Democratic Party Chair Robin Kelly Names Abby Witt New Executive Director
Kelly Says Witt Will Lead Effort to Build New & Inclusive Democratic Party of Illinois (DPI)
The Democratic Party of Illinois (DPI) today named Abby Witt as its new Executive Director. An Evanston native, Witt has spent nearly two decades working with progressive campaigns and causes, building programs that successfully bring more people into the political process to advance Democratic values.
“Abby has a proven track record of building inclusive organizations, has established solid relationships throughout the state, and has the vision to lead our party as its Executive Director,” said Congresswoman Robin Kelly, DPI Chairwoman. “As DPI looks to the future, especially the 2022 election, Abby’s ability to work with Democratic elected officials, candidates, donors, stakeholders and the grassroots community will be a valuable asset.”
Witt comes to DPI from Arena, a national organization dedicated to training and supporting the next generation of candidates and campaign staff. As a partner at Arena, Witt helped create and scale the organization’s ability to train more than 1,200 aspiring campaign staffers, place more than 500 of them in campaign roles, and support 130 candidates at the congressional, statewide, and state legislative levels, the majority of which were women and people of color.
“Chairwoman Kelly has never shied away from a challenge, and I’m honored to join her in this one: to build a new, inclusive Democratic Party of Illinois,” said Witt. “We have a generational opportunity to transform our Party, to rebuild trust with voters, and to elect Democratic candidates, beginning with re-electing Gov. JB Pritzker and Sen. Tammy Duckworth in 2022. I’m excited to get to work.”
Witt also played several key roles in the Obama presidential campaigns and administration, including as the Associate Director for the White House Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs, and as the Director of Political Operations for President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign. Following the President’s re-election, Witt was a founding member and Managing Director of Organization for Action, a national organization dedicated to advancing a progressive agenda through grassroots mobilization and training. At OFA, Abby was part of the core team who harnessed the power of the grassroots movement that twice elected Barack Obama as president, and converted it into 154 trained, active, and empowered volunteer chapters across the country, which exist as lasting grassroots muscle to make an impact in their communities and in D.C.
“In 2018, I was a first-time candidate trying to unseat a four-term Republican in Illinois’ 14th Congressional District,” said Rep. Lauren Underwood (IL-14). “When others wouldn’t, Arena supported me and was instrumental in my victory by providing training and strategic support throughout my campaign. Abby helped Arena expand on that work to provide the same game-changing support to candidates across the country. I’m thrilled that Abby is bringing her experience home to Illinois, and joining my friend, Chairwoman Robin Kelly, to lead our Party.”
“We are all committed to a new direction for the Democratic Party of Illinois, one that is inclusive and uses the experience and expertise of the state central committee and elected officials, candidates, and activists across the state,” said Democratic State Central Committeewoman and DPI Transition Co-Chair Iris Martinez. “I’m so excited to have Chairwoman Robin Kelly and now Abby Witt as Executive Director leading our work. Abby is the right choice to build a party that doesn’t just keep our state blue, but does the work to grow our party, and elect more Democrats up and down the ticket.”
“In all of her roles, Abby played a key role in making President Obama’s goals a reality,” said Michael Strautmanis, a longtime Obama senior aide and advisor. “A trusted colleague and leader, Abby was always placed in the middle of the action. Whether it was in the field or at the White House, she embodied the President’s organizing values to navigate a wide variety of stakeholders and deliver. With Chairwoman Kelly and Abby, the Democratic Party of Illinois couldn’t be in better hands.”
“Working for Abby, I saw firsthand her ability to lead and bring people together,” said state Sen. Robert Peters. “Abby has the talent and values to lead the work needed to build a Party that will be progressive, inclusive and win. We need true transformational change to bring about true safety and justice for all, and Abby is a perfect fit to build a Party that can bring about that change.”
Witt has also served multiple roles on campaigns up and down the ballot, including leading Daniel Biss’ 2018 Illinois gubernatorial campaign. In addition, she’s also helped drive political engagement at organizations like the Center for American Progress, the Common Purpose Project, and the Chicago Public Schools.
Witt replaces Mary Morrissey, who has served as Executive Director of DPI since February 2019.
“Mary has led the party through some tough challenges, including running our victorious 2020 coordinated operation during the pandemic, and she has been a valuable partner to me since I became chair in early March,” Kelly said. “This has been a smooth transition, due in large part to Mary’s hard work and professionalism. I cannot thank her enough.”
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