2018 Lessons Learned Panel

2018 was a challenging year for Republicans across the nation and particularly in the North East and in New Jersey. Between a difficult political environment being driven by a national narrative, new vote by mail laws pushed by the Murphy Administration and millions of dollars in out of state money backing Democrat grassroots and media efforts, there are many lessons to be learned. Our panel of operatives will break down what they saw in the field and offer their thoughts on how Republican campaigns can adapt for the 2019 election cycle. 

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Ali Almour-Steinstra, Principal, Tusk Productions

Alexandra “Ali” Almour Stienstra has run successful campaign fundraising operations for candidates at the local, state and federal levels. Focusing on cost effective strategies, creative direct mail and events, as well as focused major donor outreach she is able to implement a well rounded finance plan. Alexandra has worked with nationally targeted Republican candidates and executed major events with surrogates such as President George W. Bush, First Lady Laura Bush, Henry Kissinger, Speaker Paul Ryan, Speaker John Boehner and a host of others.

She formerly served as the finance consultant to Congressman Leonard Lance (NJ-7) and Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen (NJ-11). She recently raised over 2.4 million dollars for Congressman Scott Garrett in a highly contested race in (NJ-5). In 2014 she helped State Senator John McKinney qualify for public financing for the CT Governor’s race. In 2012 she worked with Congressional candidate Steve Obsitnik (CT-4) raising over $1.2 million. She served as finance consultant to Linda McMahon for U.S. Senate for the 2012 cycle as well, raising over 1 million dollars. She has also consulted for the NRCC, raising 1.5 million dollars in less than a month for Congressional candidate Jim Tesdisco in NY-20’s special election. A native of Mountain Lakes, NJ, Alexandra served as Finance Director to the NJGOP during two state and one federal election cycle, working closely with the Gubernatorial campaign of Doug Forrester (2005) and U.S. Senate campaign of Tom Kean (2006). She has also served as a consultant to a variety of candidates for legislative and municipal offices in NJ.

She currently lives in Chatham, NJ with her husband and two baby boys.

Kate Gibbs, former Burlington County Freeholder

Gibbs was elected in a bi-partisan and unanimous vote of her fellow Freeholders to serve as Director of the Board for 2018, after serving as Deputy Director in 2016 and 2017. Gibbs lives in Lumberton with her Burlington County Animal Shelter rescue-dog Fitz. She currently works in Business Development for the Engineers Labor-Employer Cooperative, a collaborative trust that represents the interests of Local 825 Operating Engineers and focuses on promoting economic development and job creation in our region and the entire State of New Jersey.

Prior to joining the Freeholder Board, Gibbs served on the Rowan College at Burlington County Board of Trustees where she worked closely with the County’s new Workforce Development Initiative and played an active role in establishing the College’s partnership with Rowan University, paving the way for the 3+1 program which provides access to a four-year bachelor’s degree for under $30,000 – total.

She received her Master’s in Business Administration from Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business, graduating Summa Cum Laude after earning a B.A. from The American University in Washington, DC, graduating Cum Laude with a Double Major in Public Communications and Political Science.

Ron Filan, NJGOP Political Director & RNC State Director

Filan has more than a decade of experience managing winning campaigns at the local, state, and federal levels in some of the toughest battlegrounds in the state.

After getting his start as the Executive Director of the Atlantic County Republicans at 19 and successfully expanding Republican majorities throughout the county, Filan went on to manage Congressman Frank LoBiondo’s re-election campaign and worked with Cape May and Cumberland County Republicans to regain control of a number of key municipalities as well as the Cumberland County Freeholder Board.

Filan has managed several State Legislative campaigns including Assemblyman Chris Brown’s 2015 re-election campaign in which Brown survived an unprecedented $4 million assault from Democrats propelling him from being the most vulnerable member of the Assembly Republican caucus to the party’s top State Senate challenger for the 2nd District seat he now holds.

Filan is a former State Chairman of the New Jersey College Republicans and most recently served as the Republican National Committee’s New Jersey State Director.

