Offering the strongest hint yet that she is preparing to seek statewide office, Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-Montclair) has hired a political operative with experience in national politics and in New Jersey to serve as her new chief of staff.
Sherill announced on Monday that Alex Ball, a top official at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, will run her House staff starting next month.
“I am incredibly excited to welcome Alex as our new Chief of Staff. She brings a wealth of experience in New Jersey politics, national security issues, and the challenges faced in competitive districts,” Sherrill said. “Under her leadership, our team will be strengthened in our mission to bring down everyday costs, protect our democracy, and serve the needs of the residents of NJ-11.”
Re-elected to a third term in Congress by 19 percentage points last month, Sherrill is widely viewed as a potential candidate for governor in 2025. The Essex County Democrat has deftly avoided any talk about her statewide ambitions but has been increasingly meeting with party officials outside New Jersey’s 11th district.
She attended several events at the New Jersey League of Municipalities Convention in Atlantic City in November, where she was escorted by Democratic State Chairman LeRoy Jones, Jr. and Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo.
Sherrill has been without a chief of staff since August when Jean Roehrenbeck left to become deputy assistant U.S. Secretary of Transportation for Legislative Affairs and is now a member of Pete Buttigieg’s inner circle.
Ball is a veteran of several tough races that resulting in the flipping of two House seats against Republican incumbents who had had won their districts comfortably before.
In 2016, Ball managed Democrat Josh Gottheimer’s race for Congress in New Jersey’s 5th district. Republican Scott Garrett won a seventh term in Congress in 2014 by eleven percentage points but was ousted by Gottheimer two years later by 14,897 votes, 51%-47%, in a district that Donald Trump was carrying by one percentage point.
Two years later, she was campaign manager for Colorado Democrat Jason Crow, a U.S. Army veteran who ousted five-term GOP Rep. Mike Coffman by 8 points. Ball served as Crow’s chief of staff before joining Emily’s List as the Incumbent Protection Director for the 2020 cycle.
For the 2022 mid-term elections, Ball served as DCCC National Political Director for Frontline Candidates, which sought to protect 39 incumbents in the nation’s most competitive congressional districts. On Ball’s watch, Democrats re-elected 35 of the incumbents, including three of four in New Jersey; Rep. Tom Malinowski was one of the four who lost re-election.
Ball started out as Colorado state legislator and then for the Washington-based The Frost Group, which raises money for Democratic candidates and political action committees. Prior to joining Gottheimer’s campaign, Ball spent the 2014 cycle as finance director for Cheri Bustos, a freshman Illinois congresswoman who later served as DCCC chair. (In 2019, Sherrill voted for Bustos for Speaker of the House.)
A retired U.S. Navy helicopter pilot and former Assistant U.S. Attorney, Sherrill flipped the 11th district seat in 2018 with 57% of the vote after her early fundraising prowess frightened the Republican incumbent, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen, into retirement. Prior to Sherrill, Republicans held the 11th district for 34 years.