Sara Elizabeth Patterson grew up next to a cornfield in Northern Indiana. She ran her first campaign at the age of eight when she organized her neighborhood kids to start “The Helpers of the World Club” to collect trash along the roadside.
At the age of 15, Sara was diagnosed with Acute Myelogenous Leukemia, a cancer of the blood. She participated in a phase three clinical trial and had a bone marrow transplant from her brother in 1998. The experience has been influential throughout Sara’s life, pushing her success after success while balancing ambition in both professional and personal worlds.
Twenty years later, Sara now leads a full-service political consulting firm based in Austin, Texas. Since entering the state political scene in 2011, she has quickly turned heads by winning campaigns in some of the most difficult conditions and is today recognized as one of Texas’s most successful and creative political minds. She helped to unseat incumbent legislators in each of the past four election cycles and was recently honored by the political news journal Capitol Inside as “Most Valuable Consultant” for having “multiple candidates at the state level to emerge from the primary and runoff elections in 2016 with a perfect record.”
At 35, Sara’s portfolio now includes more than 100 campaigns at the state, regional, and local levels. She worked to elect eight sitting legislators, numerous state judges and municipal officials, orchestrated successful campaigns to both pass and defeat more than $1 billion in bond measures, and has produced advertising and communications for several of the state’s most prominent PACs, including the state house leadership committee. Her work has won or been credited with 15 professional awards by the AAPC and Campaigns and Elections magazine, as well as a Clio and regional Emmy.
In 2016, Sara helped several clients outperform Donald Trump’s margin of victory in the general election, including achieving one of the only Republican victories in a minority-majority Texas state house district. Sara oversaw digital strategy for a viral county commissioner ad that led to international earned media coverage on every major news network and achieved Google Leaderboard status as one of the nation’s top-10 most watched internet videos at 3.7 million views in just one month. It became the most watched local political ad in history.
In addition to her consulting practice, Sara holds a master’s degree from Wake Forest University, and a certificate in Non-Profit Management from Duke University. She lives in the Texas Hill Country with her husband and business partner, Jerod, and their three boys (ages 7, 4, and 15 months). Sara has a passion for helping non-profits. She is the Board President for Holy Spirit Episcopal School in Dripping Springs, and works with two cancer survivor non-profits. She was previously honored as Most Inspirational Speaker by the United Way of Forsyth County (NC).
Featured Winner Interview
AAPC: What’s next for you this year?
Sara: We are excited about the growth of our firm. We have a full slate of campaigns this fall and are also moving into more issue advocacy work. Before the general election heats up too much, I’m spending some quality time with my three sons. They are only young once and I have come to believe that a balanced family life is prerequisite to excellence in my professional life.
AAPC: Tell us about something you’re most proud of accomplishing in your professional career.
Sara: Political advertising has changed tremendously over the past 10 years, particularly with the rise and evolution of digital channels. We’ve been able to grow and adapt to this changing landscape to keep our clients poised for success. That has required us to dig in and be students as much as consultants at times, learning what’s new and what’s on the horizon, and identifying how to use the new tools at our disposal.
AAPC: To what do you credit your success at such a young age?
Sara: As a cancer survivor, I’ve had the rare opportunity to face my own mortality at a much younger age than most. Those experiences have provided me with a zest for getting the most out of life—be it personal or professional. I am not satisfied to follow a traditional career path, and living with the deep-seated understanding that life is precious and short has given me the confidence to think outside the box and create my own path to success.
AAPC: What advice would you give to a young professional who has their eye on being a future 40 Under 40 Award winner?
Sara: Take a deep breathe, set some goals (professional and personal), and enjoy your life. Being successful is a combination of planning, hard work, and maybe even a little bit of luck. Start a family. Take the trip. Make a name for yourself—but remember to always be kind and enjoy the ride.