By David Fong
BATON ROUGE, La. — Growing up in the Livengood household, Mary-Patricia (Livengood) Wray became passionate about two things — the Ohio State Buckeyes and politics.
This year was a big one for the Troy High School graduate on both fronts, as she opened the year watching her beloved Buckeyes win a national championship in football and closed the year playing a key role in getting John Bel Edwards elected governor of her new home state of Louisiana.
“I grew up in a very politically aware family,” Wray said. “My mom and dad have always been public servants and I grew up always wanting to become politically involved.”
Not only would Wray become involved in Edwards’ campaign, she would be one of his closest consultants, working as his communications director for the better part of three years.
“It was definitely a grass-roots campaign — right down to his seven brothers and sisters working on his fairs and festivals committee,” Wray said. “It was a very lean campaign team. I was a consultant, serving basically as his communications director. I was his scheduler, his press secretary, in charge of his digital campaign and his social media campaign. A lot of campaigns would have probably had four or five people doing what I did. I don’t say that to brag, that’s just the way it worked.
“I was also in charge of preparing my candidate for debates. I would end up helping him prepare for around 50 debates.”
Although she had always wanted to be involved with politics, Wray likely never anticipated becoming quite so involved as she moved through her education and early career as a lawyer.
Following her graduation from Troy High School in 2003, she would complete her undergraduate degree at Ohio State in just three years, graduating in 2006. Should would move on to law school at Loyola University New Orleans, from which she graduated in 2011.
Soon after he graduation from law school, Wray took a job representing the Louisiana Federation of Teacher, the largest teachers’ union within the state. It was within that capacity that she met Edwards, then a state representative.
“The governor-elect was on the state education committee and I was able to work closely with him when he was a state representative,” Wray said. “I spent the next three years workiing with him almost every day. I got to know him and his family. I took on his voice, a little bit, when I would talk about education issues.
“When he was considering running for governor, I was kind of there and was willing to do the work.”
When Edwards did make the decision to run for governor, he was considered a longshot at best — first to win the Democratic nomination, and then to defeat Republican candidate David Vitter, a U.S. Senator. In the Nov. 21 election, however, Edwards defeated Vitter, becoming the first Democrat to win a statewide election in Louisiana since 2008.
Wray was there every step of the way, putting in countless hours for her candidate.
“Election day was my 1,003rd day on the campaign,” she said with a laugh. “I wasn’t working every day, but I was working a lot of them. We did take a family vacation to Disney, but my mom got mad at me because I kept checking my emails on my phone.”
Now that her candidate has been elected and will take office in January, Wray is working as a member of the transition team. She will return to the private lobbying/consulting business she started before the campaign.
“I know this sounds weird since I am still in my 20s, but it really is a young person’s game,” she said. “I’ve got a lot of other things I still want to accomplish in my career and in my personal life. But I’ll never forget this. It was a once in a lifetime experience.”
Contact David Fong at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @thefong