Politics magazine taps 3 Texans as rising stars

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by By MARJORIE KORN / The Dallas Morning News mkorn@dallasnews.com

wfaa.com

Posted on August 15, 2009 at 4:47 PM

Updated Friday, Oct 16 at 1:17 PM

Jessica Coln's family grew up Republican in a Democratic town.

In Pittsburgh, her great-aunt was a conservative during the New Deal-era of the 1930s. And her grandfather and other relatives were active in GOP circles - teaching her, she said, how politics "makes a difference."

Now, at 34, she's chairman of the Young Republican National Federation, with a stronghold in Dallas, and serves on a leadership committee for Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.

"There's a lot of commentary right now about how the youth is lost for the Republicans, but I don't believe that," Coln said. "What young people want is authenticity, good policy and they want to just be acknowledged and spoken to."

That message, and Coln's work in the field, is winning her recognition. Last month, Campaigns & Elections' Politics magazine named her a "rising star," part of a group of up-and-comers 35 or younger who already are making their mark in the industry.

Two other Texans made the list: Robert Jones, 32, political director at Annie's List, a group dedicated to electing Democratic women, and Tom Serres, 27, a nonpartisan entrepreneur behind Piryx, a social commerce platform aimed at expanding online tools.

Their efforts, playing out in Dallas and other cities across the state, reflect what the magazine says are achievements in political fundamentals: pushing causes, energizing voters, electing candidates.

Coln has organized get-out-the vote drivers, campaigned to overhaul Social Security and appeared frequently on Fox News, according to the magazine.

After helping Republican Joan Huffman of Houston win a state Senate seat last year, she opened Coln & Co., a political consulting firm, and is assisting local candidates to try to keep the GOP in control of the Texas Legislature.

Jones is the political director at Annie's List, an Austin-based non-profit that helps elect Democratic women. He said he caught the campaign bug in high school when he worked to get his 8th grade history teacher in the Legislature.

"At a basic level, women have been so poorly represented in Texas," Jones said.

Historically, he said, governing bodies with more women are prone to pass progressive social policy. If women have a bigger voice in the Legislature, it might do more to improve children's health insurance, pay equity and school funding, he said.

At Annie's List, he helped identify winnable districts, using plans developed over the past several years.

"Democratic women often make the best candidates in [those] the races." he said. "It's really been the secret to success in Texas and the Democratic revival that's going on."

For all burgeoning politicos, Serres' specialty is software.

He's founder and CEO of Austin-based Piryx Inc., an online program allowing candidates to hone their online brand and manage Internet-based fundraising.

"There was this huge, massive need to build a universal system where people could literally create an account and have all the tools they need for a Web, political campaign," Serres said.

Nonprofits, political action committees and lobbyists can also use Piryx. The company is working with local governments to allow candidates to file financial disclosures electronically. With its software, voters can gain instant access to who's backing the candidates.

"Transparency goes through the roof just because now you have access to information," Serres said.

The latest stars join a long list of Texans cited by the magazine, including in previous years Nate Crain, former Dallas County Republican chairman; Matt Angle, director of the Texas Democratic Trust, a political action committee; Paul Begala, an adviser to former President Bill Clinton; and Mark McKinnon, an ad strategist for former President George W. Bush.

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