Maria Comella is a longtime Chris Christie aide who has decided to vote for Hillary Clinton instead of the Republican Party nominee Donald Trump. Even though her former boss was the first Republican governor to support Trump, Comella did not like the idea. She is the second major Republican aide to switch to Clinton, following in the footsteps of Jeb Bush aide Sally Bradshaw.
Here’s a look at Comella’s career and why she’s voting for Clinton.
1. She Calls on Republicans to ‘Stop Thinking That Winning at Any Cost is More Important Than Governing Principles’
Comella came out against Trump in an email interview with CNN. She insisted that she couldn’t stay silent, even though she is more comfortable behind-the-scenes. She wrote that the party is in this position because members didn’t speak out against racist and misogynist language.
“We are here today in part because as a party in the past we have remained silent when things have made us uncomfortable,” Comella wrote. “Instead of speaking out against instances of bigotry, racism and inflammatory rhetoric whether it’s been against women, immigrants or Muslims, we made a calculus that it was better to say nothing at all in the interest of politics and winning elections. For me, if our party has a future, we have to change that trajectory and lead by example.”
Comella said there was no particular tipping point. It had just reached a point for her that she needed to speak out.
“I’m voting for Hillary Clinton in November and I’m voting for her because I don’t believe it’s enough to say you aren’t for Donald Trump,” Comella wrote. “My mom and dad were Republicans, but they didn’t always vote Republican. There are times when principle trumps (no pun intended) party and we have to be okay with acknowledging that.”
2. She Worked for George W. Bush, Rudy Giuliani & Sarah Palin Before Joining Christie
Comella has been working behind-the-scenes in the Republican party for over 15 years. According to Politico, she worked on George W. Bush’s 2004 campaign as communications director in New Hampshire. Four years later, she worked on Rudy Giuliani’s unsuccessful Presidential campaign.
“She is very disciplined, she is very even-tempered, she is very smart. She is responsible for putting [Christie] in positions where he can excel,” Christie adviser Mike DuHaime told Politico in 2013. “Maria is very good at understanding the right amount of exposure, the right time, the right venue.”
After the Giuliani campaign, she moved on to work with Sarah Palin, who was John McCain’s pick for Vice President. Shirley Rumierk played Comella in the HBO movie Game Change.
3. Comella Decided Against Going Back to Trenton After Christie’s Failed Presidential Bid
Comella served as deputy chief of staff for communications for Christie until last year, when she moved over to the PAC Leadership Matters for America. In March 2016, she opted to quit the Christie administration completely and did not return to Trenton after his presidential campaign ended, NJ.com reports.
“We’ve seen some really trusted, close advisers to the governor depart and I think that’s important,” Montclair University professor Brigid Harrison told NJ.com. “These folks were really key strategists and Maria, in particular, was from the get go the face of Christie’s public persona and someone who helped shape his message.”
4. Comella Reportedly Disagreed With Christie’s Decision to Back Trump
Sources for The Los Angeles Times said that both DuHaime, who was Christie’s campaign manager, and Comella did not agree with Christie’s decision to back Trump.
According to APP.com, Christie didn’t tell DuHaime, Comella and adviser Bill Palatucci that he planned on supporting Trump until after he decided to support the billionaire.
Before Trump gave his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, DuHaime was critical of how it was going. “It’s just a missed opportunity to make his numbers better. His favorable numbers are so bad … This was an opportunity for his numbers to go up a little bit more, I think it was missed. But that could all be wiped out if he kills it tonight [in his acceptance speech],” he said on July 21, reports The Atlantic.
5. She Was Instrumental in Helping Christie’s Image Flourish Online
Comella was the architect of Christie’s no-nonsense image and making sure that it spread across the country, not just in New Jersey. She first joined him in 2009, when he was running for Governor and she just stayed on. One way she helped Christie out was by putting together YouTube clips of Christie’s comments and spreading them out on Twitter.
“Maria’s served a long time, incredibly loyal, wonderful person and I wouldn’t be the governor I am without her,” Christie told NorthJersey.com last year. She was being paid $140,000 a year before she left the governor’s office to work for the Christie PAC.
Christie added, “I asked her if she would come for a year — and if she would just stay for a year, that I’d be really happy. And she turns out to be the longest-serving member of my senior staff.”
According to American Governor: Chris Christie’s Bridge to Redemption by Matt Katz, Comella was recruited by DuHaine to join the Christie team. Comella was the one who wrote talking points Christie had to get through in a press conference on the Bridgegate scandal. Christie was later cleared of direct involvement in the scandal, which involved Christie staffers and appointees creating traffic jams in Fort Lee, New Jersey by closing George Washignton Bridge lanes.