Alex Castellanos

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Alex Castellanos
Alex Castellanos by Gage Skidmore.jpg
Castellanos in 2013
Alejandro Castellanos

1954 (age 64–65)
Alma materUniversity of North Carolina,
Chapel Hill
Political partyRepublican

Alejandro "Alex" Castellanos (born 1954) is a Cuban American political consultant. He has worked on electoral campaigns for Republican candidates including Bob Dole, George W. Bush, Jeb Bush, and Mitt Romney. In 2008, Castellanos, a partner at National Media Inc., co-founded Purple Strategies, a bipartisan communications firm. Castellanos is also a regular guest commentator on Meet the Press and a contributor for CNN.

Early life and education[edit]

Alex Castellanos was born in Havana, Cuba in 1954 and immigrated to the United States in 1960[1][2] or 1961 with his family. Around the 1970s, Castellanos lived in Coats, North Carolina and attended Coats School, where he was taught by Mr. Garriss. He went on to attend the University of North Carolina where he was a National Merit Scholar and a philosophy major. Castellanos is married and has two children.[3]


Castellanos has worked as a political consultant for Republican candidates for state and federal elections since the 1980s, including six presidential elections.[4] In particular, he has received media attention for his work developing ads for political campaigns and is sometimes referred to as "the father of the attack ad".[5][6]

1980s and 1990s: Early political work[edit]

Castellanos began his career working on the successful 1984 re-election campaigns for United States Senators Jesse Helms and Strom Thurmond. While working on these campaigns Castellanos met Mike Murphy, with whom he later formed the firm Murphy & Castellanos. Their firm worked on Bob Dole's 1988 presidential campaign.[3][7] In 1989, Castellanos became a partner at National Media, Inc.[6]

In 1990, Castellanos again worked on the re-election campaign for Jesse Helms. During the campaign, Castellanos drew media attention for an ad he created that showed the hands of a white man holding a rejection letter because he had lost a job to a minority worker. The ad, known as "Hands", was criticized by supporters of Helms' opponent, Harvey Gantt for appealing to racial biases of white voters.[8][9] Castellanos later explained that the intended message behind the ad was that "nobody should get a job, or be denied a job because of the color of their skin."[2] Also in 1990, Castellanos created television commercials for Bob Martinez's re-election campaign for governor of Florida.[10][11]

Throughout the 1990s, Castellanos worked on a variety of Republican campaigns as a media consultant and strategist. These included George H. W. Bush's 1992 presidential election campaign,[1] Jeb Bush's 1994 campaign for governor of Florida,[12][13] and Guy Millner's 1994 campaign for governor of Georgia.[8][14]

Castellanos again worked for Bob Dole on his 1996 presidential election campaign.[15] It was during this campaign that Castellanos discussed the importance of "soccer moms" as a political demographic with The Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne.[16] The phrase went on to become one of the key buzzwords of the election year.[17][18] Castellanos worked on Jesse Helms' re-election campaign in 1996; Helms pulled controversial ads against Charlie Sanders and Harvey Gantt in April 1996, and Castellanos left the campaign at that time.[19] He worked for Bob Taft's 1998 campaign for governor of Ohio.[20][21]

2000s: Bush-Cheney and Romney campaigns[edit]

Castellanos served as a media advisor to George W. Bush in both his 2000 and 2004 presidential election campaigns. During the campaigns, "he sealed his reputation as one of the keenest, most cutthroat strategists in the business."[22] While working on the 2000 campaign, Castellanos created an ad about the Medicare prescription plan Al Gore proposed in which the word "RATS" flashed briefly on the screen as the word "bureaucrats" appeared. This was discussed in the media as potential "subliminal messaging".[6][8]

In 2007 Castellanos was named to GQ Magazine's list of the "50 Most Influential People in D.C."[22] The following year, Castellanos worked for Mitt Romney's 2008 presidential campaign as part of the firm Midnight Ride Media, which managed advertising, production and media buying for the campaign.[23][24][25]

2008 to present: Purple Strategies[edit]

In 2008, the communications firm Purple Strategies was founded by Castellanos and Democrat Steve McMahon. According to Purple Strategies' managing partner Bruce Haynes, Castellanos and McMahon would routinely see each other while pitching to clients. The two ultimately decided to merge their "blue" and "red" consultancies to create a "purple" company.[26][27]

Castellanos is currently a principal partner at Purple Strategies, major clients of the bipartisan firm have included the United States Chamber of Commerce, BP and PhRMA.[4][24][28]

Other activities[edit]

Castellanos is a guest commentator and contributor for CNN[23][24] and has appeared on Meet the Press where he argued with Rachel Maddow in April 2012 about the existence of a gender gap in pay.[29] Additionally, Castellanos writes online commentary for The Huffington Post and National Review, and is also a public speaker and member of the Washington Speakers Bureau.[27]

In 2008, Castellanos was a resident fellow at Harvard University's Institute of Politics.[30] The following year, Castellanos became a senior communications advisor to Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele.[5][31]

In 2013, Castellanos shaved his mustache on The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer after promising to do so if 500 new donors would give to Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy.[32] Also in 2013, Castellanos led a Super PAC project called, which is focused on broadening the Republican Party's demographic base.[33] Along with other Republican political consultants, Castellanos signed a "friend of the court" brief in support of gay marriage in February 2013.[34]


