At just 32 years old, Walsh has achieved a lot in a relatively short career. The St. Louis native graduated with a business degree from George Washington University in 2007. Before her time at the RNC, she worked on several political campaigns and with the Ashcroft Group, the consulting firm founded by former Attorney General John Ashcroft. The gig that allowed Walsh to really make a name for herself was as regional finance director for the McCain-Palin presidential campaign.
Walsh has been recognized repeatedly for her accomplishments and was named as one of the Washington Post’s 40 Most Interesting Women in Politics and Fortune’s 40 Under 40 Women to Watch.
Those who know Walsh aren’t all that surprised by her quick rise to success. “Even from an early age, I always saw her as one of those students that was always a little bit older, a little bit more mature in some ways. She had a sort of adult personality about her,” Walsh’s principal, Barbara McMullen, told KSDK. “Am I surprised she is where she is at this age? Yes. But am I surprised she’s very successful? Not at all.”
2. She’s spoken out about the sexism she faces in politics.
In an interview for the Washington Post‘s Women in Power feature, Walsh opened up about everything from her advice for young people looking to break into politics to female mentors who have impacted her. She also discussed the sexism she faces as a young woman in a position of power in Washington.
As chief of staff of the RNC, for example, Walsh often accompanied former RNC Chairman Reince Priebus to events — where people frequently assumed she was his assistant. “I know a lot of people think I’m his personal assistant, or I’m his scheduler, or I’m staffing him,” she explained. “And so, you know, it’s often, they’re often surprised when Reince says, ‘This is my chief of staff, Katie.'”
3. She worked on her first political campaign when she was in high school.
Walsh got into politics early — when she was just in high school, while the most political activity most of her peers were involved in was student council. In 2000, she served as an intern for then-Sen. John Ashcroft’s reelection campaign. Ashcroft later gave Walsh some really stellar career advice. “He said, ‘At your age, you’ll learn more on a smaller campaign than you will on a larger campaign,’” she told The Hill. “He was exactly right.”
4. She rose quickly through the ranks at the RNC.
In January 2013, Walsh joined the RNC as deputy finance director and by June of that year, she was finance director. In early 2015, she was promoted to chief of staff, putting her in a unique position as Donald Trump moved closer and closer to the presidency. “There’s an energy out there that’s unlike anything I’ve ever experienced,” Walsh said of the experience, according to The Hill.
5. She broke fundraising records for the GOP.
As finance director at the RNC, Walsh literally broke records. During the 2014 election cycle, she raised more than $200 million and she doesn’t downplay that accomplishment. “If you can get people to give money, that’s a much bigger get than getting people to vote for you,” she told the Atlantic.
6. And she helped the GOP hold onto its Senate majority.
Republicans maintained control of the Senate in November and Walsh played a key role in that success. As RNC chief of staff, she not only led the committee to record-breaking fundraising, she also made a point of funneling money and resources back into ground operations in battleground states.
“We’re supporting their operations and doing everything we can to take the burdens off of them,” Walsh told The Hill. “If we can put additional field staff on the ground or provide additional data or analytics or whatever we can do to help register voters.”
Other Republican leaders give Walsh a lot of credit for the party’s recent successes. “The unbelievable success the Republican party had is built on the backs of a lot of really amazing men and women, and Katie’s been one of those leaders,” Republican National Adviser Jack Oliver, who first met Walsh and her family during Ashcroft’s 1994 Senate campaign, told KSDK.
7. She’s friends with a high-profile Democrat.
Walsh and Democratic National Committee CEO Amy Dacey might seem like natural enemies, but they’re actually on great terms. “Katie’s a hard person not to like,” Dacey told Glamour. “We met on an overseas trip and found out we had a lot in common. The reality is, there are only two jobs like this in the country, right? And we both have them.”
Walsh agreed, saying, “Party committees are such an interesting entity to run during a presidential election… Amy and I have a unique understanding of each other’s challenges.”
8. She played a key role in Trump’s White House but left for a pro-Trump political group.
At the White House, Walsh was helping to “oversee senior staff and manage the scheduling operation and Office of Public Liaison,” according to the Washington Post. When given the job, Oliver told KSDK, “As a quiet tactician, with great strength, but quiet strength, she has exactly the skill set to be a great leader for the president and one of the three most senior women in the White House today. And at 32 years old — it’s a testament to her capacity, her character, and her competencies.”
On March 30, 2017, it was announced that Walsh would be leaving her role in the White House to join the pro-Trump nonprofit America First. According to Politico, Walsh would be serving as an adviser to the nonprofit, which has been struggling to get off the ground, as well as the RNC. A source close to Trump told Politico, “He basically took away Reince’s political secret service. She was his eyes and ears inside.”
Though Priebus trusted Walsh, Time reported that she struggled to “institute controls” within the White House, including which people could come into the Oval Office without a meeting. Some staffers also questioned her loyalties and fed negatives stories about her to publications like Breitbart.
According to Time, Walsh filled a void left by Rick Gates, who was forced to leave America First last week due to his ties to Russia and Ukraine.
9. She moved back to the RNC within months.
On July 21, 2017 Politico reported that Walsh was returning to the Republican National Committee to take a role as senior data and digital adviser. The decision was confirmed by an RNC spokesperson and was also signed off by the White House.
The job change was reported the same day as another Republican official shake-up: Sean Spicer resigned as White House press secretary, reportedly in protest of Trump’s hiring of Anthony Scaramucci as communications director, according to the New York Times.