Martha McKenna Returns to DSCC to Lead Independent Expenditure Program

In 2012, she became the first woman to lead a Senate committee’s IE arm

Democratic campaign consultant Martha McKenna, seen here in her Baltimore dining room in 2015, will return to the DSCC as IE director. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Democratic strategist Martha McKenna is returning to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee to lead its independent expenditure efforts for 2018.

McKenna held the role for the 2012 cycle, when she was the first woman to head a Senate committee’s IE arm, and again for the 2014 cycle. She served as political director for the DSCC for the 2008 and 2010 cycles. Before that, she spent a decade at EMILY’s List.

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McKenna was a partner at the media firm McKenna Pihlaja for six years before starting her own firm, McKenna Media. 

As IE director, McKenna will oversee teams of consultants for each race and the tens of millions of dollars of spending. Many of those contests feature Democratic women she helped elect while at EMILY’s List and during her previous stints at the DSCC.

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“Even as Republicans struggle with bitter primaries, lackluster fundraising and a health care agenda that is deeply unpopular with American voters, we know each of these races will be a fight to the finish and that is why we are thrilled to have Martha’s strategic insight and talent,” DSCC Chairman Chris Van Hollen said in a statement. “Martha’s leadership will be essential to our work to elect Senate Democrats.”

Democrats are defending 26 seats this cycle — 10 of them in states President Donald Trump won in 2016. The party needs to hold all of those, and flip two more seats to win control of the Senate.

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McKenna stressed the importance of supporting the candidates. 

“Democratic Senate candidates are laser focused on fighting for working families, from protecting health care to standing up against giveaways to big corporations. We need to have their back this election year,” McKenna said in a statement. “I’m honored to be a part of the fight and ready to make sure Senate Democrats have the support they need.”

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McKenna is well-known as the “unofficial ambassador of Baltimore” (as her Twitter bio reads). She was born in Chicago, but Baltimore — where she grew up and got her start in politics — is home.  (Read much more about how she started in campaigns in a 2012 profile by Nathan L. Gonzales). In the wake of riots and looting in Baltimore in 2015, McKenna help organize the distribution of food and supplies to residents who needed assistance. 

She was a co-founder of Emerge Maryland, which recruits and trains Democratic women running for state and local office, and now serves as the chairwoman of its board.

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The DSCC also has its first female executive director this cycle. Mindy Myers holds the title after serving as IE director during the 2016 cycle

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