JFK AND BEYOND
Prescription for Success
No one can say Julie Piscitelli MPA 2003 plays it
safe. In her first stint as a campaign manager, she chose Capri
Cafaro, a 26-year-old woman with no political experience who was
running for Congress this year against four other candidates in
a Democratic primary in Ohio. Not only did Cafaros youth and
gender pose challenges in the race, so did the fact that her father
pleaded guilty to bribing a congressman. I was told we were
going to lose, Piscitelli says. I was brought on to
In that, she failed miserably when her
candidate garnered 54 percent of the vote in the March primary.
She hopes to do that more often, including in a race she is managing
now for Charlie Dooley, a candidate running for county executive
in the St. Louis area. If he wins, he would be the first African
American elected countywide another example of a nontraditional
candidate embraced by a nontraditional campaign manager.
Based in Washington, DC, Piscitelli established her
own political strategy and communications business in early 2001,
after serving as a spokeswoman for NARAL Pro-Choice America during
the last presidential election. Her clients have included U.S. Rep.
Albert Wynn of Maryland, the nonprofit Alliance for Justice, and
the Serbian speaker of parliament. Its a diverse lot, but
all turned to her for the same reason, she says.
As far as Im concerned, communication
is everything how we relate to our friends and family, to
how you deal with reporters and your staff and your bosses,
says Piscitelli. You have to balance good management with
your communication skills, just as you would do in your personal
For her, the political is the personal. She calls
herself a political therapist, focusing on shaping her clients
message to the public in the same way shed shape a message
to a family member or friend.
In the Cafaro race, Piscitelli emphasized that her
candidate was the first woman from her family to graduate from college,
doing so from Stanford at age 19. She hired a Rolling Stone
photographer to take shots of the candidate and bought TV ads to
introduce her to the voters. She also capitalized on the understanding,
according to Piscitelli, that women are viewed as outside the old
boys network. As a woman, she says, people
are able to trust her.
Yet she learned from former Canadian Prime Minister
Kim Campbell at the Kennedy School that women running for office
dont receive as much money as men and are not seen as viable
candidates. Piscitelli wants to change that. She previously served
on the board of the Women & Politics Institute at American University
to inspire women to get involved in politics and government, and
she may someday run for office herself. But now, for those who need
political treatment, the doctor is in. LR