Georgia native Quentin Fulks brings swing state insight to Biden campaign

Quentin Fulks is the #2 employee of the Biden-Harris Re-Election Campaign shown at Ponce City Market, Thursday, July 6, 2023, in Atlanta. Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Quentin Fulks is the #2 employee of the Biden-Harris Re-Election Campaign shown at Ponce City Market, Thursday, July 6, 2023, in Atlanta. Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

Ellaville is like dozens, maybe hundreds, of small towns across Georgia. Rural. Tight-knit. Working class. Diverse in ways that both showcase racial progress and highlight the divides.

Raised in this town of fewer than 2,000 residents, Quentin Fulks stood out as an honor student and athlete. He was the kind of kid who adults said could grow up to be anything he wanted.

Fulks landed in politics, and he’s now a top staffer for President Joe Biden’s re-election campaign.

The career choice that Fulks made was greatly influenced by the famous man who grew up near Ellaville. Plains, fewer than 20 miles away, is the hometown of President Jimmy Carter. Everyone in Ellaville seems to have a President Carter story to tell when Fulks was a child. For him, it was being taught by one of the president’s nieces and the occasional sighting at a restaurant or store.

“If it had been a nuclear physicist that would have been the person that was the most famous from where I was from, I probably would have wanted to be a nuclear physicist,” Fulks said. “But it just so happened to be a president and, from a very young age, I was really just sort of enamored with politics.”

At age 26, Fulks was a deputy campaign manager for J.B. Pritzker, overseeing a $172 million budget for the future Illinois governor. He moved home to Georgia four years later to serve as campaign manager for U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, who broke fundraising records on the way to winning a full six-year term in 2022.

Former President Barack Obama shares a moment with U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock (right) and campaign manager Quentin Fulks during a rally at Pullman Yard in Atlanta, GA, on December 1, 2022. Photo by Kevin Lowery.

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Credit: Kevin Lowery

Today, 33-year-old Fulks is the principal deputy campaign manager for Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. That makes him the second highest-ranking staffer and puts him smack dab in the inner circle. He is in the room for decision-making with the president and vice president and is tasked with managing high-dollar donors, high-profile surrogates and high-value grassroots organizers ahead of the 2024 election.

Before he accepted the job, Fulks talked to others about coping with the anxiety that comes with working for the leader of the free world.

“You have to get over your nerves enough to be able to give the information that they believe that you possess — the knowledge that they believe that you possess — to sort of help them navigate the world and what they’re attempting to do,” Fulks said. “But at the same time, it is the president and the vice president. So you know, you have to just pinch yourself and put your head down and get to work.”

In early August, Fulks will move to Delaware, where the campaign headquarters will be based. He and campaign manager Julie Chávez Rodríguez are still building out the team and deciding how to divide up the work. But the priority, thus far, has been fundraising.

“We have a road show tour where Julie and I have basically been going out and giving presentations to donors all across the country: Boston, Chicago, New York. L.A., Houston,” he said.

Fulks said he looks forward to moving from remote work to being in the office with other campaign staff.

“I think it will change the job for me because I’ll be there,” he said. “Once you’re on the ground and in a campaign and you’re building it, it will be just a different feel to the job.”

Taking it seriously

President Carter may have been Fulks’ inspiration for a life in politics, but Anne Caprara is his mentor and patron saint. She hired him in 2015 to work with her at Emily’s List, an organization that works to get pro-choice women elected to office. At the time, he was a graduate student at American University in Washington, D.C.

When Caprara left to work for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 super PAC, Priorities USA, she brought him. And later, when she was tapped to manage Pritzker’s campaign, he followed her.

Georgia native Quentin Fulks serves as the second-highest ranking staffer for President Joe Biden's re-election campaign, but his first high-profile campaign resulted in the election of Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker in 2018.

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Credit: handout

Caprara said she knew right away that Fulks would have a long career in the tough world of political campaigns.

“It was pretty much immediately after hiring him that I was like: ‘Gosh, I’ve got somebody on my hands who really is incredibly bright and is going to do well in this business and the right doors need to be opened for him,’” she said.

Caprara tells a story about a flag football team she fielded during her time at Emily’s List. It consisted of staffers at the Democratic Party and affiliated groups, and she invited Fulks to join the team, knowing he had played in high school.

During the first practice, he suggested that he become the team’s quarterback. He showed up to the second practice with play charts and a game plan, all color-coded.

The team won the championship that season.

“I just always think about him and how serious he took the flag football game,” Caprara said recently. “And when people try to understand why he’s so good at what he does, I always think back to that. Even when we were playing a game that really didn’t ultimately matter that much, he entered with a plan and a way to win.”

Battleground roots

After Pritzker took office, the governor proposed a massive overhaul to the Illinois income tax code that would have resulted in a tax hike for wealthy residents. Pritzker put Fulks in charge of the effort to win the public support needed to pass a constitutional amendment.

