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Spring 2011 Resident Fellow

Ellen Qualls worked at the forefront of one of the most productive U.S. Congresses in decades. As a senior advisor for strategic planning for four years for Nancy Pelosi, the first woman Speaker of the House in history, Qualls helped lead the internal and external marketing of historic legislation, including: health reform, the Recovery Act, Wall Street reform, and the House-passed clean energy bill. Qualls helped coordinate among House leadership offices, committees, and key Members, and with Senate Democrats, the Obama White House, and outside allied groups to develop messages, plan issue campaigns around legislation, and provide rapid response rebuttals.

Congressional scholar Norm Ornstein of the conservative-leaning American Enterprise Institute declared it “one of the most productive Congresses in history.” But a very mixed public perception of the Congress’s work led to a major Democratic defeat at the polls four years after the Speaker took the gavel.

During President-elect Obama’s transition, Qualls served as press lead for Energy Secretary-designate Steven Chu, successfully helping prepare him for Senate confirmation. Qualls was a senior communications advisor for five years to then-Governor Mark Warner of Virginia. From his inaugural in 2001 to his decision not to pursue the presidency in 2006, Qualls helped Warner craft an image as a bipartisan, solutions-oriented leader. Warner was named by TIME Magazine as one of America’s five best governors, left office with an 80% job approval rating in a Washington Post poll, and made the cover of the New York Times Sunday magazine as the leading Democratic alternative to Hillary Clinton for the nomination.

Qualls worked for eight years as a television reporter in Virginia, mostly covering politics and government. She served as president of the Virginia Capitol Correspondents Association. Prior to TV, she worked in both news radio — reporting, anchoring, and hosting an afternoon talk show — and freelancing for weekly newspapers. Qualls is an alumna of the University of Virginia.