Marco Rubio Taps Veterans of Capitol Hill to Fill Legislative Team

New U.S. Senate star brings former Mel Martinez, George LeMieux, Bobby Jindal, Paul Ryan and Pete Domenici staffers
By: Kevin Derby | Posted: February 24, 2011 2:07 PM
 Marco Rubio 007

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio

On Thursday, with the eyes of conservatives across the state and nation focused on his rising star, Florida Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio named his legislative staff -- and the names include veterans of Capitol Hill. 

“With their diverse backgrounds and wide range of policy expertise, this team will help us accomplish great things for the people of Florida as we pursue an aggressive legislative agenda to enact the ideas we campaigned on during the election,” said Rubio.

Rubio named Sally Canfield as deputy chief of staff for policy and legislative director in early January. On Thursday, Rubio said she will lead his legislative team and help him on a number of issues. Canfield is a veteran political activist who worked on George W. Bush’s and Mitt Romney’s presidential campaigns, as well as serving as an aide to former U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson and U.S. Homeland Secretary Tom Ridge.

“From repealing and replacing Obamacare and tackling our debt crisis to ensuring that America remains the strongest country in the world, Sally and our legislative shop will be indispensable,” Rubio said.

He named Brian Walsh as deputy legislative director and national security adviser. Walsh is no stranger to the Hill, having been there for almost a decade. Walsh worked for the dean of congressional Republicans, U.S. Rep. Bill Young of Florida, before heading over to the Senate. Walsh worked for the former U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez and former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux, the two Florida Republicans who previously held Rubio’s seat. Walsh served as legislative director under LeMieux, contemplating a run at Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson in 2012.

Walsh is not the only veteran of Martinez’s and LeMieux’s staff joining the Rubio team. Rubio named Victor Cervino, who helped on international affairs for both Martinez and LeMieux, as legislative assistant for foreign policy. Cervino also was a research assistant at the iconic conservative group Heritage Foundation, focusing on Latin-American affairs.

Rubio named Darren Achord as legislative assistant for commerce. Achord is no stranger to the issues, having worked on Energy and Commerce Committee matters when he worked for Louisiana Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise. Achord also was a staffer for then-U.S. Rep. and now Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana.

Rubio tapped Sara Decker to serve as legislative assistant for agriculture, energy and environmental issues. Decker handled similar matters when she served as a staffer for Arizona Republican U.S. Rep. John Shadegg and on the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee when it was led by New Mexico Republican former U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici.

Rubio selected J.R. Sanchez to serve as director of outreach and as a legislative assistant for education, labor, values and veterans' issues. Sanchez worked on the Rubio campaign, focusing on social conservatives and faith-based voters. Sanchez previously was a staffer at the Republican National Committee and in the U.S. Agriculture Department under President George W. Bush.

Another Hill veteran, Jonathan Slemrod, was named legislative assistant for budget and tax issues. Slemrod has worked for some of the leading Republicans in the U.S. House -- namely House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and U.S. Rep. Jeff Flake of Arizona.

Reach Kevin Derby at or at (850) 727-0859.

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