Last weekend: Young Republican Leadership Conference

This past weekend leaders from Young Republican clubs all across the country descended on the nation’s capital for the biennial Young Republican Leadership Conference, organized by the Young Republican National Federation (YRNF).

“Young Republicans (YRs) are the oldest political youth organization in the United States,” the YRNF website states. “Important to the growth of the Republican Party, the YRs reach out to registered Republicans, 18 to 40 years of age, and provide them with better political knowledge and understanding of the issues of the day.”

The YRNF Chief of Staff Rich Counts, also a Leadership Institute graduate, helped plan the conference with other executive board members and volunteers.

“The conference has become known as a must attend event for up-and-coming young conservatives and libertarians,” Rich said. “The goal of the conference is to bring in Young Republican leaders from across the country for three days of networking, political trainings, and meet and greets with Republican lawmakers and party leaders.”  

The three-day conference began Thursday with YR club officers visiting lawmakers from their state and others on Capitol Hill and an afternoon visit to The Heritage Foundation with a networking reception that evening.

The Leadership Institute (LI) was invited to train their attendees Friday.  LI hosted five workshops in morning and afternoon sessions: Campaign Communications Workshop, Campaign Management Workshop track one and two, Campaign Fundraising Workshop, and On-Camera Television Workshop for club chairmen. The evening offered attendees a visit to the Republic of China (Taiwan) embassy.

Saturday was used for break outs of various committee and regional meetings, a lunch panel about minority engagement with Leadership Institute staffer Paulo Sibaja, and a formal gala to conclude the annual conference.

Rich was appointed chief of staff in July 2013 to “represent the organization here in DC and to help facilitate partnerships with like-minded groups both in DC and around the country.  The chief of staff also works as a liaison between the chairman of the YRNF and YRNF committee chairmen,” he explained. 


Rich grew up on the island of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. But, he spent many summers enjoying the slightly cooler temperatures of Michigan with his father’s family.

He went to college at Tulane University in New Orleans, where he majored in political economy and minored in engineering science.

After his May 2007 graduation, Rich moved to DC because he says he “had become passionate about politics and wanted to get more involved,” and that’s when he learned of the Leadership Institute.

“When I first arrived in DC, Marcus Skelton, chairman of the DC Young Republicans at the time, mentioned that I should definitely attend training at the Leadership Institute.  I took his advice and I certainly saw the benefits,” Rich said.

“In addition to providing me with best practices and political knowledge, the Leadership Institute really prepared me to grow from an entry-level kid right out of college into a professional,” he said. “The training was invaluable, not just for me, but for several of my friends and colleagues.” 

So just a few months after moving to DC, Rich enrolled in LI’s Grassroots Campaign School in August 2007.


“LI was way ahead of the curve when it came to social media,” Rich said. “I still remember a class that Chris Malagisi taught in the Grassroots Campaign School that was instrumental in helping us develop what became an effective social media strategy for DC Young Republicans.”  

In March 2010, Rich was elected chairman of the DC Young Republicans club and served until March 2011.

“Running DC Young Republicans was a great experience. It really gave me the opportunity to learn and grow as a leader at a young age,” he said. “We had an amazing team of activists. By the end of my term, we deployed more than 400 volunteers to 16 cities in nine states, increased membership by 300%, and most importantly, changed the culture of the organization to help members grow professionally and socially through our campaign deployment trips, networking events, and weekly e-letters.”  

Two months into his chairman position –in May 2010—Rich came back for more LI training. This time it was LI’s Campaign Workshop.

“LI's campaign schools really prepared me to develop "DCYRs on Tour," the DC Young Republicans volunteer deployment program,” he said. “It taught me how to plan efficient and effective GOTV deployments, but to also make sure that the activities were exciting and enjoyable for all participants.  Getting out the vote is hard work, but it was always a goal of ours to make it fun work as well.”

In January 2011, Rich became the co-director of the popular networking event, “It’s First Friday,” a monthly networking hub for Capitol Hill conservatives that has spawned similar events in other states.  

“It's First Friday has had many special guests, including Newt Gingrich, Grover Norquist, S.E. Cupp, and John Boehner, but the best thing about First Friday is that it is a place where conservative and libertarian politicos can kick back with like-minded folks and connect not just over politics, but form long-term friendships as well,” he said.

In addition to providing voluntary leadership to Young Republican clubs across the country, Rich works full time for Townhall Media, a subsidiary of Salem Communications.

Salem Communications is America’s leading radio broadcaster, Internet content provider, and magazine and book publisher targeting audiences interested in Christian and family-themed content and conservative values.

Townhall Media is the parent company of five of the country's leading conservative websites, including:,,,, and Altogether, the Townhall Media network receives more than 100 million page views per month, Rich says. 

As the senior account executive, Rich “works to bring in revenue to support our various editorial and marketing endeavors,” he said.

“The majority of revenue has traditionally come from advertising and email marketing, but some also comes from sponsorships to support events like the RedState Gathering held annually in August,” he continued.

The RedState Gathering, an event the Leadership Institute frequently sponsors, will be held in Fort Worth, Texas this year August 8 -10.  

Rich was featured by The Hill as one of the 50 Most Beautiful People for 2011, received the DC Republican Committee's "Up and Comer" award in 2010, was selected as a DC delegate to the 2012 Republican National Convention, and served as DC Campaign Co-Chair for the Mitt Romney presidential campaign.

“There are many different think tanks in this city, but the Leadership Institute has for years trained conservatives on how to make things happen on the local, state, and national levels. LI doesn't just tell people to do more; the faculty train and guide conservatives on how to get it done,” Rich said.  

Rich has graciously offered his time and expertise to serve as volunteer faculty for the Leadership Institute, where he lectures and shares his acquired knowledge with other young activists.

Register now for a LI training.

“The Leadership Institute offers invaluable trainings on the key issues for people who are serious about pushing themselves both politically and professionally,” he said.

Please congratulate Rich Counts for his consistent efforts in activating young conservatives into the political process and the whole YRNF leadership team for a successful conference this past weekend. Please applaud him for receiving LI’s Conservative Leader Award.

To nominate a Leadership Institute graduate or faculty member for the Conservative Leader Award or Conservative Leader-In-Training Award, please contact LI's Director of External Affairs Lauren Day, at

The Leadership Institute is classified by the IRS as a 501(c)3 non-partisan, not-for-profit organization. LI does not endorse or oppose political parties, candidates, public officials, or legislation. All programs are open to the public.