No matter which part of the political spectrum you associate with, you are likely to find yourself in the company of at least one American University alumnus. In the New England political arena, one of AU's most accomplished graduates is James "Jim" Barnett, SPA/BA '98.
A Vermont native, Jim decided to attend AU based on the fact that its locale, academic rigor and internship programs intersected well with his personal and professional goals. Once enrolled, he discovered outstanding scholar instructors - like Dr. James Thurber - who, he says, "had a great way of explaining how D.C. really works." He also discovered a social scene, in part via his fraternity, Alpha Tau Omega, that helped him establish a lifelong network of friends. One of these friends, Neale Lunderville, SPA/BA '96, later helped Jim expand his operational portfolio with high-level political teams.
After graduating cum laude from the School of Public Affairs, Jim's first position was as an opposition researcher for the Republican National Committee during the 1998 and 2000 election cycles. His hard work and long hours with the RNC, combined with his academic foundation, qualified him for his next position in the George W. Bush White House as Deputy Associate Director in the Office of Presidential Personnel.
His talent and tenacity – coupled with a nudge from Neale – eventually led to a subsequent position on former Vermont Gov. James Douglas's transition team. On this team, Jim assisted with the crafting of a campaign communications and media strategy that reversed a large poll lead held by Gov. Douglas' opponent. This helped earn Jim a spot as one of the governor's top advisors in each of his three re-election wins. But even after these substantial achievements, this political communications architect wasn't yet ready to rest on his laurels.
Based on his national and regional chops, Jim was asked to serve as chairman of the Vermont Republican Party, VTGOP. While in this position, he overhauled the VTGOP's communications strategy, improved fundraising operations, and helped recapture six state political offices. Subsequently, via his communications company - Battleground Strategies, he became Regional Campaign Manager for the McCain-Palin Campaign of 2008. During his tenure, he supervised campaign operations in six states – and his New Hampshire operation is widely credited with helping to launch McCain to the Republican nomination for president.
In 2011, Jim became campaign manager for Sen. Scott Brown who was the incumbent candidate for U.S. Senate (MA). Despite a hard-fought campaign that caught national interest, Sen. Brown's bid to retain office was unsuccessful. However, Jim remains optimistic that the future holds great promise for him both personally and professionally. Given his successes, expect to soon see this AU alum utilizing his talents again at the highest levels of our political system.