When political campaigner Patti Solis Doyle (Communications ’90) came to Northwestern, her dream was to be an on-air reporter.
But Solis Doyle said she found her true calling working for former Chicago Mayor Richard Daley’s re-election campaign.
“I just fell in love with the job and the lifestyle of working on campaigns and the adrenaline and competitiveness (of it),” she said.
As a campaign manager, she coordinates political campaign operations, including fundraising, marketing and endowment. She has also set up a daycare center in her countryside headquarters so that her employees can spend more time with their children.
As she navigated politics to support herself and her immigrant family, Solis Doyle said it was something she didn’t know she wanted to do until she ‘she actually does.
Throughout his career, Solis Doyle held prominent political positions, most notably as chief of staff to then-vice-presidential candidate Joe Biden in Barack Obama’s presidential election in 2008, as well as campaign manager for former First Lady Hillary Clinton’s senatorial campaigns and 2008 presidential campaign.
Solis Doyle made history as Clinton’s campaign manager in 2008 when she became the first Latina to run a presidential campaign.
“It was pointed out to me many times, and the idea was so anxious to me that I felt like I really had to do a good job,” said Solis Doyle. “I would give up Hispanic women, Latinos all over the country, and that would be horrible.”
She said all she could focus on was keeping her head down and doing the best job possible.
While Clinton’s third place in the Iowa Democratic caucuses in 2008 led to a public dismissal, Solis Doyle admitted that she had learned that failure was more important at the start of a political career than victory.
“You learn all the lessons you learn especially from failure,” she said. “(And) if I can overcome that, I can overcome anything.”
Solis Doyle said that in 2008 she was approached by Hispanic students who said her work in a position of authority and leadership inspired them to work in politics.
Howard Wolfson, senior adviser to former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, worked with Solis Doyle between 1999 and 2008 and noted his growth and friendship throughout each campaign together.
“I have always been impressed with his abilities and management skills,” said Wolfson. “I really watched her go from (not being) the responsible person to the responsible person,… (which) was obviously an awesome journey.”
Neera Tanden, senior advisor to President Biden, first met Solis Doyle in 1997 in then-First Lady Clinton’s office and also worked closely with her in 2008.
Tanden said she viewed Solis Doyle as a mentor and friend, and learned a lot about being a strong woman of color in politics from Solis Doyle, she added.
“She was really a role model for me,” Tanden said. “I have been friends with her ever since.
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