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Alumni newsmakers: Howard Wolfson, AB'89

image: Class Notes headlineHoward Wolfson, AB'89, helps Hillary Clinton meet the press Starting at the U of C, where he worked at the Maroon and served on Student Government, Howard Wolfson, AB'89, has pursued his interests in journalism and politics all the way to First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton's staff. This past June, Wolfson--formerly chief of staff for Representative Nita M. Lowey (D--New York)--became press secretary for the Hillary Rodham Clinton for U.S. Senate Exploratory Committee and subsequently for her Senate campaign. In 2000, she will run for the seat being vacated by Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D--New York), who has endorsed Clinton.

Wolfson arrives at the Clinton campaign headquarters in New York City by 7 a.m. to scour the nation's newspapers, handle press inquiries, and "respond as her spokesperson to the full range of questions and issues that might come up in any given day." He doesn't leave the office until at least 8 p.m. "There's a fair amount of stress in the job," he notes. "There's an enormous amount of interest in Hillary Clinton, both as a person and as a potential candidate, and in addition to the New York media, there is a great deal of attention focused on her from press as far away as Japan and Europe."

When Clinton travels anywhere in New York state, Wolfson goes with her to field questions from the "very large press contingent that goes wherever she goes." The hundreds of reporters might ask about the Senate race, Clinton's international trips, environmental issues affecting New Yorkers, and even Hillary Clinton Web sites. He won't answer any questions related to her role as First Lady, preferring to keep that part of her identity separate. Balancing the daily deluge of phone calls, meetings with Clinton, press events, and the long--term goals of the election is difficult, according to Wolfson, "but it's the sort of balance you have to strike in any political job." He should know.

After receiving his master's degree in American history from Duke University in 1991, Wolfson took a newspaper job covering the political beat in Fairfax County, Virginia. "The more I covered it, the more I realized I'd rather be doing it than reporting on it," he says. "I figured it would be easier to be behind the closed doors than watching from the outside."

He got his first job in politics in 1992 with Representative Jim Jontz (D--Indiana), who lost his bid for re--election that year. Lowey hired Wolfson a year later. He worked in her office for six years, except for several months in 1998 when Lowey "loaned" him to Charles E. Schumer (D--New York) to serve as director of communications for Schumer's successful Senate campaign against Alfonse M. D'Amato.

When Lowey decided against a 2000 senatorial bid, Clinton adviser Harold M. Ickes called Wolfson to offer him the press secretary job. Wolfson says that he jumped at the chance: "I can't think of a better opportunity than the one I have now."

Still, the 33--year--old notes, "Politics is something that's easier to do when you're in your 20s than when you're in your 30s, because the amount of time required to do it well is incompatible with having a full, decent life outside the office."

For now, he's happy to make the trade--off. "The amount of scrutiny of Mrs. Clinton as a person and a candidate is, in my experience, unprecedented," he says. "If this race comes together and she runs against [New York City] Mayor [Rudolph W.] Giuliani, it will probably be the most exciting and historic Senate race of the century." --B.B.

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  DECEMBER 1999

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