Name: Ivana Brancaccio
Hometown: Las Vegas
Position: Communications director for Rep. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev.
Alma Mater: American University
Washington Examiner: How did you begin working in politics?
Brancaccio: I come from a big Italian family that likes to argue, so naturally in high school I joined the debate team, then volunteered for my first political campaign in 2008, knocking on doors for Barack Obama. I fell in love with getting to know people and learning how policy impacts their lives.
I knew where I wanted to go, and that was D.C. So, I hopped on a plane and looked at American University. I managed to land an internship on the Senate side my freshman year in college and then worked for the Democratic Party in Nevada as a media monitor in 2012, which opened other doors. I’ve been in Nevada politics ever since.
Washington Examiner: You grew up in Nevada?
Brancaccio: I was born in Boston. My mom immigrated from Italy when she was 19 and married my dad, an Italian-American whose parents immigrated from Italy. They started a business making draperies, then moved to Las Vegas in 2001.
It was a different experience growing up there. This past Christmas, I was thinking to myself, how many other kids get to say they spent Christmas and Thanksgiving at a casino all-you-can-eat buffet?
Washington Examiner: Do you still have a connection to Italy?
Brancaccio: I do. My grandparents are there. My family is there. Italian actually was my first language, because with my cousins and other family members in Boston, we all spoke Italian to each other. We lived near each other and had a strong community, and I went back to Italy every summer to visit my grandparents.
When I started working on the Hill, I started the Italian-American Staff Association and have been engaged with Italian groups in the city. A lot of the comparative politics kept me interested in American politics — there are so many differences, and so many issues that are also similar.
Washington Examiner: And you’re getting married later this year?
Brancaccio: I am. My fiancé also works as a communications director on the Hill. We met on Shelley Berkley’s Senate campaign in Nevada and recently went on a trip to Italy to introduce him to my family. He proposed while we were there, and we decided to get married in my home region of Puglia.
Washington Examiner: What’s it like to be marrying another communications director? Do your bosses approve?
Brancaccio: We get to come home every day and talk about the same challenges and duties, which is fun, and ask each other for advice. Sometimes, we can come home and sit silently and know what we’ve been through — with a hectic news cycle — without having to talk about it.
Our bosses certainly approve, and they’ve chatted about it. Whenever they see either of us, they make a point to ask how we’re doing and ask about the wedding planning. They’re excited for us.
Washington Examiner: How important are interpersonal relationships on the Hill?
Brancaccio: A lot of people have a misconception that relationship-building is only necessary for when you’re job hunting. I’ve come to learn it’s also important to keep your network just to grow professionally and get advice on day-to-day challenges. I make a point to grab coffee with people on a weekly basis, if not a monthly basis, just to check in and learn how others tackle challenges in their jobs. I also have a lot of intern coffees. It’s good to give back as a professional and lend a hand to someone looking to enter the workforce and show them the ropes.
Washington Examiner: You’ve worked for three House members. What makes a good boss?
Brancaccio: A good boss is someone who really does care about his or her staff and their development, and who isn’t just someone who gives them a task to do, but checks in with them on their professional development. I’m lucky to have had all three of my bosses on the Hill do that.
My current boss, Jacky Rosen, has a background in computer programming and broke barriers as a woman in STEM. I see her as a mentor and someone who genuinely cares about my growth. She’s also my congresswoman, so I get to see results of her work back in the district.
Washington Examiner: For those who don’t know, what’s the difference between a press secretary and communications director?
Brancaccio: A press secretary is mostly engaged in drafting and writing content, and a communications director has to oversee a larger operation. There is a bit more strategy involved.
Washington Examiner: Before this job, you worked for Hillary Clinton. Can you describe that experience?
Brancaccio: I was the Nevada press secretary for Hillary Clinton. It was, overall, a very bittersweet experience. We won the state for Hillary and turned the state blue up and down the ticket, including Rep. Rosen’s race. Jacky was part of an all-female ticket, which was amazing.
Washington Examiner: What are the challenges for Democratic communicators under President Trump?
Brancaccio: The constant barrage of programs we care about that are being dismantled on a day-to-day basis. The actual policies that are being rolled back that actually impact people sometimes get swept under the rug because of the rhetoric this administration has chosen to use.
It’s tough going to work and constantly reading about programs you care about being slashed, or environmental protections being rolled back, or in Nevada, Attorney General [Jeff] Sessions ending the Obama-era policy that paved the way for states to legalize marijuana. But we have an ability to turn it around.
Washington Examiner: The #Metoo movement has taken down many congressmen. Will the culture change on Capitol Hill?
Brancaccio: I certainly hope it will change. It’s 2018, and it’s absolutely unacceptable we still have to read about victims in the workplace.
Washington Examiner: Are Democratic staffers excited about potential 2018 gains and potential new job openings?
Brancaccio: I think they’re more excited to just see the tide is coming, and we’re going to be able to hopefully reverse all the damage this administration is trying to do.