Political News

Top O'Rourke aide moves into Kamala Harris' orbit ahead of 2020

Posted November 16, 2018 6:05 a.m. EST

— The force behind Texas Democrat Beto O'Rourke's record-breaking online fundraising efforts is moving into Sen. Kamala Harris' orbit ahead of her potential 2020 presidential run.

Democratic digital consultant Shelby Cole is joining Authentic Campaigns, the firm founded and led by Mike Nellis, who is Harris' longtime top digital consultant. The move positions Cole to play a major role if the California Democrat runs for president.

Nellis confirmed Cole's hire.

"Shelby did tremendous work for Beto O'Rourke and was a big part of the reason that he raised so much money and engaged with so many people in Texas and across the country," he said. "She's an amazing digital strategist and I'm really excited to be working with her again."

O'Rourke's $70 million online fundraising haul in the Texas US Senate race -- largely through an email and digital program that Cole spearheaded -- made her an emerging star among Democratic consultants. She is leaving Middle Seat, a digital consulting firm run by former senior staffers for Sen. Bernie Sanders 2016 presidential campaign.

The move comes with Democratic jockeying for 2020 already well underway. Only Rep. John Delaney of Maryland and failed congressional candidate Richard Ojeda have officially entered the race, but big-name likely candidates are interviewing potential staffers and consultants as they plot their strategies and how they'd roll out their campaigns.

Harris campaigned this year with Democratic candidates in key early-voting states, including Iowa, South Carolina and Nevada. On Saturday she will visit Mississippi, a state with an early primary in 2020 where the Democratic electorate is largely African-American, to campaign with Mike Espy, the party's nominee in a special Senate runoff election there.

Cole's move also comes as O'Rourke weighs his own political future. The El Paso congressman built a national following during a closer-than-expected loss to Republican Sen. Ted Cruz in Texas, and some Democrats think his optimistic style would make him a strong presidential contender. But he also just ended a grueling two-year campaign -- which means he'd start behind other Democrats who have spent months preparing for presidential runs. And Cole's move into Harris world means O'Rourke would have to run without the consultant who played a key role in turning his campaign into a digital powerhouse.