Featured Speaker

Jess O’Connell
Twitter

Jess O’Connell

Partner, NEWCO Strategies
Jess O’Connell is a partner at NEWCO Strategies. For nearly twenty years, Jess O’Connell has worked to advance progressive policies and to elect Democrats all over the country. She’s held senior positions with Hillary Clinton, EMILY’s List, Center the American Progress, the US Global Leadership Coalition, ONE, and the Children’s Defense Fund. Most recently, as founder and CEO of JOC Strategy Group, Jess worked with progressive leaders and organizations on a wide range of leadership and strategic advising.   In 2017, Jess served as the CEO at the Democratic National Committee (DNC) where she oversaw a historic reorganization and created a new mission and purpose for an institution that traditionally focused on one election every four years. She introduced a back to basics strategy – she refocused the party on national organizing by making an unprecedented investment in state parties and instituting an innovative $10 million competitive grant program. During her tenure the team doubled, the DNC raised $67 million and Democrats won elections across the country, including 36 state legislative flips from red-to-blue and record-breaking statewide victories in New Jersey, Virginia and Alabama. In 2018, she crafted and launched the national I WILL VOTE campaign to help Democrats win with the largest midterm margin since Watergate. Jess served as spokeswoman for the DNC with CNN, MSNBC, The New York Times, The Washington Post, NPR and more. Jess joined the DNC from EMILY’s List, the largest political organization and resource for women in the United States, where she was the Executive Director. She helped lead EMILY’s List to historic increases in membership and fundraising from 3M members to over 5M and $90M raised in 2016. She oversaw the largest independent expenditure program in the organization’s history at that time. Jess helped elect the most diverse Congress in history at that time - quadrupling the number of women of color elected to the United States Senate and over half of the new Democratic women elected to the House were women of color. At the state & local level, she built programs to elect 269 women. She traveled to nearly 20 states speaking on behalf of candidates. During this time, with the support of EMILY’s List, Hillary Clinton made history as the first woman nominated for President from either party. In response to the 2016 election, Jess helped launch Run to Win, a national campaign that recruited over 40,000 women to run for office. Jess joined EMILY's List from the influential think tank Center for American Progress, where she served as a Senior Vice President & Chief of Staff and managed the day-to-day operations and worked on projects ranging from income inequality to the White House Summit on Working Families. Prior to that, she served as National Field Director for the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition organizing more than 400 NGOs, academic institutions, Fortune 500 companies, and military Generals in support of international budget priorities and smart power. Jess has steered operations for two Presidential campaigns. She served on the senior team as the National Director of Operations for Hillary Clinton’s first run for President, where Jess directed the day-to-day operations of the national campaign. She played a similar role as the Interim National Director of Operations for Howard Dean in 2003.  Jess began her advocacy work in Colorado where she served as the 1st woman Director of the AIDS Walk, the largest in the Rocky Mountain region. She went on to work on Congressional campaigns in CO, IL, and returned to her home state of Arizona to manage a race that elected the first Democrat ever to AZ-01. For five years, Jess served as volunteer founder and CEO of Youth Trek, a non-profit organization, that worked to promote the character development and self-discovery of underserved girls in Washington, DC. Through travel experiences focused on careers, culture, and community, Jess planned and led trips from DC to Seattle, Portland, Chicago, Atlanta, New York and Philadelphia to meet with women leaders from Nike, Coke, Getty Images, CARE, Alvin Ailey, NBC Today Show, Ralph Lauren, the Centers for Disease Control, and many others.