Emily's List Executive Director Stephanie Schriock's No. 1 job is to convince Democratic, pro-choice women that they have the resume to run for political office. Her next job is to make sure they have everything they need to win.
But the retirement of six-term Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., in Schriock's home state has put the political strategist in a new and puzzling position. The native of Butte, Mont. still has a home in Bozeman and now has a lot of Montanans whispering in her ear that it's time for her to consider her own advice and run for public office.
"I have been overwhelmed by the interest in the Senate race," Schriock said during an Emily's List event Thursday. "I will say this, Montana has a great history of electing women. Emily's List has been involved a long time in Montana and I think, like you, I am waiting to see how this all plays out."
As Schriock considers a run, her Democratic allies back home say that it's not Schriock's role at Emily's List alone that makes her a good fit to serve Montanans, it is the connection to her home state.
"She's not just qualified because of her prestigious position; she's qualified because she knows and cares about Montana," says Aaron Murphy, a democratic strategist based in Montana. "She knows the politics. The issue is whether she decides to pursue it, and that is up to her."
Schriock grew up in Butte, a mining community in central Montana that was uncharacteristically Democratic thanks to the town's strong union ties.
She served a stint as student body president at her high school, but she told the Washington Post in 2009 that she decided to be part of politics in 1980 when a union protest led a major mine to close and jobs to dry up overnight.
"At that moment, I knew that at some level, in some way, I've got to be involved in politics," she told the Post. "You just realized that your livelihood could change in a split second and you don't have any control over it unless you organize and you come together."
Schriock first made a name for herself on the national stage as former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean's finance director during the 2004 Democratic primary.
"Stephanie basically invented low-dollar online fundraising," the Montana-based Democratic strategist said.
Schriock shattered records in 2004, helping raise a reported $52 million for Dean's primary war chest. That's when a flat-top farmer named Jon Tester tapped her for his own campaign against incumbent Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont., who was under the microscope for his connections to high-profile lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
After Democrat Tester was elected in 2006 in the Republican-leaning state, Schriock took her place as Tester's chief of staff.
"It didn't matter what the request was; if a Veteran wasn't getting their benefits or if someone wanted Jon to come to the middle of nowhere to see their kids' 4-H pig, Stephanie was responsive to all of it. She was always making sure Montanans were being looked after," one colleague remembers.
But Schriock didn't stay away from campaigns for long. In 2007, now Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., was looking for a dynamite fundraiser and someone who could take his long-shot, funny man campaign and transform it into a mainstream political machine. National Democratic leaders recommended Franken talk to Schriock. Again, and this time after an eight-month recount, Schriock's team eked out another victory. "She has won every difficult contest she has been involved in. They were all against the longest odds you could imagine," a Democratic strategist says. "She is the kind of person that you meet and immediately like and you immediately trust. And she demands results from people who work with her. She removes barriers so people can succeed."