Shepherding to the governorship a businessman who owns nine homes, is worth hundreds of millions of dollars, and has zero experience in elective politics—that’s one great resume line. California native and University of Michigan graduate Chip Englander, 33, owns that win. He helped Gov. Bruce Rauner accomplish his unlikely ascent against an incumbent governor in a blue state that happens to be the home of President Obama. Not only that, but Barack Obama himself came to Illinois to campaign for Pat Quinn, as did Michelle and Joe Biden and Hillary and Bill.
Englander learned the basics at the Leadership Institute, a self-described “non-partisan educational foundation” that “prepares conservatives for success in politics.” In awarding Englander its “Conservative Leader Award” earlier this week, the foundation news release noted, “In a state President Obama swept by 25 percent in 2012, Rauner became the first candidate to defeat the governor of a president’s home state since 1892.”
So what does Englander do for an encore? How about become campaign manager for first-term Kentucky senator Rand Paul in his 2016 run for president.
Campaign manager is a nice title, but, according to the Washington Post’s Robert Costa, Englander’s masthead position will be somewhere below Paul’s “longtime confidant” Doug Stafford, who “will remain as his chief political adviser.” Stafford says he will rely on Englander “for the day-to-day execution” of the campaign. As Paul heads toward entering the arena, Englander will carry the title of “senior adviser” for RANDPAC, but “people familiar with the hire say [Englander] has been assured that he will manage what has become a campaign-in-waiting.”
Englander hails from Santa Monica, about as left-leaning a city as exists in the U.S., but he didn’t let it get to him. He was chairman of the Michigan College Republicans as a sophomore in 2001. According to an account in the Boston Globe at the time (full story available to subscribers), Englander “complained about what he called [UM President Lee] Bollinger’s messianic impulse” to promote affirmative action. He described “‘a new Red Scare’ for campus opponents of affirmative action.” In 2002, Englander was the executive director of the Republican Party of San Diego County, an organization that Rush Limbaugh called “a model for the nation.”
Before joining Rauner, Englander ran congressman Mark Neumann’s primary race against Scott Walker for the Wisconsin governorship in 2010 (Neumann lost). In 2006, he ran Oklahoma congressman Ernest Istook’s successful campaign for the Republican nomination for governor, although Istook lost in the general election.
Englander had touted the Rauner campaign as the most disciplined in the nation. On Election Day, with the Rauner people feeling pumped about their chances, Englander’s discipline vanished: “We’re kicking ass and taking names,” he boasted.
After Rauner beat Quinn by five points, Englander was quoted in Rich Miller’s Capitol Fax as saying, “This was the biggest race in America. This race literally is one of the all-time greatest … I think we ran the best campaign in the country.”
But during the campaign, Englander—who was with Rauner during the exploratory phase, the primaries, the general, and was named “senior adviser” for the transition into the governor’s office—refused to be distracted from the campaign’s message: “Shake up Springfield” and “Bring Back Illinois.” The words were repeated in endless, tiresome loops at rallies and in commercials. The campaign and its candidate hit the road seven days a week, met the voters, and did not let themselves be drawn into discussions of social issues. They were lucky in having a candidate who never, not once, seemed to tire of retail campaigning.
In the end, money had a lot to do with the win. Rauner spent more than $60 million, including his own donation of $27 million. Quinn spent $35 million.
Englander did not respond to a request for comment.