The Democratic National Committee has for the first time hired an out lesbian at its chief executive officer, appointing the former head of EMILY’s LIST to the top leadership position.
The DNC named Jess O’Connell as CEO after she served four years at EMILY’s LIST, which seeks to elect pro-choice women to public office. Her appointment comes shortly after the election of Tom Perez as DNC chair.
“Every single day we are witnessing unprecedented activism and excitement across our nation,” O’Connell said in a statement. “I am thrilled to join the fight at the national party to make sure we translate this moment into a movement, and a movement into votes. The DNC has incredible potential and, under the leadership of Chair Perez, I’m ready to jump in and help make this organization more inclusive, effective, and influential.”
As CEO, O’Connell will oversee the day-to-day operations and DNC-wide restructuring as the organization undergoes a transition after Democratic losses in the 2016 election. The goals of the DNC are to strengthen the organization, increase collaboration with progressive partners and better serve state parties, territory parties and Democrats abroad.
“Jess has an impressive progressive track record and I am honored that she will lend her talents to rebuilding our party and electing Democrats,” Perez said in a statement. “She knows that we as a party need to get back to basics. We need to organize in every zip code and better communicate our message of inclusion and opportunity. We know what happens when Democrats don’t win, because we are bearing witnesses to the chaos and harm to working families that results with Republicans at the helm.
Soon after his election as DNC chair, Perez asked all top level officials who were previously at the organization to submit their letters of resignation. But O’Connell’s appointment isn’t a consequence of that action. A DNC spokesperson said there was no one in the role of chief executive officer at the time Perez came to the DNC.
Prior to her work at EMILY’s List, O’Connell was senior vice president and chief of staff for the Center for American Progress and served as a progressive activist for more than 20 years. She lives in Maryland with her spouse Holly, a librarian with Montgomery County Public Schools.