The USC Dornsife Center for the Political Future is hosting a FUN watch party for the debate between Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis and California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom. For USC students, faculty, and staff only.

5:30 pm at SOS B15 for dinner and meeting our VIP guests
6:00 pm debate starts
7:00 pm debate ends
7:30 pm post-debate reception ends

Joining us are USC alum Kellie Hawkins (Partner, EKA, top lobbying firm in LA) and Carissa Smith (VP, Fox Corporation; former Senior Advisor to Joe Biden) and Jeff Harris (Member, Golden Globe Foundation Board of Directors and JSA Board of Directors; Director of Strategic Partnerships, Pulp). Detailed bios below.

Catering courtesy of Greenleaf Kitchen in the USC Village.


The watch party is in the SOS B15 lobby, so picture casual, comfortable, and living room vibes. You'll want to connect with our incredible guests. We're thrilled that Kellie Hawkins and Carissa Joy Smith will be joining us. There's only room for 25 so book now to guarantee your spot. And if you RSVP,  please show up (unless of course you have any illness symptoms).

From the Fox News article describing the debate:

"As part of a two-hour "Hannity" special, Fox News' Sean Hannity will be moderating a 90-minute debate in Alpharetta, Georgia, which has emerged as a critical swing state in recent election cycles. 

The audience-free debate will put a spotlight on the two governors' leadership approaches in their states and each will make the case to the nation whether red or blue policies are best for the country. Hannity will press them on key issues including the economy and inflation, immigration and the border, and crime...

DeSantis is vying for the Republican nomination but is trailing behind former President Trump in national and state polls. While he hasn't received much traction in the polls since the GOP primary debates began in August, his political showdown with a prominent Democrat like Newsom could offer Americans a glimpse at what a general election debate would look like with DeSantis as the Republican nominee...

Meanwhile, Newsom is widely seen as a potential alternative to 81-year-old President Biden, who has been trailing behind Trump in several head-to-head match-ups, according to national and critical swing state polls... While Newsom has been vocal in his support for Biden's reelection, critics have accused him of running a "shadow" campaign to appear presidential, pointing to his recent trips to China and Israel."



"Carissa Smith currently serves as Vice-President of FOX Corporation for Government Relations. Just recently she served President Joseph R. Biden as Senior Advisor of Public Engagement for Women and Girls and Health at the White House where she liaised for equity and equality with key stakeholders. While at the White House, Smith was tasked with outreach nationally and internationally to formalize the first-ever published National Gender Equity Strategy. During the 2020 elections, she served as National Women’s Vote Director for Joseph R. Biden’s winning campaign. Currently, Carissa is an Aspen Institute 2023 National Security Forum Rising Leader. Her experience includes serving Congresswoman Joyce Beatty, the Ohio Democratic Party and the House Majority Oversight Committee under Chairman Elijah Cummings. Smith is an alumna of American University's We Lead Institute and the Congressional Black Caucus Institute. She completed her undergraduate degree at Bowie State University. Smith was awarded HBCU Buzz's 2022 30 under 30 and was profiled in Essence, Pop Sugar and The Grio."

"Kellie Hawkins is a Partner at EKA. In her current role, she leads the EKA Health Initiatives team. She has held distinguished positions in both the public and private sectors. Her training and background offers clients expert counsel on both a practical and legislative level. Her mastery of the field combined with her extensive relationships delivers exceptional results.
She has held distinguished positions in both the public and private sectors. Most recently, Kellie served as the Chief Operating Officer for the National Health Foundation (NHF), where she oversaw the day-to-day operational and administrative functions of the organization. Prior to joining NHF, she managed the health and human services practice for an executive recruitment firm, The Hawkins Company, based in Los Angeles. From 2010-2015, she worked for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services advising senior administration officials on fiscal priorities, such as health information technology (IT) investments, the national vaccine program for children, and the World Trade Center Health Benefits Program. She also served as a Program Officer for the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH) Regional Extension Center program, a national grant program in support of health IT adoption and implementation.
Prior to her work with the federal government, Kellie served in the administration of former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa, as the Executive Director of the Commission on the Status of Women. In her role as general manager for the Commission, she developed coalitions in support of policy and programs impacting women locally and statewide with a focus on the pathways to economic empowerment for women and girls. In addition to her professional career, Kellie is civically engaged and serves on the boards of Coro Southern California and Climate Resolve. 
Kellie completed her undergraduate studies at Howard University and earned a Master of Public Health from the University of Southern California in 2003. She was an American Marshall Memorial Fellow in 2013 and a graduate of CORO’s Health Leadership Program (2006)."

"Jeff Harris is the founder of JB Harris Consulting, a firm focused on supporting non-profit organizations with strategic planning, executive coaching and partnerships. He is also a member of the board of directors of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, a non-profit organization of journalists and photographers which conducts the annual Golden Globe Awards ceremony honoring notable examples of film and television and achievements.

[Jeff is currently the Director of Strategic Partnerships for Pulp.]

He recently served as the Director of School and Community Partnerships for the Compton Unified School District where he brought resources, programs and funding to the students and schools in this award-winning school district. Jeff created opportunities for engagement, enrichment and connection for over 20,000 K-12 students in a wide variety of curricular areas – the Arts, technology, literacy, athletics and more.

Jeff is also the former Chief Executive Officer of The Junior State of America Foundation, an organization that he was involved in for more than 25 years – as a high school student leader, program director, civic educator and mentor to students. Career highlights include creating the Junior State’s popular student-run Congressional simulation format, launching a successful alumni relations program and establishing evaluation systems for JSA’s programs to measure their impact against strategic mission-related goals. Jeff spearheaded JSA’s outreach efforts to low-income minority students in Los Angeles and expanded that pilot program nationwide."

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