Susan Sandler is a philanthropist and political donor. She was the first and largest donor behind the independent efforts to support Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. She was also the lead investor in the independent activities supporting Kamala Harris’ 2010 campaign for California Attorney General and Cory Booker’s 2013 election to the United States Senate. She is a national leader in education reform and has served as a board member of several progressive non-profit organizations including the Democracy Alliance.
Steve Phillips is a writer and author of the New York Times bestselling book, Brown Is the New White: How the Demographic Revolution Has Created a New American Majority. He is a national political leader and civil rights lawyer who, in 1992, became the youngest person ever elected to public office in San Francisco and went on to serve as president of the Board of Education. He has written for numerous newspapers and magazines across the country, and is a regular opinion contributor to The New York Times and a columnist for The Nation magazine. He is founder of the social justice media organization, Democracy in Color.
EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT AND GENERAL COUNSEL
Emi Gusukuma provides legal advice to the founders of the Center, manages outside counsel, and is responsible for all legal matters associated with the Center’s activities. With 20 years of legal experience, she litigated a broad array of employment and commercial matters in private practice. She was a trusted adviser to clients large (including companies in the Fortune 500) and small, in the nonprofit and for profit sector, representing a wide range of industries from healthcare to tech. She regularly defended clients in investigations by state and federal agencies, and conducted scores of trainings, understanding that education was key to achieving compliance.
Gusukuma was President of the Asian American Bar Association, one of the largest minority bar associations in the country, from 2012-2013. She was appointed to the Ethics Commission for the City and County of San Francisco in 2004, and chaired the Commission for two years before her term concluded in 2010. She oversaw a dramatic increase in the staff and budget during her tenure, which allowed the Commission to expand its public and municipal education programs, and to fulfill its mandates.
She is a 2010 recipient of the Best Under 40 Award from the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association, and a 2013 recipient of Minority Bar Coalition’s Unity Award for her longstanding work to increase diversity in the legal profession and in the judiciary.
Gusukuma holds a BA degree from UCLA, and a law degree from UC Hastings College of the Law.
Dr. Julie Martínez Ortega, Ph.D.
DIRECTOR OF THE WASHINGTON OFFICE/CHIEF DATA SCIENTIST
Dr. Martínez Ortega was voted one of Top 50 Influencers in US Politics by Campaigns and Elections Magazine for her work on the 2014 Fannie Lou Hamer Report, the first ever outside audit of Democratic Party spending. She is a national leader in progressive politics and policy, and an expert on the New American Majority (progressive whites and progressive people of color), organized labor and employment matters, and health care policy. She has undertaken landmark research for numerous leading national foundations, major donors, the federal government, and labor unions on a variety of issues, including mapping the new electorate, targeting and modeling progressive voters, protection and enhancement of workers’ rights, health care access, quality and equity, and economic policies that mitigate income inequality.
She served as Senior Advisor to the Democracy Alliance on research and data about voter behavior and has advised its Latino Engagement Fund as it developed a research agenda and quantitative metrics for the program work conducted by its grantees. As Research Director at American Rights at Work she led all aspects of the advocacy organization’s research efforts. She was a Visiting Scholar at the Department of Health and Human Services where she designed and implemented cutting-edge quantitative research on race, ethnicity, national origin, citizenship, and language use in the area of health care cost, finance, and access.
Dr. Martínez Ortega is a Tejana from South Texas. She graduated from Stanford University with a degree in human biology (with a concentration in health policy) as a first-generation college student, earned a law degree from UCLA, and a PhD and master’s from the Heller Graduate School of Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University. Her dissertation, “Health Insurance Enrollment Patterns of Mexican American Children,” won the Minkoff Prize in Health Economics.
DIRECTOR OF COMMUNITY-BASED ELECTORAL INITIATIVES
Marvin Randolph is the country’s leading expert on Black voter mobilization. In 2012, as Senior Vice President for Campaigns for the NAACP, he was responsible for the This Is My Vote! program which succeeded in registering 375,618 voters of color. This was the most successful voter registration drive in NAACP history and one of the largest mobilizations of Black voters in the history of the United States. A nationally recognized expert in voter registration, voter contact and Get Out The Vote operations, Marvin has worked on over 120 campaigns in 31 states. He is the former National Director of Project Vote and former Organizing Director for the Center for Community Change.
Randolph is President and CEO of sister organizations, the Southern Elections Fund (founded by Julian Bond in 1969), and the Southern Engagement Foundation (SEF), co-founded by Bond and former NAACP President Ben Jealous. SEF is an organization that focuses on organizing people of color communities in the South.
As the leader of SEF, Randolph leads the organization’s efforts, working with national and state partners to combat voter suppression and accelerate the impact of the South’s rapidly changing demographics by expanding the electorate, developing new leaders of color, building long-term power and capacity to bring about progressive change. He was a key strategist and organizer supporting the Black voter turnout efforts in Alabama that resulted in the December 2017 upset victory of Doug Jones to the United States Senate.
A native of Richmond, Virginia, Marvin is a graduate of Old Dominion University where he received a B.A. in political science. He lives in Silver Spring, MD and is a comic book enthusiast.
