January 29, 2018 at 9:53 pm EST | by Chris Johnson
Top lesbian DNC official exits after less than one year on the job

Jess O’Connell is leaving the DNC as chief executive officer. (Photo courtesy DNC)

The highest-ranking openly LGBT official at the Democratic National Committee has departed from her role less than one year after she started serving in the position.

Jess O’Connell, who was named as the DNC’s chief executive officer in May, said in a statement Tuesday evening she’s leaving the organization in a development first reported by NBC News.

“The DNC has recruited a talented team from all across America that works hard day and night to elect Democrats, and I have no doubt that they will lead our party to victory in 2018 and beyond,” O’Connell said. “I am grateful to Chairman Perez for the opportunity to serve my party during such a pivotal time as we fight to protect and promote Democratic values and elect more Democrats nationwide. While I’ve made the decision to pass the baton, our work remains far from over and under Tom Perez’s leadership and direction, our party will continue to build on the progress we’ve made in 2017.”

O’Connell was brought on to the DNC and departs at a time when Democrats were reeling over the loss of Hillary Clinton in 2016 and the party picked up important off-year wins in elections in Virginia, New Jersey and Alabama.

Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez said in a statement O’Connell “brought a laser-like focus on winning elections up and down the ballot.”

“Jess laid the groundwork for an infrastructure to win in 2018, 2020 and beyond,” Perez said. “Her dedication to Democratic values and the party is like no other and I’m grateful for everything she has done and will continue to do for our party in the weeks, months, and years to come.”

According to NBC News, O’Connell’s departure comes “just months after the DNC ousted its finance director following a period of weak fundraising, as well as a shakeup last year that reignited tensions with Sanders’ allies.”

A Democratic aide said O’Connell will officially depart later next month. As CEO, O’Connell’s job was to oversee day-to-day operations and political strategy at party headquarters.

Previously, O’Connell was CEO at Emily’s List and served in a prominent role in Clinton’s 2008 campaign.

O’Connell was named in a recent explosive report in The New York Times revealing Clinton worked to shield a prominent staffer, Burns Strider, amid allegations of sexual harassment from a young, female staffer. According to the report, O’Connell had advised Clinton to fire Strider, but was overruled by the then-candidate, who kept him on.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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