Mayor Rahm Emanuel
Rahm Emanuel has served as the 55th mayor of the city of Chicago since 2011. During that time he has made the tough choices necessary to secure Chicago’s future as a global capital. The Mayor added more than 200 hours to the school day and year, taking Chicago from having the least educational time of any large school district in the country to being on par with its peers. He implemented full-day kindergarten for every Chicago child, and fought for and won new accountability measures to ensure every teacher and principal had the necessary resources to succeed. The Mayor’s comprehensive public safety strategy is focused on expanded prevention programs for at-risk youth, smarter policing strategies, and empowering parents and communities to reduce violence in their neighborhoods. He attracted numerous companies to Chicago and helped to build the next generation of start-ups, while investing in the infrastructure, public transportation, open space and cultural attractions that make Chicago a great place to live, work, and play. And he has worked to make our government more effective, to deliver better services at a more competitive price, and to open government to the public.
Prior to becoming Mayor, Emanuel served as the White House Chief of Staff to President Barack Obama and served three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives representing Chicago’s 5th District. He previously served as a key member of the Clinton administration from 1993 to 1998, rising to serve as Senior Advisor to the President for Policy and Strategy.
Mayor Emanuel graduated from Sarah Lawrence College in 1981 and received a Master's Degree in Speech and Communication from Northwestern University in 1985. He is married to Amy Rule, and they have three children.
Senator Michael Bennet
A successful businessman and school superintendent, Michael Bennet is an independent voice who will work with anyone – Democrat or Republican – in order to get things done for Colorado and grow our middle class. As Colorado’s Senator, Michael is known as a pragmatic leader and someone who can forge bipartisan agreements on even the most contentious issues. Michael’s desire to represent Colorado in the U.S. Senate is deeply rooted in a moral obligation to leave this country a better place for his kids and the next generation of Americans.
Senator Chris Murphy
Senator Christopher S. Murphy is the junior United States Senator for Connecticut. Elected in 2012, Murphy serves on the Appropriations Committee, the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, the Foreign Relations Committee, and the Democratic Steering & Outreach Committee. Prior to his election to the U.S. Senate, Murphy served Connecticut’s Fifth Congressional District for three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Since his election to Congress, Chris has maintained a constant presence throughout Connecticut when he’s not representing the state in Washington. Chris’ attentiveness to his constituents is well known – an article in a Capitol Hill newspaper, Roll Call, said that Chris is “considered ‘omnipresent’ back home” due to his commitment to knocking on doors year round and holding dozens of supermarket office hours.
As the son of a public school teacher, Chris believes that education is the key to the future of our nation. In Congress, he has looked for diverse ways to improve our nation’s classrooms, from strengthening efforts to improve our traditional K-12 classrooms to supporting education in our high performing charter schools.
Senator Murphy grew up in Wethersfield, Connecticut, and attended Williams College in Massachusetts. In 2002, he graduated from UConn Law School in Hartford, Connecticut. He practiced real estate and banking law from 2002-2006 with the firm of Ruben, Johnson & Morgan in Hartford.
On August 18, 2007, Murphy married Cathy Holahan, an attorney. They have two sons named Owen and Rider.
Senator Mary Landrieu
Mary Landrieu started her career in public service in 1979, when she was elected to the Louisiana State Legislature, at the age of 23, the youngest woman to ever be elected. For eight years, she successfully championed causes related to women and children, flood protection, and education reform. In 1987, she was elected State Treasurer, and served with distinction for two terms. Strong fiscal management, pension fund diversification, debt limitation, and the creation of the first ever-municipal investment fund, now valued at over $2 billion, are some of her noteworthy accomplishments.
She was elected to the United States Senate in the fall of 1996, and became the first women from Louisiana elected to serve a full term in the United States Senate. As a member of the Armed Services Committee, the Appropriations Committee, Chairman of the Small Business Committee, and Chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, she became known as a tireless advocate for her home state.
She led the 112th Congress to pass the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010. In addition, some of her other notable accomplishments were the passage of the landmark Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act, the Israel American Energy Alliance, and the RESTORE Act, the single largest one term environmental investment in the Gulf Coast in the history of the nation.
Mary Landrieu is a native of New Orleans, Louisiana and is married to Frank Snellings. They have two children and one grandchild.
