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  • Age
    37
  • Title
    Cofounder and advisor
  • Company
    The Lincoln Project

Ahead of the 2016 presidential election, Ron Steslow had set himself up for a long career as the man who pulls the strings for the Republican Party. At only 33, he had already run $50 million Senate races, worked for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, led redistricting efforts in Nevada, and started his own consulting firm that boasted clients such as Carly Fiorina.

But behind the scenes, he had been struggling with his personal identity and the identity of the party he grew up in. Steslow was raised in a fundamentalist Evangelical household as the son of a pastor. Coming to terms with his sexual identity and coming out to his parents in his late twenties led him toward “the process of deconstructing my space and worldview,” which also included his politics. “I started putting my experience into context,” he said. “And that context seemed to be that winning was the only thing that mattered to the Republican Party.” Then, when Donald Trump was elected President, he decided, “I couldn’t sell my soul to win and still call that a victory. That was the breaking point.”

Steslow saw that other conservative political strategists like Reed Galen and George Conway were also struggling. In 2019, they came together to found what would become the Lincoln Project, a political action committee that has launched a series of viral multimillion-dollar ad blitzes against Trump. (Conway has since left the PAC in order to devote more time to family matters).

“This isn’t a search for atonement,” said Steslow, who now identifies as an Independent. “It’s a duty and a privilege to contribute to averting a certain catastrophe. Not just for the fate of the country…but because of the lessons that the Republican Party would learn if President Donald Trump were reelected. It would cement the idea that winning is all that matters, full stop.”