Five Staff Positions to Watch: Chiefs of Staff for Freshman Senators

Amy Harder and Stacy Kaper

The top aides to the Senate’s freshman class have their work cut out for them as they seek to simultaneously make sure their bosses are up to speed on myriad issues while also keeping the logistics straight on moving into new offices and hiring new staff.

Here are chiefs of staff to know for five of the Senate’s new members who are poised to play key roles this Congress.

Chip Roy, chief of staff for Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas.

It’s fitting that Washington’s newest tea-party darling and outspoken freshman senator hired a conservative activist as his chief of staff. Roy advised Texas Gov. Rick Perry in his 2012 presidential run and helped write Perry’s campaign book, Fed Up, which embraced many libertarian positions denouncing core government functions like Social Security and the income tax. Now, as Cruz’s top aide, Roy says his job is to help Cruz “shake things up.” In an interview in Cruz’s temporary digs in the basement of the Dirksen Senate Office Building, Roy said, “It’s about coming up here and not accepting the status quo and be willing to stand up and say what you believe and fight for the values you believe in.” While this is Cruz’s first time working in Washington, Roy is a seasoned hand. He worked for almost six years for Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas. “I’m well-versed in how things work around here in terms of leadership and how the Senate operates.”

Tessa Gould, chief of staff for Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D.

One of the biggest upsets in the 2012 election cycle was Heitkamp’s victory over Republican Rep. Rick Berg. That makes Heitkamp a key moderate Democrat in a chamber populated by increasingly polarizing figures. In an excited tone, her chief of staff and former campaign manager says she’s busier than ever. “People will frequently say to me, it’s kind of like drinking water out of a fire hose,” Gould said in a phone interview. “Try three fire hoses and we’re the size of an ant.” Gould touts the work Heitkamp has already done in her new role, including sponsoring farm legislation and the Violence Against Women Act, which last week became one of the rare bills to pass both chambers. A native North Dakotan, Gould has worked for lawmakers hailing from both North and South Dakota.

Kay Rand, chief of staff for Sen. Angus King, I-Maine.

Rand is prepared for the challenges that could come for one of the Senate’s two independents. “We expect there are going to be some difficult challenges,” Rand said in an interview, noting that in the years she’s advised him as governor and on campaigns, King has always identified himself as an independent. King caucuses with Senate Democrats, but when disagreements happen, don’t expect a big production of it. “His commitment to the Democratic leadership is that he’s not going to embarrass them,” Rand said. “They will know when he disagrees.” Rand is focusing on narrowing down the list of the policy priorities King wants to focus on. “There’s a list of about 20,” she said. “I need to narrow it down to five or six. Then he needs to choose two or three.” Included on the long list are infrastructure funding, renewable energy, climate change, trade, manufacturing, technology, and mental health.

Mindy Myers, chief of staff for Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.

Myers, a native of Lancaster, Pa., developed her taste for politics while in college at American University. She started her career interning for Colorado’s first woman in Congress, former Democratic Rep. Patricia Schroeder, and for former Rep. Vic Fazio, D-Calif. But Myers quickly ascended in her political career. She saw Warren as an up-and-coming contender for a Senate seat that was a vital for Democrats to win back last year. (Myers had previously helped win some tough campaigns, including the first Senate races for Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., in 2006, and Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., in 2010.) Myers served as Warren’s campaign manager and was hired to stay on as chief of staff. As Warren sets about focusing on consumer financial protections, student loans, and education, Myers’s goal is to continue to staff up her Capitol Hill office with top talent.

Rich Dunn, chief of staff for Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C.

The usual peace of mind that Senate staffers enjoy about the security of their bosses only being at risk every six years is lost on Dunn. In fact, part of the reason he was interested in serving as chief of staff for the senator who was appointed to fill the seat vacated by former Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., is precisely because of the intense political and campaign focus that Scott will face over the next four years. Under the way Scott’s appointment works, the former House member will have to run in 2014 to fill out the rest of DeMint’s term, and then if he survives that race, he will have to run again in 2016 if he wants his first full term. Dunn’s experience makes him a great fit for this challenge with experience both in senior positions on Capitol Hill and working on campaigns. He most recently served as the political director at the National Republican Senatorial Committee and previously helped vulnerable incumbents with their reelection races at the National Republican Congressional Committee. Dunn also was a senior aide for former Rep. Chris Chocola, R-Ind., running his successful 2004 reelection campaign and serving as his legislative director. He also was the first chief of staff for Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn.

Hot Seats is a weekly series highlighting significant staff positions in the 113th Congress. To suggest a position or staffer for the list, please tweet to @NJLeadership or e-mail Managing Editor Kristin Roberts at