Florida State House
Alex Barrio is the son of a legal secretary and factory worker, running to represent the working people of Florida House District 43 in Osceola County. He is UCF alum and long-time resident of Central Florida. In 2012, Alex graduated from Florida International University College of Law and went to work as a Legislative Analyst in the Florida Senate, helping to pass laws that improved our elections and protected the rights of the undocumented. After three years working in our state capitol he left to become Political Director for SEIU Local 1991, representing the healthcare professionals at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, advocating for public health dollars and access to care. In 2017 he became Congressman Darren Soto's District Director and spent two years fighting Trump's Muslim ban, helping hundreds of thousands of Hurricane Maria evacuees from Puerto Rico, and fighting for our undocumented constituents. Currently Alex serves as the Political Director of Alianza for Progress, advocating for the Latinx community across Florida.
NLC St. Louis
Attorney General, Missouri
Elad has fought corruption and represented the people of Missouri his entire career. Elad served as an Assistant Attorney General. He was in charge of the busiest docket of trial and appellate cases in the state, developed several efficiency projects for the office, and trained new attorneys and interns.
After leaving the Attorney General’s Office, Elad served as a Special Public Defender of Missouri. There, he secured the release of an 18-year-old girl who was wrongfully detained for 7 months for a crime she did not commit. Elad also took a major dark money organization to court. The organization was at the center of a government corruption scandal in Missouri. Elad is currently enforcing Missouri's public records law against the government in a related high-profile case.
As a civil rights and constitutional attorney, Elad has held public officials accountable regardless of political party, worked with community members and law enforcement officers on improving Missouri's justice system, and fought for transparency in government.
Elad grew up in Missouri. His mother became a single working mom when he was a teenager, and she sacrificed a lot to ensure Elad, his brother, and his sister received wonderful educations at public schools. While in high school, Elad started working with kids, and he founded a nonprofit organization that teaches children of all ages leadership skills in St. Louis City.
Elad's kids are the reason why he is running for Attorney General. He strongly believes that every Missourian should have opportunity and that all of our public policies must consider our kids.
Elad received his law degree from Washington University School of Law, degrees in economics and political science from Duke University, and his high school diploma from Clayton High School. When not teaching children how to write international treaties or traveling throughout Missouri to get more people involved in our government, Elad spends his time with his family or playing rugby, a sport he picked up after being cut from Duke’s football team three times.
Elad and his wife, Tasha Kaminsky, are both NLC-St. Louis alumni. Tasha is a nonprofit professional and a co-founder of Ashreinu, an egalitarian Jewish community organization in St. Louis. Together, they have two dogs—Mr. Toby and LadyBird—and probably too many cats, if there is such a thing.
Ellie Hill Smith
Montana State Senate
Representative Ellie Boldman Hill, named by Time Magazine as one of the "40 Under 40 Political Rising Stars” in the United States, has served four terms in the Montana House of Representatives.
In 2006, Ellie was hired to serve as the Executive Director of one of Western Montana’s best-known and beloved nonprofit organizations. The Poverello Center, Inc., founded in 1974, is the State of Montana’s largest emergency homeless shelter and soup kitchen located in the heart of downtown Missoula. Since Ellie took the helm, the organization has been voted by readers of the Missoula Independent, “Missoula’s Best Non Profit Organization”, and Ellie has been personally voted “Missoula’s Best Activist” for eleven straight years (2007 to 2018) for her advocacy for the impoverished and her political engagement on progressive causes.
In November 2010, Ellie won a hotly contested election and was elected to the Montana House of Representatives, where she has been re-elected for four terms. Since roaming the halls of the Montana Capitol, Ellie has traveled to the Jordanian Embassy in Middle East with American Council of Young Political Leaders, visited President Barack Obama in the White House with the Young Elected Officials Network, elected national Vice President for the Young Democrats of America, and spoken for thousands as a keynote or panelist for the Aspen Institute, Conference on Word Affairs, Netroots Nation, Center for American Women in Politics, amongst many others. She is the co-founder of the Montana chapter of the New Leaders Council.
Ellie has served in leadership positions in the Montana Capitol as Co-chair of the House Human Services Committee, last session overseeing Medicaid Expansion, opening the door to health insurance for 70,000 Montanans. She now serves on the national Executive Board of NCSL (National Council of State Legislatures), the bipartisan organization representing all fifty states and on the national board of directors of AAUW (American Association of University Women), The Washington Post named Ellie one of the state’s “Best Political Tweeters” (that's Twitter for those who don't “Tweet”!)
As an attorney and a mom, you can find Ellie on the front lines fighting for the underdog, listening to old vinyl records, and drinking a good Montana microbrew.
