering farmworkers, Perez began a larger role in the campaign leading to a closer relationship with both Hillary and Bill Clinton.
Before being appointed as the Secretary of Labor, Perez served as the Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department where the division took on several cases to be considered victories against student discrimination as well as the case surrounding police discrimination about the shooting death of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman. Prior to that position, Perez was appointed the Secretary of the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation under Gov. Martin O’Malley. Although Perez has served in large offices, the only elected office he has held is a seat on the Montgomery, Md. County Council from 2002 to 2006. Throughout that time he pushed for legislation to limit predatory lending as well as an initiative to provide affordable prescription drugs for county employees and retirees. In his current position as Secretary of Labor, Perez has used his position to further promote Clinton through campaign rally and media appearances, a task that has at times been a full-time job.
As a fellow policy nerd with a resume stacked with experience inline with the party platform, Perez’ time in the Democratic Party’s spotlight can only be expected to rise this election year, and in years to come.
- Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D – N.Y.)
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo put the first notch on his campaign belt as the manager of his father Mario Cuomo’s gubernatorial campaign. What led to a 12 year tenure for his father opened the door to public service for Cuomo as he joined his staff as a policy advisor. In 1984, Cuomo put his law degree to use as an assistant district attorney and staff for a New York law firm. Following his founding of Housing Enterprise for the Less Privileged(HELP), Cuomo left his positions to pursue HELP full-time, a step that led him to becoming appointed the chairman of the New York City Homeless Commission. After three years as chairman, Cuomo was appointed to the Department of Housing and Urban Development(HUD) as Assistant Secretary for Community Planning and Development, ultimately became the Secretary of HUD for the final four years of the Clinton administration. After a failed gubernatorial campaign of his own, Cuomo was elected New York Attorney General where he held office for four years. Although his name was tossed around during the appointment process of filling Clinton’s senate seat, Cuomo did not seek another office until he ran for governor again in 2010. After winning 63% of the vote, Cuomo’s tenure included signing legislation legalizing same-sex marriage, tightening gun control and restructuring tax code. With 54% of the vote, Cuomo started his second term and enacted legislation to allow the use of medical marijuana by July 2014.
Strides to lead New York in becoming a more liberal place is not all that has caused Cuomo to gain national attention. From presiding over Billy Joel’s fourth marriage in 2015 to his current live-in relationship with television chef Sandra Lee, Cuomo is known in the pop culture limelight. This combination of celebrity limelight and political rise is sure to lead Cuomo to at least an appearance at this year’s DNC, but the gains made for the Democratic party platform through his tenure as governor of New York make him someone to watch in the upcoming election seasons.
- Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D – Calif.)
As the co-founder of 18 business and San Francisco’s youngest mayor in 100 years after being elected at age 37, Gavin Newsom has made a name for himself in California politics from a young age. Crediting his passion for public service to his parents working multiple jobs to sustain opening their home as a foster home, Newsom’s political experience began when he was appointed to San Francisco’s Parking and Traffic Commission after volunteering on the campaign on then Mayor Willie Brown. From there Newsom was appointed the the San Francisco Board of Supervisors where he built his political profile as a “social liberal and a fiscal watchdog” through his business experience and social initiatives such as Care Not Cash which offered assistance from the city to the homeless population in lieu of the direct cash allocated by the state. Newsom was first elected mayor in 2003 after running as a centrist Democrat carrying national endorsements from Bill Clinton, Al Gore and Jesse Jackson. Without any serious opposition, Newsom won a second mayoral term in 2007 with 72% of the vote. Throughout his terms, Newsom signed the Health Choices Plan to provide universal healthcare for San Francisco residents, advocated for the US to join the Kyoto Protocol to commit to limit climate change and directed the San Francisco city-county clerk to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples despite the violation of state law. After a short-lived run for governor in 2009, Newsom withdrew his bid and entered into the race for lieutenant governor in 2010. Soon after being elected, Newsom released his first book and began to work with the University of California in Berkeley on the development of the California Report Card(CRC) which allows residents and visitors to grade issues facing the state using smartphones and other technology to enhance communications with Calif. leaders, one of many partnerships with the University of California to improve the state through new technologies and research.
During his second term, Lt. Governor Newsom announced his run for governor. “I’ve never been a fan of pretense or procrastination,” Newsom said in a statement posted on Facebook and e-mailed to supporters. “After all, our state is defined by its independent, outspoken spirit. When Californians see something we truly believe in, we say so and act accordingly – without evasiveness or equivocation.” As an advocate for businesses and defining issues of the Democratic platform, Newsom is sure to be a face for the future of the Democratic Party, win or lose his gubernatorial election.
- Sen. Sherrod Brown (D – Ohio)
Although he may not be the youngest up and comer of the Democratic Party, 63-year-old Sen. Sherrod Brown has climbed the political ranks. From first entering politics as an Ohio state senator as the youngest member of the body at the time to Ohio Secretary of State, Brown took to the federal level in 1992 when elected to represent Ohio in the United States House of Representatives where he was reelected six times before entering the Senate. There Brown has received praise and criticism from both sides of the isle. Conservative commentator George Will praised his proposal to break up consolidated banks. Brown has promoted the Democratic platform by advocating for LGBT rights, affordable healthcare and opposing free trade with China among other countries.
While his name appeared on Clinton’s short list for VP picks, Brown’s time in the limelight is far from over. With a growing resume and fiercely loyal constituency, Brown is expected to continue to rise on the national Democratic scene.
- Sen. Mark Warner (D – Va.)
From one term governor to two term senator, Warner is established as a bipartisan leader on the Senate Finance, Banking, Budget and Intelligence committees dedicated to cutting through red tape, increasing government productivity and accountability and promoting private sector job creation. Among Warner’s biggest achievements are leaving his office as governor with Virginia ranked as the best state for business, the best managed state and the best state for public education, all victories for the Democratic Party.
In June, Warner said he was not being vetted for the vice presidency and further pushed fellow Virginian senator Tim Kaine into the speculation around possible running mates for Clinton. “There is nobody with better integrity and trustfulness,” said Warner about Kaine.
Whitney Smith is a summer assistant at transAtlantic Magazine. She is a senior at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tenn. and majors in journalism and political science.