In the world of politics, names like Paul Begala, James Carville, Rahm Emanuel and George Stephanopoulos are powerful forces that help shape the tone of issues and elections.
Add Sital Sanjanwala’s name to that list.
The 26 year-old Madison native joins that group of previous award winners as a Rising Star in Politics. The recognition is given to 25 consultants annually by Campaigns and Elections Magazine, the “how-to” journal of politics, focused on the political consulting profession.
Sanjanwala’s interest in politics began with the election of Barack Obama in 2008. “He was the first candidate of my generation, someone I was really excited about who I believed would make a change,” she says. During college, she interned with former Governor Ronnie Musgrove, researching educational funding in the state.
Her career in politics began just after her undergraduate days. As a project manager for Zata|3 and later as a principal with Chism Strategies, a national direct voter contact firm in Fondren, since March 2010, she mastered every phase of the telephone voter contact industry during the 2010 midterms. She did this while simultaneously earning her Millsaps College MBA, all before the age of 24.
Sanjanwala’s work has bridged the gap between pro-choice advocates from out of state and local politicos who came together in 2011 to combat Mississippi’s anti-choice Proposition 26. Her understanding of Mississippi politics and background in economics were vital in framing a potentially uncomfortable subject with targeted messages, breaking the issue down to kitchen table concerns.
The now-Jacksonian moved to Washington D.C. for the 2012 and 2013 cycles, where she fostered her relationship with Planned Parenthood Action Fund, joining their bus tour, and presenting the pro-choice message in half a dozen states. But she says it took moving to D.C. to truly feel at home in Mississippi. “I had to leave to come back,” she explains. “I wasn’t emotionally equipped to stay in a red state in 2011. But I didn’t want to be part of the brain drain, either. I wanted to be a part of the change in this state, one vote at a time.”
When she’s not working on campaigns or her favorite focus, ballot initiatives, Sanjanwala is traveling. Her upcoming trip to the World Cup in South America will give her a first-hand look at issues she is passionate about. “Traveling gives me a lot of perspective on a widening income gap,” she says. “With what’s going in Brazil and the protests there, I’m interested in seeing what’s happening, knowing there are issues out there that are similar to Mississippi’s.”
It’s one thing to come off election day, celebrating the end of 12-15 hour days in the final weeks of the cycle. But Sanjanwala says this celebration is different. The bigger picture, for her, is in recognizing the work that she does is important. The Rising Star honor confirms that. “The award is a reminder that there is good work that I’m doing. I’m working for really inspirational campaigns. It’s nice to win for something I love to do.”