Torunn Sinclair sits surrounded by the bare walls of her office at the Arizona Republican Party’s headquarters.
She has dropped a Diamondbacks hat atop a stack of papers, filled a faux-vintage cream vase with white and red roses from an admirer and left a John McCain sticker somewhat awkwardly placed above the door. Beyond that, the state GOP’s new communications director has had little time for decorating in the past two months.
At the old age of 24, she has carved out a place for herself in state politics as something of a social media wunderkind. She once led a successful Twitter campaign to promote her “Today Show”-themed dorm floor at Arizona State University — Matt Lauer retweeted, and Al Roker showed up to do the news live. It’s still on her resume.
She went on to work as the first digital press secretary for the Governor’s Office. And there, she got a blank slate to build momentum behind the rising stock of Gov. Doug Ducey.
You went right from college to a successful gubernatorial campaign. How?
I got really lucky. I did. I have a great mentor in Melissa DeLaney. I met her when I was an intern at the Greater Phoenix Economic Council in college. Melissa was the communications director there before she left for Governor Ducey’s campaign. I was graduating, and pretty much right when she started, she called me and was like, “Hey, do you want to come volunteer? There might be a possibility for a job.” That’s where it started. I was in the right place at the right time. I was never involved in politics in college. I grew up watching Fox News with my grandparents and my parents. We were always politically savvy, politically involved, but I had never really volunteered on a campaign before. My only experience was I phone-banked once for John McCain in 2008. But other than that, nothing. I was really thrown into the deep end, and I loved it.
Will you stay in communications, or are you thinking of running for office?
No. No, I’m not running for office. I love communications. I love PR. I actually started journalism school thinking I’d be a journalist. I did one journalism internship my first semester there, and I could not stand it. It was not for me.
While you worked for the governor, he was called the “hashtag governor.” You were primarily behind his Twitter, so what did you think of that?
He’s the first governor of Arizona that’s really had a full-time, constant social media presence. Governor Brewer had started to get into the social media world a little bit more, but Governor Ducey was really the first governor breaking news on Twitter instead of calling a reporter. Sometimes he would just tweet about it. I really think that’s a new norm, and I think that’s good. It’s a way for him to speak directly to Arizonans and get his message across just to the people.
Lately, we’ve noticed the governor’s account uses a lot of emojis. Especially when he was celebrating education wins – apples everywhere.
It’s funny. That’s something Scarp (Ducey spokesman Daniel Scarpinato) and I would always talk about – the emoji use. Scarp loves using emojis, but the governor does, too. If you’re just texting the governor, he likes to use emojis.
Are we talking smiley faces?
Yeah! I got a smiley face and a baseball the other day.
Because you obviously love the Diamondbacks.
I went to my first game for my sixth or seventh birthday. We played the Giants. Ever since, I started asking my dad, “Hey, can we go to a ballgame? Hey, can we go to a ballgame?” I’ve already been to three games this season.
Baseball is one thing we agree on, but you threw some major shade at the last Harry Potter book on Twitter–“#disappointed.” What’s up?
I was so disappointed. I love J.K. Rowling. Harry Potter is the reason I love to read. But I totally thought she sold out. I didn’t think it was a good plotline. I didn’t know where it was going. It was all over the place. And I read it in a day because it’s J.K. Rowling and it’s Harry Potter, but it just – I was not impressed at all.
You’re pretty fond of John McCain, too, but your tweets don’t reveal much about your opinion of the president. What are your thoughts on your party’s leader?
He’s our president. I like our president. I think he is going to enact some good, conservative policies. I’m a really big fan of Ivanka, I’m a big fan of Melania, and I’m a huge fan of John McCain and Jeff Flake. Republican values are Republican values.
But McCain and Flake have been at odds with the president.
Being a Republican isn’t all one thing, especially on regulatory issues. A lot of what Donald Trump is doing in D.C. in terms of cutting regulations — so is Doug Ducey. He’s doing it here. It’s about finding those areas that you can agree on and working together on them.
You went to journalism school where partisanship is a no-no. Was it surprising to you that you got involved in such a partisan career?
Yeah, especially because I have a lot of Democrat friends, too, so it’s always about trying to maintain that balance and be able to put that aside. Politics is one thing, and I love it and it’s a lot of fun. But at the end of the day, it’s also – you can have friendships outside of politics. And journalism really taught me that. Your first class, they ask you to stand up if you’re a Republican, stand up if you’re a Democrat. And then, they tell you, “Never do that again… You are not biased. You have to maintain your credibility.”… At some point for me, it just – I’m not going to be a journalist. I’m a Republican.