Multiple SIPA alumni with a passion to serve are running for public office in the 2018 U.S. election cycle. The five candidates may be the largest group of alumni seeking office since 2013, when Eric Garcetti MIA ’95, Steven Fulop MPA ’06, and Bill de Blasio MIA ’87 became mayors of Los Angeles, Jersey City, N.J., and New York City.
They all have diverse professional backgrounds and experience in different leadership roles. They are running on varied issues including healthcare, education, foreign policy, and the environment. And, in sometimes crowded primary fields, each has found support in their communities to different degrees.
Cary Kennedy MPA ’93, who is running to be governor of Colorado, served a term as state treasurer from 2007 to 2011 and more recently held an appointed position as CFO and deputy mayor for the city of Denver. Kennedy served early in her career as state budget analyst, and says her time at SIPA laid the foundation for her 25-year career in public service.
As a congressional candidate for Ohio’s 16th District, in the state’s northeast, Grant Goodrich MPA-ESP ’09 faces a primary election today [Tuesday, May 8]. It's the earliest such contest for any of the alumni candidates; the others have four to 13 weeks remaining in their primary races.
As director of the Great Lakes Energy Institute at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Goodrich has been leading the university’s research efforts in energy. A Naval Academy graduate and decorated Marine Corps veteran, Goodrich served in the military for 14 years before attending SIPA. After earning his MPA, he led international research projects at the Earth Institute and the Urban Design Lab before returning to northeast Ohio in 2013.
Goodrich says SIPA helped him build for him a powerful network in government and environmental agencies.
“I would not have had the opportunities I had at the Earth Institute, or in my past two leadership roles in Cleveland, without my degree from SIPA,” he said. “People across the country know [the School] and know of its reputation for academic excellence.”
The former Pentagon official Elissa Slotkin MIA ’03 is a candidate in Michigan’s 8th District, which includes the state capital city of Lansing. She served three tours in Iraq alongside the military as a CIA analyst and worked in both the Bush and Obama administrations as acting assistant secretary of defense, overseeing policy at the Pentagon on Russia, Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
Slotkin started along the path to her career in national security at SIPA.
“I was in my second day of school at SIPA when 9/11 happened,” she said, “When the smoke cleared on that day, I knew I wanted a career in national security.”
Slotkin said she has remained over the years in contact with SIPA’s Richard Betts, director of the concentration in International Security Policy, and has supported SIPA’s students hosting them at both the White House and Pentagon.
“Your community is everything,” Slotkin says. “Your community of friends and colleagues push you, guide you, and make you the person and professional you are.”
Another SIPA alum with military experience, Jesse Colvin MIA ’15 is running for Maryland’s 1st District, which comprises the state’s eastern shore. Colvin is a former U.S. Army intelligence officer who completed four combat deployments to Afghanistan and a year in South Korea near the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) there.
Jesse’s campaign biography says his SIPA degree was instrumental in helping him to develop his leadership, analytical, and relationship-building skills.
Running to represent northern San Diego county in California’s 49th District is Sara Jacobs MIA ’12. The 29-year-old (who, if elected, would be one of the youngest women ever to serve in Congress) has held key policy positions at the U.S. State Department, Unicef, and the United Nations, and advised Hillary Clinton on foreign policy during her 2016 campaign for president.
Many years and leadership roles later, candidates say that they still carry with them lessons they learned at SIPA.
“Over the course of my career I have come to appreciate the strong background in statistical analysis I received at SIPA to evaluate the quality of data that is routinely used in public policy debates,” said Kennedy, running for governor.
Goodrich said he frequently thinks about wisdom from faculty members—including Steven Cohen, who told him that “What gets managed gets done.”
Jacobs recalled that research for her Capstone project led to her first job after graduating.
“In every subsequent job, I've used the skills and lessons that I learned at SIPA—the ability to analyze policy, gather the right perspectives around a table, understand the constraints,” she said.
“SIPA taught me how to think about third and fourth order consequences of any policy, and that is something that I try to always think about in making decisions.”
— Mia Shuang Li MPA ’18
Editor’s note: SIPA does not endorse candidates. If we've overlooked any SIPA alumni who are running for office, please contact Susan Storms, our director of alumni affairs.