Name: Mark Bednar
Hometown: Middleton, Wis.
Position: Communications director for Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Wis.
Alma mater: University of Wisconsin, Madison, and Johns Hopkins University
Washington Examiner: How did you get to where you are?
Bednar: Initially, I wanted to be a defense policy guy. That's what I went to grad school for. I thought that that was my life's mission, but then I realized, whoa, what is guaranteeing people the opportunity to do this policy work?
To go work for Sen. [John] McCain on Senate Armed Services, that was a goal. But it occurred to me that the only way I could get there is if Mitt Romney became president and then Sen. McCain became Armed Services chair. It became an issue of: Well, even if I want to be here on the Hill, who are the sheepdogs that are ensuring that this is happening?
And that's why, right after public policy school, I went to the [Republican National Committee] to help Mitt Romney win, so then I could go get that dream job with Senate Armed Services. But, at that point, I found my real love and passion lies in being the sheepdog, so that winning the battles on the election and messaging side can ensure that people here can take care of the policy side.
Washington Examiner: And Romney ultimately lost....
Bednar: But I found that — holy cow, campaigns [are] the place to be. That also coincided with the same year as Scott Walker winning his recall. Obviously, a huge, huge risk-taker, Scott Walker was able to ride the lightning and pass major reforms. They tried to punish him for it, but instead, because of the team he had in Wisconsin and because people stood behind him, he won the recall by a greater margin than his original election, which then gave him a new mandate to go ever further on policy ambitions.
I became convinced that if I can defend the message, and I can defend the party, if I can defend these ideals from a campaign perspective, then that's my place in the fight.
What's great about communications is that that fight exists, whether it's on the official side or the campaign side.
I've actually not been on the Hill very long. But just by having been in several campaigns, [and] also having been in the Senate a little bit under Sen. [David] Perdue, the experience from campaigns has gotten me to where it is an important spot to be.
Washington Examiner: What's the chronology?
Bednar: Romney at the RNC, Eric Cantor's outside group YG Network, and then Sen. David Perdue, and then Walker, and then Duffy.
Examiner: You deal with the media all the time. What is your pet peeve when it comes to journalists?
Bednar: That's a great question. Holy moly.
There are some media outlets that are so incredibly biased, and so incredibly out-there left. But they're almost proud of it; it's a badge of honor. That's almost more admirable than those especially in D.C., but then also in every media market, that claim to be objective, claim to be an arbiter of truth, but then really have a snaky agenda. Those are the ones who, I think, will be a constant thorn in the side of conservatives. Those are the ones that, on one hand, you have to engage, but on the other you have to tread carefully, or move around them when you have to.
Washington Examiner: When you're not dealing with the media, what do you do for fun?
Bednar: I should say wedding planning, but I will get called out that she's doing more, which is true. That's a big, new thing that's coming up.
The first thing I do when I wake up - and the last thing I do before I go to bed - is check my fantasy baseball team. It's with a league with a bunch of guys around D.C., like a bunch of political hacks, a few reporters, a few media people; that's a big, important part of the summer.
Washington Examiner: When are you getting married?
Bednar: The wife-elect and I, we tie the knot on Nov. 11 of this year.
Washington Examiner: Congrats. So, what has been your best day, or best moment, on this job?
Bednar: Just now, before you came in, my boss was on TV talking about how we smash ISIS and what we need to do to finally win the war on terror. Any time that I can help orchestrate an opportunity for conservatives to move the ball forward, whether it's on talking about Obamacare or ISIS or any of the big fights that we're all driven by, that's always a good day.
One big thing that's really gratifying is to see — I see this on the job in D.C. but also back home in Wisconsin — is to see the cohesiveness of Wisconsin Republicans. It's like, the unity is so buddy-buddy. There's an iconic photo of Mitt, Paul Ryan, Reince Priebus and Scott Walker, all of in their kind of suburban dad outfits; they're all kind of hugging. That picture is emblematic of how Wisconsin Republicans operate. Anytime we're all together, whether it's staffers kicking back Miller Lites, or seeing the members interact and help each other — from the house speaker, to the now White House chief of staff, and Gov. Walker is a rockstar, and obviously Congressman Duffy, and Ron Johnson — to see that team and to be a part of that team, it's really easy to be proud of where you're from when you see people like that work together and be so good to each other.
Washington Examiner: What's been your most unusual or weirdest day on the job?
Bednar: The RNC convention was by far the most chaotic week of my life. Somehow, a combination of spring break and Schoolhouse Rock and social studies class all mixed in. Then, combining with new friends that you haven't met yet, and enemies in the media and friendlies in the media, and then parties everywhere, all the while having to get Congressman Duffy. I think we did 20-25 national TV hits that week.
Waking up when a producer called me at 6 o'clock for a 6:30 hit and said, "Hey, are you guys close?" And waking up and saying, "Yep, just a couple of blocks away." Oh s—t, running, screaming, trying to get to the Cleveland stadium. The chaos from that week, I can't think of another thing on Earth that has such a cool, fun, but also stressful combination of events at the same time.
Washington Examiner: What is your favorite political movie or show?
Bednar: "Thirteen Days" is such a great movie. It's really well done. The actors, I think, portray - how do you portray JFK as an actor? But the guy who does it is great.
Kevin Costner is one of the aides. It really takes you into: A) the gravity of the Cuban missile crisis and the Cold War. But also, Kevin Costner's character is one of the president's aides who lives in D.C. and has a family, and has to wake up early and deal with his own red phone, and his family wonders where he is. That's an interesting part of D.C. that I didn't recognize until working here. It demonstrates the challenges and the stresses that are heightened in D.C.
And then, of course, "House of Cards" is just downright awesome.
Washington Examiner: What advice would you give to someone just starting out on the Hill?
Bednar: There's a couple of different elements to it. One is that campaigns are a really easy to way to go see something new and different. Who knows, you might be eating cheese curds in Wisconsin, or Chick-fil-A five days a week in Georgia, as I have. But then also you rise really fast, and you do a lot of things that you never thought you'd do, and you expand your skills in a much quicker way than the Hill will let you do.
But also, there's a lot of things you can't control in Washington, but you can control how hard you work and how well you treat people. If you keep your eye on the prize with those two things, doors will open for you. I tell that to our interns here who are trying every day to get a job on the Hill. Go knock some doors; ride the lightning. You control it.