Lisa García Bedolla
Professor Lisa García Bedolla is a Professor in the Graduate School of Education and Director of the Institute of Governmental Studies. She uses the tools of social science to reveal the causes of political and economic inequalities in the United States.
She has published four books and dozens of research articles, earning five national book awards and numerous other awards. She has consulted for presidential campaigns and statewide ballot efforts and has partnered with over a dozen community organizations working to empower low-income communities of color. Through those partnerships, she has developed a set of best practices for engaging and mobilizing voters in these communities, becoming one of the nation’s foremost experts on political engagement within communities of color.
Tram Nguyen is the co-executive director of New Virginia Majority. Tram immigrated to the United States when she was six months old and grew up in Henrico, VA. Over the last several decades, Tram experienced firsthand the demographic and political changes throughout the Commonwealth. She became politically active while a student at Barnard College in New York City, where in addition to student activism, she mentored Dominican youth in Harlem and developed a deeper understanding of racial and socioeconomic inequity.
In 2008, Nguyen joined New Virginia Majority as its first full time employee. Serving as the organization’s co-executive director, Nguyen is responsible for New Virginia Majority’s strategic vision and growth and developing civic engagement, organizing and advocacy strategies. Her organizing and advocacy on democracy, immigrants’ rights, criminal justice, climate change, health care access, and economic opportunity explore the intersections of social, racial, environmental and economic justice.
A year-round community civic engagement approach has led to significant victories for some of Virginia’s most vulnerable populations – including expanded access to quality and affordable health care, increased transparency in community policing initiatives, and in-state college tuition for immigrant youth. More recently, Tram was instrumental in leading a multi-year effort that led to Governor Terry McAuliffe’s historic executive order that led to restoration of civil rights to approximately 200,000 formerly incarcerated Virginians.
She currently lives in Richmond, VA with her dog, Lucy.
Simone L. Ward is the President and the CEO of SLW Strategies, a strategic political, executive coaching, training, facilitation and team development firm. She is the former Executive Director of the Women Effect Fund (WEF) and the Women Effect Action Fund (WEFAF) fighting for economic justice. Most recently served as the Florida State Director for Hillary for America, the largest battleground in the country. Prior to the campaign she served as the National Political Director for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC).
With a strong commitment to electing female candidates, she has served in senior leadership roles for 3 U.S. Senate candidates including Campaign Manager for the historic re-election of U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski, the longest serving female member of Congress and first female chair of the Appropriations Committee.
Ward, a four-term veteran of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) is the former National Constituency Director and Director of Women’s Outreach. She also served as the Vice President of Public Affairs for Planned Parenthood of New York City (PPNYC).
In 2007, Ms. Ward worked as a Senior Regional Political staffer at EMILY’s List. She currently sits on the board of directors for the Higher Heights for America, Democratic/Global GAIN, End Citizens United and U.R.G.E. Ms. Ward has served as a guest lecturer at Harvard Kennedy School of Government, Georgetown, Trinity and American Universities. She was raised in Kansas City, Missouri and currently lives in Washington, D.C.
Andy Wong, President of PowerPAC, has been running political campaigns since the mid-1980s. Spanning four decades he has run campaigns for propositions as well as local, state, and federal electoral races. The largest was an 18 state effort to elect Barack Obama in 2007/8 cycle. Since then he has helped flip the most red to blue Congressional races for one state (CA) and continues to run PowerPAC's support of candidates of color around the country. In 2018 PowerPAC is active in everything from District Attorney races in CA, voter engagement work in various states, and two gubernatorial races in MD and GA. Andy owns a software company (AJW Inc.) that serves government and non-profit case management and Integrated Data System (IDS) needs. His company has been highlighted in case study books, the National League of Cities and by Harvard's Kennedy School publications. In 2017 he also launched a digital production and distribution company (KitchenTable) with former MSNBC producer Richard Stockwell.
Crystal Zermeno has worked for over eighteen years in labor, politics and community organizing. She has served in various capacities with the Texas Organizing Project since 2010 developing campaign strategy, fundraising and, as Director of Electoral Strategy, developing and implementing TOP’s local and statewide electoral program.
Zermeno has worked with the Center for Popular Democracy as a coordinator of strategic research and organizing coordinator for California and Texas. Prior to joining TOP, Zermeno worked for the Service Employees International Union for over seven years in California and Texas as a researcher and political coordinator for public employees and the Justice for Janitors and Stand for Security campaigns in California, Texas and nationally. Zermeno’s primary responsibilities through her time with SEIU included driving corporate campaigns to support organizing and bargaining efforts for thousands of workers and working with member-driven political committees to implement broad political goals including getting pro-working families candidates elected and moving political support for organizing and bargaining goals through empowering workers.
Zermeno has also worked as staff on a number of different political campaigns including a successful State Assembly race in Alameda County California and the SEIU New Mexico effort in Albuquerque and Las Cruces to elect President Obama. In addition, Zermeno worked with PowerPAC.org as their Director of Operations, conducting a statewide mapping of California to assess priority geographies for investment in electoral work with the expressed goal of improving participation of communities of color in the electoral process.
Zermeno is a native of Houston, TX and a graduate of Stanford University.