Sam Markstein, Political Director, Hugin for Senate

Sam Markstein got his start in Republican politics working on the Chris Christie for President campaign in June 2015, alongside some of the most talented and experienced political staffers in the country; his main responsibilities included successful delegate recruitment and ballot access efforts in the notoriously difficult states of Illinois, Indiana, West Virginia and Pennsylvania. Subsequent positions with Representative Scott Garrett in the 5th Congressional District and Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno brought Sam back to New Jersey where he developed, built and maintained relationships with key elected officials, party leaders and coalition stakeholders on behalf of the candidates’ campaigns. Most recently, Sam served as the statewide political director on the Bob Hugin for U.S. Senate campaign, managing the day-to-day operations of the political team, overseeing the campaign’s field program which resulted in over 2MM voter contacts, and directing a comprehensive and targeted GOTV operation – the Bob Hugin for U.S. Senate campaign received more votes than any statewide Republican candidate in a non-presidential year since Governor Tom Kean, Sr.’s landslide re-election victory in 1985. Sam graduated from the Johns Hopkins University in 2015 majoring in International Business with a double-minor in Entrepreneurship & Management, and Marketing & Communications.


Pete Sheridan, Consultant, Red Maverick Media

His career has taken Pete all across the Northeast, including serving as Victory Director at the Pennsylvania Republican State Committee during President Bush’s re-election in 2004, at the Republican National Committee HQ in Washington, DC, as manager of a targeted congressional campaign in Connecticut, and as Deputy Campaign Manager on a gubernatorial race in New Hampshire.

In 2009, Sheridan returned home to New Jersey and joined the successful campaign of Chris Christie for Governor.  He served in several positions in the Christie Administration during the Governor’s first term. Pete then served in a senior role on the Governor’s reelection campaign – being personally recognized by NJ.com / Newark Star-Ledger as a “WINNER” of the 2013 election cycle.  Following the re-election, Pete joined the New Jersey Republican State Committee – ultimately serving as Executive Director for more than two years.

Most recently, Pete served as the Executive Director of a multi-million dollar Super PAC supporting a US Senate campaign and has served as a political consultant to numerous local, county and legislative campaigns and party organizations in New Jersey.

Sheridan has served a spokesperson for candidates and organizations and has appeared on television and in numerous print outlets including the The New York Times, Politico, The Star-Ledger, Philadelphia Inquirer and others.

Pete is an active golfer and sports fan and resides in Robbinsville, NJ.


Tom Szymanski, Campaign Manager, Faso for Congress (NY-19)

Tom Szymanski has been working on Republican campaigns in the Northeast for the past ten years, with expertise in the areas of voter targeting/contact, field operations, grassroots organization, statistical analysis, and communications. A Point Pleasant native, Tom recently returned to New Jersey after working as Campaign Manager for Congressman John Faso’s re-election bid in the 19th Congressional District of New York, a nationally targeted race.

Prior to working in Upstate New York, Tom worked as Regional Political Director for the Guadagno for Governor campaign in 2017, overseeing all campaign operations in the southernmost nine counties. Tom served for three years as the Monmouth County Republican Party’s Executive Director (2013-2016), also managing all countywide races during that time, including for Sheriff Shaun Golden, County Clerk Christine Hanlon, Assemblywoman Serena DiMaso, Surrogate Rosemarie Peters, and Freeholders Tom Arnone, Lillian Burry, and Gary Rich. Tom also worked as a Regional Field Director on both Governor Chris Christie’s re-election campaign in 2013 and Congressman Jon Runyan’s re-election campaign in 2012.

When he’s not fighting the good fight, Tom enjoys the peace and solitude of the outdoors at home on the Jersey shore, including hiking, kayaking, and saltwater fishing.

Moderator: Theresa Winegar, Executive Director, NJGOP

Theresa Winegar has been a leader in the New Jersey Republican Party since she joined Chris Christie’s successful 2009 campaign for Governor. She has worked on key national campaigns in battleground territories across the country, including a statewide role in Mitt Romney for President’s 2012 Iowa campaign. She has deep experience at all levels of New Jersey’s political spectrum, having managed Congressman Frelinghuysen’s re-election, coordinating the 2016 NJGOP National Convention Delegation and serving in the Governor’s office as a Special Aide. Theresa has been a steady hand for the NJGOP, serving the last three cycles in senior positions at the committee.