Elise Stefanik Biography

U.S. Representative (1984–)
In November 2014, 30-year-old Elise Stefanik became the youngest woman ever elected to Congress.


Born July 2, 1984, Elise Stefanik is the youngest woman ever elected to Congress. Stefanik attended Harvard University and later worked on the presidential campaigns of Tim Pawlenty and Paul Ryan. Stefanik, who was born and raised in Albany, New York, cruised to victory in November 2014 to represent the state’s 21st District.

Early Years

Elise Stefanik was born July 2, 1984, in Albany, New York, where her parents, Melanie and Ken Stefanik, own Premium Plywood Products, a large wholesale distributor of plywood products and specialty woods. In November 2014 Stefanik made political history when the then 30-year-old became the youngest woman ever elected to Congress.

Young Stefanik attended the Albany Academy for Girls and later Harvard University, where she attended on a partial academic scholarship and worked as a fellow under Ted Sorensen, the legendary speechwriter for President John F. Kennedy.

Stefanik, the first member of her family to graduate from college, was also awarded the prestigious Women’s Leadership Award during her time at the university.

It was also at Harvard that she met Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who briefly attended the school while Stefanik was a student. Stefanik became one of the early users of his social networking platform and later introduced it to White House Deputy Chief of Staff Joel Kaplan when she worked in the Bush White House. Kaplan is now Facebook’s vice president for public policy.

Following her graduation from Harvard in 2006, Stefanik landed a job with President George W. Bush’s staff. For three years she worked as an aide in the West Wing, first as a member of the Domestic Policy Council staff and later in the Chief of Staff’s office, overseeing policy development on a range of economic and domestic policy issues.

Political Career

In 2012 Stefanik moved further into the political world. Her first major position came as the policy director for Tim Pawlenty’s unsuccessful presidential campaign. After Pawlenty bowed out of the race, she managed the debate preparation for Paul Ryan, who’d been tapped by the Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, as his running mate in the 2012 presidential general election.

Stefanik has said that working alongside the presidential candidates and hitting the campaign trail for them helped convince her of the need to run for office herself.

“I didn’t think I was ever going to run for office,” Stefanik once said. “But I was disappointed in the 2012 elections. I think we need new candidates who are able to talk about a positive vision to getting our economy moving again. Specifically in upstate New York, where young people are leaving in historic numbers for lack of jobs.”

Following the reelection of President Barack Obama, Stefanik moved back home to upstate New York, where she took a job with her family’s plywood business. It was there that the seeds of her eventual campaign were planted.

During the summer of 2013, Stefanik borrowed the family’s Ford F-150 truck and logged thousands of miles, traveling up and down New York’s 21st District, one of the largest on the East Coast, to meet voters and Republican leaders.

Upon announcing her candidacy in 2013, Stefanik, who is pro-life and vehemently opposed to the Affordable Care Act (otherwise known as Obamacare), immediately became the Republican Party’s choice to succeed to succeed retiring Rep. Bill Owens (D-NY). Supported by $750,000 from the Karl Rove-backed American Crossroads, Stefanik easily defeated Matt Doheny in the party primary in June 2014.

In the general election, Stefanik rode a strong national Republican wave to trounce her Democratic opponent, former filmmaker Aaron Woolf, in the general election by capturing 55.2 percent of the vote. Woolf garnered 33.5 percent.

During her freshman term, she was appointed to the House Armed Services Committee and also serves on a number of subcommittees such as the Subcommittee on Military Personnel, the Subcommittee on Readiness, the Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities, the Subcommittee on Workforce Protections and the Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training.

Stefanik, who is unmarried, lives in Willsboro, New York.    

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