  1. ^ a b "Alejandro (Alex) Castellanos". Public Broadcasting Service. Retrieved 5 April 2013.
  2. ^ a b "Interview with Alex Castellanos". Wisconsin Public Television. Retrieved 5 April 2013.
  3. ^ a b Steven Colford (7 March 1988). "Hardball pros; Duo gets Dole ad work". Advertising Age. Retrieved 5 April 2013.
  4. ^ a b Jaimy Lee (23 September 2009). "US Chamber awards largest campaign to Powell Tate, Purple Strategies". PRWeek. Retrieved 5 April 2013.
  5. ^ a b "Alex Castellanos Hired By Republican National Committee". The Huffington Post. 18 March 2011. Retrieved 5 April 2013.
  6. ^ a b c Louis Jacobson (22 June 2002). "Moving Beyond Attack Ads". The National Journal. Archived from the original on 24 June 2013. Retrieved 5 April 2013.
  7. ^ Lloyd Grove (March 22, 1988). "Contra Ads Appeal for Donations". The Washington Post (accessed via HighBeam Research). Washingtonpost Newsweek Interactive. Archived from the original on March 15, 2016. Retrieved June 19, 2013.
  8. ^ a b c Anthony York (13 September 2000). "Counterspin". Salon. Retrieved 5 April 2013.
  9. ^ Julia M. Klein (11 November 1990). "Helms ad galvanized white vote". The Spokesman-Review. Retrieved 12 April 2013.
  10. ^ Sara Rimer (30 October 1990). "Low-Key Chiles Campaign in Florida Runs Up Against a Republican Blitz". The New York Times. Retrieved 5 April 2013.
  11. ^ "Jeb Bush plans to seek office in Fla. Ex-president's son says he'll run for governor". The Baltimore Sun. 28 January 1993. Retrieved 5 April 2013.
  12. ^ Adam C. Smith (13 October 2002). "Behind McBride vs. Bush is battle of media consultants". St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved 5 April 2013.
  13. ^ Linda Kleindienst (22 August 1994). "Jeb Bush: Making Name For Himself". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved 5 April 2013.
  14. ^ Fullinwider, Robert (2013). "Are negatives positive?". Philosophy & Public Policy Quarterly. Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy George Mason University. 31 (1). Retrieved 20 June 2013.
  15. ^ Stephen Seplow (October 6, 1996). "Dole stops attacking Clinton in ads, lets Clinton attack himself". Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service. McClatchy-Tribune Information Services. Archived from the original on September 24, 2015. Retrieved June 19, 2013.
  16. ^ E.J. Dionne Jr. (21 July 1996). "Clinton Swipes The GOP's Lyrics; The Democrat as Liberal Republican". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 9 April 2013.
  17. ^ Jenny Deam (20 October 1996). "Presidential candidates are making a play for Soccer Moms". St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved 9 April 2013.
  18. ^ Tim Cornwell (November 1, 1996). "Bring on the soccer moms". The Independent (accessed via HighBeam Research). London, England: Independent Print Ltd. Archived from the original on June 24, 2013. Retrieved June 19, 2013.
  19. ^ Frank J. Murray (June 8, 1996). "Consultants insist on need to run attack ads". The Washington Times (accessed via HighBean Research). Washington, DC: News World Communications, Inc.
  20. ^ "Former Dole Consultant Joins Taft's Campaign for Governor". The Columbus Dispatch. 25 April 1997. Retrieved 5 April 2013.
  21. ^ "Taft Hires 'A List' Campaign Team for Gubernatorial Race". The Cincinnati Post (accessed via HighBeam Research). Cincinnati, OH: Dialog LLC. April 28, 1997. Archived from the original on September 24, 2015. Retrieved June 19, 2013.
  22. ^ a b Raha Naddaf; Greg Veis (September 2007). "The 50 Most Powerful People in D.C." GQ. Retrieved 8 April 2013.
  23. ^ a b Paul Steinhauser (28 November 2011). "Why Gingrich's N.H. endorsement is a bigger deal than it seems". CNN. Retrieved 5 April 2013.
  24. ^ a b c Ben Smith (21 December 2011). "Mitt Romney Consultant wars: Stuart Stevens, Alex Castellanos, Mike Murphy". Politico. Retrieved 5 April 2013.
  25. ^ Mark Ambinder (18 July 2007). "Romney Puts Competition On The Campaign Table". The Atlantic. Retrieved 5 April 2013.
  26. ^ Mike Allen (18 July 2011). "Rob Collins, Jim Jordan join Purple Strategies". Politico. Retrieved 8 April 2013.
  27. ^ a b "Alex Castellanos". Washington Speakers Bureau. Retrieved 9 April 2013.
  28. ^ Garance Franke-Ruta (4 June 2010). "Washington PR firms cashing in on BP spill". The Washington Post. Retrieved 20 June 2013.
  29. ^ Rebecca Shapiro (30 April 2012). "Rachel Maddow Clashes With Alex Castellanos Over Women And The Economy On 'Meet The Press'". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 5 April 2013.
  30. ^ "Alex Castellanos". Harvard University. Retrieved 5 April 2013.
  31. ^ Chris Cillizza (29 November 2009). "RNC loses communications director, Castellanos signs on". The Washington Post. Retrieved 5 April 2013.
  32. ^ "Another mustache razed for charity". CNN. 18 January 2013. Retrieved 5 April 2013.
  33. ^ Mark Preston (13 February 2013). "First on CNN: Super PAC to focus on broadening GOP appeal". CNN. Retrieved 5 April 2013.
  34. ^ Geordy Boveroux (26 February 2013). "Prominent GOP consultants join gay marriage brief". Campaigns & Elections. Retrieved 5 April 2013.

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