NPLA Unveils Inaugural Fellowship Cohort Focused on Political Research and Civic Engagement


Today, New Politics Leadership Academy is proud to unveil its new Fellows program, aimed at advancing the political leadership of military, national service, and intelligence veterans. The inaugural cohort of fellows are proven servant leaders who recently ran for office and will now spend the next four months reflecting on their experience on the campaign trail and conducting research to grow the movement of servant leaders running for office. The New Politics Leadership Academy 2019 fellows are Gina Ortiz Jones from Texas, Ken Harbaugh from Ohio, Juana Matias from Massachusetts, Dan Feehan from Minnesota, Amy McGrath from Kentucky, and Roger Dean “RD” Huffstetler from Virginia. 

New Politics Leadership Academy recruits and trains military veterans and national service alumni to run for office, helping to revitalize our democracy and transform our politics. The Fellows program furthers this mission by supporting servant leaders who have run for office but came up short to reflect on their experience, mentor other future candidates, conduct new research, and grow as leaders.

“Campaigns often yield an incredible amount of knowledge, regardless of the result. Yet, we often see this knowledge lost as soon as voting ends,” Emily Cherniack, New Politics Founder and Executive Director, said. “This first group of New Politics Leadership Academy Fellows are some of the top examples of incredible servant leaders who stepped up in 2018 to run for office and are committed to putting country over party. They will have the opportunity to share their insights with the servant leader community, conduct new research, and grow as leaders.” 

Through their fellowship, New Politics Leadership Academy Fellows will have the opportunity to reflect on lessons learned during their campaigns and share their learnings with the growing servant leader community. 

“Our Fellows are thought leaders who inspire and enable the continued growth of New Politics Leadership Academy’s mission,” Emily continued. “In the four months of their Fellowship, they’ll publish, speak, advocate, and conduct policy research across an array of topics important to our democracy, including building bridges between rural and urban communities and how to engage more veterans in the political process.” 

The inaugural Fellows group will explore a diverse set of topics during their NPLA Fellowships:

Gina Ortiz Jones is a national security expert and her career spans serving as a U.S. Air Force intelligence officer deployed to Iraq, to serving in the Executive Office of the President where she led a portfolio focused on U.S. economic and national security. Most recently, Gina was a candidate for Congress in Texas’ 23rd District. In her fellowship, Gina will continue to engage with communities throughout South and West Texas to research and highlight the ways in which domestic policies can potentially pose future national and economic security risks.

Ken Harbaugh is a former Navy pilot and president of Team Rubicon Global, a disaster-relief organization that has helped retrain 80,000 military veterans to redeploy as emergency responders. In 2018, he was a candidate for Congress in Ohio’s 7th district. As a New Politics Leadership Academy Fellow, Ken will explore the implications of our failing two-party system. The problems often pointed to by political commentators, such as gerrymandering, media partisanship, and donor tribalism, are symptoms of our ossified party structures. But the inflexibility of that system has created openings for post-partisan disruptors that are now challenging the ingrained orthodoxies.  

Juana Matias is the outgoing State Representative for Massachusetts’ 16th Essex District, a former candidate for Massachusetts’ 3rd Congressional District, and an AmeriCorps member. Her commitment and passion lies in working to eradicate racial, social, and economic inequities to ensure that every person has an opportunity to achieve the American Dream. As a New Politics Leadership Academy Fellow, Juana will focus on examining methods that foster civic and electoral participation within the US Latinx community. She will also develop policy recommendations in the area of immigration reform, particularly focusing on compromise legislative language and strategies that can be utilized during this upcoming Congressional session. 

Dan Feehan was a candidate for Congress in Minnesota's 1st District. Dan is a former acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Military Readiness, having served previously as an active-duty Army officer during two combat tours in Iraq. Dan also served as a middle school math teacher through Teach for America. As a New Politics Leadership Academy Fellow, Dan will examine the nature of today's political engagement with rural voters, drawing on his recent campaign experiences in Minnesota. From this, he will demonstrate the methods of communication, meeting, and organizing that ultimately are able to influence voters in an otherwise polarizing political environment. 

Amy McGrath is a retired Marine Lieutenant Colonel serving 20 years and three combat tours as an F/A-18 fighter pilot and weapons systems officer in Iraq, and Afghanistan. Amy earned a Master’s degree in Global Security and she served tours in the Pentagon, Capitol Hill, and instructing at the US Naval Academy. Most recently, Amy was a candidate for Congress in Kentucky's 6th District. As a fellow with New Politics Leadership Academy, Amy will continue to lead and work with the people of Kentucky regarding national issues that affect them. She will conduct research on how to further close the rural-urban political gap in Kentucky, with a focus on tactics and strategies for breaking down partisanship in our communities.

Roger Dean “RD” Huffstetler is a Marine veteran and former Congressional candidate in Virginia's 5th District, stretching from the North Carolina state line to Northern Virginia. Previously, he served as Congressman Seth Moulton’s Chief of Staff and worked at Twilio, then an early-stage technology startup. As a New Politics Leadership Academy Fellow, RD will continue to mentor service-oriented leaders who are considering running for office and will develop innovative technology platforms and approaches to help them succeed.