Kentucky State House
Martina Jackson-Haynes grew up in a single-parent home in the projects of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, witnessing poverty, addiction, and incarceration early on. The odds were stacked against her, but the support of strong Appalachian women like her own mother motivated Martina to become greater than her circumstances. Through the after-school and summer programs of Girls, Inc. (a nonprofit organization that empowers and inspires girls), she learned how to be “Strong, Smart, and Bold.” Martina combined her motivation, boldness, and empowerment to apply to Berea College, where she fortified her abilities to build community and speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.
Martina has focused on helping others since graduating from Berea, having assisted such organizations as the Kentucky Justice and Public Safety Cabinet, where she administered a $2.1 million federal grant for domestic violence shelters, rape crisis centers, organizations assisting human trafficking victims, and other nonprofits through the Violence Against Women federal grant program; Partners for Education at Berea College, where she places full-time mentors and tutors in public schools to increase student competencies in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM); Eastern Kentucky University, where she worked in EKU’s Diversity Office to promote inclusion on campus; Kentucky Environmental Foundation, where, as an intern, she worked with the Clean and Healthy Homes project; and the NAACP, where, as an intern, she helped develop advocacy toolkits promoting environmental and climate justice.
Martina continues to develop her leadership abilities, even outside her work. She is the selections co-chair of the New Leaders Council Kentucky Cohort, serves on Berea College’s Alumni Executive Council, and is former president of her son’s Parent Teacher Organization (PTO). A firm believer in higher education, Martina is also pursuing a Master of Public Administration degree with a Community Development concentration.
As a single mom of a 7-year-old, Martina wants what all Kentuckians want: a safe, inclusive community with a quality educational system and opportunity to thrive. She says, “A community that embraces all Kentuckians is the one that I want to nurture and build. I envision this for today, for tomorrow, and for years to come. Our state’s House of Representatives needs greater representation of people like you and people like me. I have the experience—both personal and professional—to provide that representation, and I would be honored to be your next Kentucky state representative.”
Ohio State House
Dontavius Jarrells is running to represent the 25th House District in the Ohio House of Representatives because he believes a better Ohio starts with all of us. He knows that the children of this district do not get a fair shot in life, and many parents throughout the district struggle just to get by. He knows these challenges intimately because he has lived them. Dontavius is running to fight for every Ohioan to have the tools they need to not just survive, but thrive.
Dontavius was born in the Hough neighborhood of Cleveland, a community that never fully recovered from the deadly race riots of 1967. Crime, poverty, and disinvestment was the reality. At the age of 7, Dontavius had to fight to survive lead poisoning. Through it all, he was lucky to have a family that pushed him to succeed. His grandmother cleaned the homes of white families during the Depression. She taught him the value of hard work and sacrifice, and instilled in him that where he came from shouldn’t determine where he went. His mother, a former member of CWA Local 4320, taught him patience and the importance of helping others. They made sure he was in one-third of students who graduated from East Technical High School in 2006. Dontavius went on to Hiram College, where he learned about advocacy and leadership.
After graduation, he was selected as an Ohio Legislative Service Commission Fellow, where he worked as a staffer for Democratic House Caucus during the 129th General Assembly. At the Statehouse, he assisted in the fight against the anti-union Senate Bill 5 and partnered with community organizations.
After completing the fellowship, he decided to commit the next seven years of his career fighting for Ohioans to have adequate healthcare, including access to comprehensive mental health resources and treatment for addiction. At the Ohio Association of County Behavioral Health Authorities (OACBHA) and Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS), Dontavius worked to engage communities across Ohio to support those in recovery and fought to pass Medicaid expansion. He was proud to serve as OhioMHAS’s Health Equity Policy and Program Lead, making sure that the department did not overlook the needs of underrepresented communities across Ohio.
But he soon realized that it is going to take different leaders in government to create an Ohio that cares about everyone. In the 2018 election, Dontavius served as Political Director to Steve Dettelbach, Ohio’s candidate for Ohio Attorney General. Currently, Dontavius serves as the Chief of Communications to Franklin County Treasurer Cheryl Brooks Sullivan, the first African-American elected county treasurer in Ohio. Dontavius is passionate about supporting organizations working to achieve better representation. Outside of work, he proudly serves as Chair of the Black Caucus of the Young Democrats of America, Founding Board of the New Leaders Council of Columbus, Founder of the Columbus African Council and serves as an Executive Committee member for the Franklin County Democratic Party and Ohio Democratic Party.
Pennsylvania State House
Vanessa McGrath is a candidate for State Representative in the 175th District in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Ms. McGrath is running in an April 28, 2020 primary. It is most likely that there will be no competitive general election.
