By Dante U. Barboy
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writer
Andrew Mallinoff knew he wanted to work in politics when he was 16 years old, after volunteering with his father to put up signs for different Democratic campaigns.
Seeing that the 2008 election between Barack Obama and John McCain would be groundbreaking, Mallinoff decided to skip school on Election Day and rushed to Pennsylvania to volunteer and get people out to vote.
After that, he knew he wanted to have a bigger role in future elections as an organizer. He managed a branch of Obama’s campaign in 2012, worked on a state legislative race in 2014, and today– at the age of 23– is running a congressional campaign.
“For me, taking off a semester in college to work on the Obama campaign in 2012 helped to build a network of people who have my back and who are looking out for me when jobs come up,” said Mallinoff, who is the campaign manager for the re-election campaign of U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes, D-District 3.
He added that because the campaign world is always changing, if you don’t have someone looking out for you, you can find yourself out of work for a long period of time. He cites this as the key to being in three campaigns at only 23.
“Andrew began volunteering and engaging in politics at a young age,” said Christine Johnson, a media and public relations director for Sarbanes. “His maturity and work ethic are what have helped him rise the ranks so quickly.”
Mallinoff was born and raised in Towson and graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park in 2014 with a political science degree. He grew up in a liberal household and supported the ideas and candidates of the Democratic Party from a young age.
Mallinoff describes himself as a passionate and committed person. He said he believes that a progressive message and progressive candidates represent this country better than do conservatives.
While he said the country is slowly starting to move toward a progressive side, there is still work to be done when it comes to issues like climate change and immigration.
“Being observant is very helpful in terms of communicating,” Mallinoff said. “I am also level-headed, because when you let your bias trickle in, you start telling yourself that things are either better or worse than they are.”
“He is genuine and that comes across to everyone he interacts with, which is extremely important in our industry,” Johnson says.
She adds that working with Mallinoff has not been difficult at all, saying that while other people had been difficult in the past, with Andrew there is a mutual respect and both put their egos to the side.
Mallinoff himself admits that there is a lot of room for improvement. He would like to develop his management skills when it comes to working with a group of staff members, not only volunteers. He said he knows he lacks that skill set and hopes to improve in his next campaign.
“Knowing why you do it and knowing why you’re so committed to this cause is important,” Mallinoff said. “I know that Sarbanes is one of the most honest, realest politicians that I’ve ever worked for. To be able to work for him is really a privilege, so I continually remember that to keep me going.”
“He is working for a member of Congress that has shaped his career in Congress to truly reforming our campaign finance system,” said Dennis Teegardin, a legislative director for state Sen. Kirill Reznik, D-Montgomery County. “I know this is an issue [campaign finance reform] Andrew cares deeply about and that is enough for someone in his shoes to stay motivated.”
Mallinoff said he is unsure whether he will ever run for political office. While he believes that politicians started out wanting to serve the community in some way, he does not believe that he has the life experience to think about that yet. He is comfortable working behind the scenes for now, he said.
“Andrew is a straight arrow and would never compromise his integrity for an election,” Johnson says.
Before joining up with Sarbanes, Mallinoff worked for the unsuccessful campaign of Bill Romani, a Democrat from Baltimore who ran for state delegate in 2014 and lost to Luke Clippinger, Peter Hammen, and Brooke Lierman. While it is never nice to lose an election, it served as good learning experience, he said.
“A lot of disappointment and lots of questions go through you,” Mallinoff said. “I definitely felt responsible for a little while, and I think Bill did too. But then you spend a couple weeks looking at the data, and the situation of the race, and we ended up concluding that there were a lot of external factors that contributed to our loss. It’s a learning experience, and if you never fail, you miss out on learning some of the most important lessons.”
Mallinoff is uncertain about his future. He isn’t a fan of thinking too far ahead, and he wants to focus on the present.
“I don’t believe in having a long-term plan,” Mallinoff said. “Life doesn’t work that way, and I don’t get motivated that way.I’ll either be a political strategist, hopefully at the national level, or maybe run for office and become an elected official. Or I get tired of politics and eventually decide to go to law school. There are a lot of possibilities, and I’d like to think that I’m not going to be disappointed wherever I end up.”
“I can’t try and predict his future. But I do not see him leaving politics,” Teegardin said.
The author recently interned for John Sarbanes’ campaign, where Mallinoff was one of his supervisors. Mallinoff is no longer the author’s supervisor, nor does he have any direct ties to the writer that might influence this article.