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DNC Hires Ex-EMILY's List Head as First Lesbian CEO

by Winnie McCroy
EDGE Editor
Wednesday May 17, 2017

For the first time in its history, the Democratic National Committee has hired an out lesbian at its chief executive officer. They recently appointed Jess O'Connell, the former head of EMILY's List, to the top leadership position.

The Washington Blade reports that the DNC named O'Connell as CEO after serving four years at EMILY's List, which seeks to elect pro-choice women to public office. Her appointment came after the election of Tom Perez as DNC chair.

"Every single day we are witnessing unprecedented activism and excitement across our nation," said O'Connell 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."

O'Connell will oversee day-to-day operations and DNC-wide restructuring as the organization undergoes a transition after losses in the 2016 election. The DNC seeks to strengthen their 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."

Although Perez asked all top-level officials at the organization to submit their letters of resignation after his election as DNC chair, there was no CEO at that time, so O'Connell's appointment isn't a consequence of that action.

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.

Winnie McCroy is the Women on the EDGE Editor, HIV/Health Editor, and Assistant Entertainment Editor for EDGE Media Network, handling all women's news, HIV health stories and theater reviews throughout the U.S. She has contributed to other publications, including The Village Voice, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and The Advocate, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.


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