Ben LaBolt is a communications strategist and founding partner of The Incite Agency. At The Incite Agency, LaBolt has advised organizations from Fortune 500 companies to advocacy groups on how to be more targeted, proactive and agile, defend brands under siege and tackle significant customer and public policy initiatives.
For the prior decade, LaBolt managed press relations for candidates and elected officials from the city to the national level. He served as National Press Secretary for the 2012 Obama-Biden campaign and Communications Director for Rahm Emanuel's successful campaign for Chicago Mayor.
LaBolt worked on Capitol Hill as Press Secretary for U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), then-Congressman Sherrod Brown's successful campaign for the US Senate (D-OH), as well as for US Senator Barack Obama (2007 – Senate Press Secretary). He was the Deputy Press Secretary for Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign.
During his tenure at the White House, POLITICO called him “one of the best sources … for intelligence on what the media are thinking and what story lines reporters are likely to pursue.”
LaBolt also serves as an adjunct instructor in Crisis Management at NYU’s School of Professional Studies. He is a graduate of Middlebury College and a native of LaGrange, IL.
Charles Barone is the director of policy at Democrats for Education Reform and Education Reform Now. He has led DFER/ERN’s efforts advising President Obama’s 2008 transition team, advocating for state reforms under Obama’s Race to the Top initiative, and setting DFER’s policy agenda at the state and federal level in areas including accountability and testing, teacher preparation and charter schools.
Barone’s work on education and children’s issues over the past three decades has emphasized equity and excellence and spanned direct service, research, policy and advocacy. He has authored numerous articles and book chapters on education policy and politics in peer-reviewed scholarly journals, trade publications, and mainstream media.
A Capitol Hill veteran, Barone was a top education advisor to the late Senator Paul Simon (D-IL) and to Congressman George Miller (D-CA), under whom he acted as lead negotiator for House Democrats on the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. Before his entry into Washington politics, Charles was a postdoctoral fellow in the department of psychology at Yale University. He has a doctorate in clinical/community psychology from the University of Maryland, College Park and a bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Michael has worked as a Senior Policy Advisor to the United States Under Secretary of Education, Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA), and Senator Claiborne Pell (D-RI) as well as contributed in a similar capacity to every major Democratic Presidential candidate over the last 12 years. He is the staff author of numerous elements of federal education law reflected in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Higher Education Act, and federal appropriations law. He founded the New America Foundation’s Education Policy Program and has published widely on education policy writ large and higher education finance in particular. Dannenberg is recognized as a national expert on college admissions, federal education politics, and all education finance issues, including student loans, education tax expenditures, and the overall federal education budget. He holds post-graduate degrees from Stanford University and Yale Law School.
Lea joined ERN in the summer of 2013 as the National Deputy Director. She started her career as a middle school teacher through Teach for America, in East Palo Alto, California. With a commitment to make the world a better place through improved neighborhoods and cities, she led innovative programmatic efforts to increase the use of public transit at the Chicago Transit Authority and oversaw the financial operations for Chicago’s concession agreement with LAZ Parking. Knowing a school can change neighborhoods and lives, Lea returned to her roots in education by joining StudentsFirst where she led advocacy efforts at the state level in Iowa, Missouri and Nevada on a variety of education reform issues, including improved teacher evaluations, tenure reform and expansion of and accountability for charter schools.
Originally from New Jersey, Lea received her BA from Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, California and a Masters degree in Public Policy from the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy.
Lea serves on the Board of Directors for Silver Bay, YMCA of the Adirondacks and the Center for Supportive Schools and lives in Washington, DC with her husband Jeb and daughter.
Joe Kelley is a nationally recognized Democratic fundraiser based in New York City. He guides ERN’s national fundraising strategy and assists with our national and NY state political advocacy efforts. Joe’s past experience includes consulting for numerous progressive candidates and causes, including US Senator Chris Murphy’s 2012 campaign; the 2012 Democratic Convention Host Committee; American Bridge 21st Century; America Votes; Media Matters for America; Women’s Voices, Women Vote; and the Democracy Alliance.
In the 2010 election cycle, Joe served as US Senator Richard Blumenthal’s Finance Director. Joe also worked on Illinois Comptroller Dan Hynes’ gubernatorial campaign, and with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
Joe graduated from Dickinson College in Carlisle, PA with a BA in American History.