Ms. McGrath was an NLC Fellow in 2017, and she has maintained her relationship with NLC as a Board Member of the Philadelphia Chapter, serving as an Advancement Co-Chair since June 2017.
Ms. McGrath was the first person in her family to go to college. After college she worked in immigration law, where she helped individuals and families navigate the red tape and successfully enter the country. Ms. McGrath then attended law school at Temple University and completed a clerkship on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. She spent most of her legal career working at a woman-owned law firm.
Ms. McGrath is running for office because she deeply cares about people. She believes the government should listen to what people need and then act to make their lives better and happier, and be held accountable if it doesn’t. That is not happening in the 175th District, and she knows that the District and the Commonwealth deserve better. She is running for office because we must protect the most vulnerable among us.
Justin R. Miller
Florida State Senate
Born in Orlando, Justin grew up in Seminole county. Growing up wanting to be in the Navy, Justin enlisted into the Navy’s Delayed Enlistment Program early his senior year and left for boot camp in Great Lakes quickly after graduation. His 20 year career as a Navy intelligence professional allowed him to lead and support Sailors, Soldiers, Airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen, from all over the nation and world.
Justin served in support of multiple national missions, deployed overseas twice while assigned to two warships, worked hand-in-hand with selective special operations units doing research and development, and voluntarily deployed as a direct support specialist and analyst on the ground in Iraq. He also deployed to the Republic of South Korea to support the United Nations’ mission under United States Forces Korea.
Justin currently serves as a Vice President for a local non-profit with a national mission and reach, and he is the Founder, CEO, and Research Director for Policy Research Institute of Orlando, LLC, a nonpartisan public policy research firm. He is also a member of multiple veterans organizations, defense community organizations, business community associations, and leadership organizations, which include the New Leaders Council Orlando, the Truman National Security Project, and the Orlando Mayor’s Veterans Advisory Council.
Massachusetts State House
Tram T. Nguyen is committed to being a tireless advocate for the 18th Essex District. Her family came to this country as political refugees when she was five years old, and she was raised in the Merrimack Valley. This community gave her family invaluable opportunities, and I want to make those opportunities available to everyone.
Tram understands the struggles of working families and what it takes for every person to have a fair shot at success. She values the public school education that allowed her to be the first in my family to attend college (Tufts University) and law school (Northeastern University).
During her legal career, Tram fought for seniors, veterans, survivors of domestic violence, children, new immigrants, and working families in the courtroom. As a legal services attorney, she also advocated for legislation that improves the quality of life for all people in the Commonwealth, and many of the bills have been signed into law.
Tram is determined to be an available and accessible legislator to constituents, listening to their concerns and working with them to find real solutions. She works collaboratively and builds coalitions to address issues that are important to our district. She looks forward to continuing to bring her passion, dedication and determination to Beacon Hill to build a stronger and brighter district, community, and Commonwealth.
NLC North Carolina
NC Commissioner of Agriculture
Jenna was born in Raleigh, but she grew up off a dirt road on her grandparents' farm in Johnston County which raised corn, soybeans, tobacco, cattle, and hogs. She proudly graduated from the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics (NCSSM) in Durham in 2007. In December 2011, she graduated Magna Cum Laude from North Carolina State University with majors in Political Science—with a concentration in American Politics—and Women’s and Gender Studies and a minor in English.
In November 2010—at the age of 21—Jenna made history with her election to a four-year term on the Wake County Soil and Water Conservation District Board of Supervisors by becoming the youngest woman ever elected to public office in North Carolina.
As a Supervisor, Jenna has voted to provide financial assistance to land owners and land users who qualify for crucial technical assistance necessary to protect water quality, properly manage agricultural resources, and conserve the county’s natural resources and wildlife. She has been an advocate for and a volunteer with the District’s environmental education programs for grades K-12. Having grown up on a family farm, it was important to her to focus on farmland preservation and local foods enhancement in this role. With her leadership, the District secured its first ever conservation easement and entered into a Market Based Conservation Initiative (MBCI) program with the U.S. Marine Corps and the NAVY. The MBCI program preserves open space and restricts development under a vital military flight path.
When she’s not out on a tractor, Jenna is the Co-Founder and former Co-Director of a progressive nonprofit called New Leaders Council – North Carolina. She serves on the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics Alumni Association’s Board of Directors, is an active member of both the Young Elected Officials Network and Local Progress, and she speaks to international delegations for the U.S. Department of State’s International Visitors Leadership Program and US AID. She became a small business owner in 2017 and works as the Managing Partner of her political and fundraising consulting firm Elevated Prospects, LLC.
Jenna was re-elected to the Wake County Soil and Water Conservation District Board of Supervisors in November 2018. She was elected Vice-Chair of the Board in Spring 2015.