Introduction to American Politics with Prof. Mark Miller. It was his first class, in his first semester, and it was all Ethan Zorfas needed to see his career path.
“I knew then that politics was where I wanted to be,” Zorfas says. He’s never flip-flopped on that decision.
Zorfas is chief of staff for Congressman Frank Guinta (R-N.H.), managing the lawmaker’s staff in Washington and New Hampshire, and serving as liaison between the congressman and the leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives.
“I manage my boss in a sense, too,” he says. “I work with him on what his focus will be legislatively; how he’ll work through his decisions.”
In 2008 he went to work for the National Republican Congressional Committee, traveling across the country to gauge what kind of support local campaigns needed from the committee in Washington.
He clicked with two candidates in particular, Dr. William Cassidy (R-Louisiana) and Cynthia Loomis (R-Wyoming), who were both elected to Congress for the first time in 2008. At their request, Zorfas remained with their campaigns; he added four more clients, and soon he’d built his own campaign-consulting business.
His political views meshed especially closely with Rep. Guinta’s. “We saw the world through the same lens,” Zorfas says.
In January 2011, Zorfas accepted Guinta’s offer to become his chief of staff.
He acknowledges the messy legislative gridlock in Washington on major fiscal issues, but he’s quick to add that off the radar much is being accomplished across the political divide. He cites the work that Guinta’s office has done in tandem with Democratic Congressman Barney Frank on issues involving commercial fishing off the New England coast.
Zorfas himself is no stranger to reaching across the aisle. As a Republican at Clark, he found his positions often were at odds with those of more liberal-leaning students, including many of his friends. But their discussions, he says, “made me sharper.”
“If I argued politics with a Clarkie, I had to be on my game. I loved it,” he says with a laugh. “Clark helped me interact with people who don’t agree with my political ideology; it gave me an understanding of things beyond my own world.” That experience has carried over into his professional life, where “I have to put my head in the place of someone who did not grow up as I had. That’s important when I’m in New Hampshire talking to a commercial fisherman. My concern is how I can help this person even though I have not been in his shoes.”
Despite his love of politics, Zorfas has no aspirations for elective office.
“I see what those guys go through; I’m happy where I am,” he says. “I’d like to continue to find ways to work in policy through the government.”