Jennifer O’Malley Dillon, a data expert who was Obama’s deputy campaign manager in 2012, said in an interview Monday that she was going to work for the 46-year-old former Texas congressman because he represents “a new generation of leadership I think we need.”
O’Malley Dillon was one of the most sought-after Democratic operatives of this election and her hiring suggests that O’Rourke is willing to professionalize his presidential bid in a way he resisted during his electrifying but unsuccessful Senate campaign last year.
A former executive director of the Democratic National Committee, O’Malley Dillon, 42, has worked on five presidential races and a number of other campaigns.
Since announcing his candidacy earlier this month, O’Rourke has drawn large crowds on his first forays into the early nominating states. But his improvisational style has also led to some missteps.
O’Malley Dillon said her hope was to scale up O’Rourke’s operation to meet the demands of a presidential primary while also remaining true to the do-it-yourself instincts of a candidate who enjoys driving himself to campaign events.
“We have to build something that really is special and unique to him,” she said.
O’Rourke entered the race without a campaign manager, having had his first extensive conversation with O’Malley Dillon at the South by Southwest conference in Austin, the weekend before he announced his candidacy.
She is taking a leave from her Washington-based consulting firm and will help on O’Rourke’s formal campaign launch this weekend in El Paso, where O’Rourke’s campaign is being based, before settling there in May.
O’Malley Dillon, who had been working on a voter data project for the Democratic National Committee and consulting for the Liberal Party in Canada, said she had not planned to get involved this early in the 2020 race but said she was moved by O’Rourke’s message.
“His leadership, his energy, his belief that you don’t have to segment voters and that you can be a president for all voters,” she said, assigning to O’Rourke attributes that many Democrats once associated with Obama. “People are searching for that.”
As for whether O’Rourke would bring in a pollster for his presidential campaign — after boasting about his refusal to hire one in his Senate race — O’Malley Dillon said she wanted to build an operation that’s “authentic to Beto and also efficient and allows us the most direct engagement with voters.”
That will, she said, “require a broad team.”
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.