The coronavirus pandemic and ensuing lockdowns unfolded right as the campaign launched. The opposition was well-financed and took advantage of the economic uncertainty of those times to cast doubt on the long-term benefits of a graduated income tax.

The measure, voted on in November 2020, needed 60% support to pass but garnered just 45%. Fulks said he learned one important lesson from the loss: Urgency.

“You have to define what you’re for early, and you’ve got to do it hard, even if you believe that it starts in a popular place,” he said recently. “And so, I think it gave me a sense of urgency of how I approach campaigns.”

For the Biden campaign, Fulks’ upbringing in the new battleground state of Georgia is seen as an asset. His success leading Warnock to a high-profile victory against football legend Herschel Walker earned him the label of a rising star within the universe of Democratic campaign staffers.

Georgia native Quentin Fulks serves as the second-highest ranking staffer for President Joe Biden's re-election campaign, but he previously managed U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock's 2022 campaign. He played the role of Herschel Walker in debate prep.

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Credit: Handout

His Ellaville roots give him insight into the type of voters Biden hopes to reach if he wants to carry Georgia again in 2024. Fulks said growing up in rural southwest Georgia taught him to “listen without casting blame” even to those he disagrees with politically.

During the Pritzker and Warnock campaigns, Fulks said he encouraged the candidates to show up in person, sometimes to places where Democrats normally steer clear. And he believes Democrats should not be afraid to tackle difficult topics like gun control.

“I grew up in a place where people had guns on school property,” he said. “People love guns where I’m from. They hunt. They view it as sports.”

Voters who may oppose more gun laws can’t be dismissed, he said. “You sort of have to be there if you want your message heard.”

These are the kinds of conversations Coach William Rooks has with Fulks on a regular basis. Rooks teaches history and social studies at Schley County High School, and he stayed in touch with his former student despite their polar opposite political leanings.

“He has the ability to understand where others are coming from because he’s lived in a rural area at least most of his childhood and into early adulthood,” Rooks said of Fulks. “And he’s lived amongst people that many of them disagree with him politically. But he’s been able to win votes from some of those people, and from people that he may not have known before, just because he has the ability to understand and empathize with people.”

What’s at stake

Fulks’ ability to connect with Georgians across the political spectrum was on full display during his time with Warnock.

Warnock’s campaign for a full six-year term was launched not too long after he won a January 2021 special election runoff that flipped control of the Senate to Democrats. He said he found in Fulks an aide who was data-driven and disciplined.

With Fulks’ help, Warnock focused on issues like controlling health care costs, addressing climate change and expanding access to voting.

“Georgia has always been at the center of that conversation in the complicated story of America, and I think that’s why my race captured the imagination of so many people,” Warnock said. “And Quentin was right there in the thick of it all — a good person to have with you in the fight.”

Right now, Fulks’ full attention is on the upcoming presidential election.

From Atlanta, he’s been connecting with a small group of core staffers through phone calls and video conferencing. He travels for meetings with the president and vice president.

Quentin Fulks is the #2 employee of the Biden-Harris Re-Election Campaign shown at Ponce City Market, Thursday, July 6, 2023, in Atlanta. Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

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Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

He was in Georgia in late June when the Supreme Court released its ruling dismantling affirmative action at colleges and universities. That day, Fulks absorbed the emotion of staffers and supporters who were both disappointed and fearful about the decision. His job in that moment, he said, was just to listen.

For Fulks, the SCOTUS decision served as a reminder of the importance of next year’s presidential election, which could see Biden in a rematch against former President Donald Trump.

“It’s another thing to add to the list of what’s at stake,” he said.

Fulks says the campaign is focusing on Georgia, which Biden carried in 2020 by the slimmest of margins. The Cook Political Report with Amy Walter recently classified Georgia as one of just four states labeled toss-ups for the presidential race. That means there will likely be even more attention on Georgia than four years ago.

Fulks said the campaign will invest “all the resources” needed — including visits from the president and vice president, which were limited in 2020 because of the pandemic — to not cede the ground gained in the last election.

“President Biden was the first Democrat to win it in quite a while,” Fulks said. “And so for us, maintaining that expansion and keeping Georgia in that column of blue is incredibly important.”


ABOUT QUENTIN FULKS

Age: 33

Hometown: Ellaville, GA

Campaign experience: President Joe Biden principal deputy campaign manager, 2023-present; U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock campaign manager, 2021-2022; Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker deputy campaign manager, 2017-2018.

Education: Bachelor’s degree in political science from Georgia Southwestern State University; master’s degree in public affairs from American University.

Fun facts: Fulks, like Biden, collects watches, and he is the owner of an 8-year-old chocolate Labrador named Lincoln after President Abraham Lincoln.