This ran in the Chicago Sun-Times on June 14, 2007.–
ARLINGTON, Va. — Growing up, Patti Solis Doyle, the daughter of Mexican immigrants, could hear the rumble of the L train running in the alley behind her home at 1726 W. 21st.
Today, Doyle is the manager of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s presidential campaign, lives in an affluent Washington neighborhood and sends her two children to one of the best private schools in the city.
Toiling in a business where it is rare for females to pilot major campaigns and minorities in key posts are even harder to find, Doyle started in Chicago’s City Hall and made it to Hillaryland, where she became a charter member of the band of loyalists devoted to Clinton for the past 16 years.
“I have complete confidence and trust in her as a person and as a professional,” Clinton said. “She was the natural choice for me when it came to picking someone to run this campaign.”
“She just gets the politics of everything,” said Ann Stock, a Clinton administration social secretary.
Patricia Solis Doyle, 41, presides over the sprawling national Clinton operation, headquartered in this Washington suburb, from a corner office furnished with hand-me-downs from the Clinton family.
Near the Clintons’ old kitchen table is daughter Chelsea’s armoire and love seat. Behind Doyle’s desk — from Staples — are drawings by her 5-year-old son, Joseph, and 9-year old daughter, Solis.
Her husband, Jim Doyle, a Harvard Law grad, worked for William Daley, Mayor Daley’s brother, while he was commerce secretary during President Bill Clinton’s second term. He’s now at Penn, Schoen & Berland; the firm’s Mark Penn is Clinton’s pollster.
She stayed out of the limelight for years, working as scheduler for Clinton during the 1992 campaign, taking on that same critical job in the first lady’s office and helping run two New York Senate races and Sen. Clinton’s political action committee.
Now as campaign manager, she is taking on a public role and giving interviews as the campaign woos female and Hispanic votes. The bilingual Doyle is speaking at Hispanic events and has had a hand in nailing down key Hispanic endorsements.
Doyle is one of six children of Santiago and Alejandrina Solis, natives of Monterey, Mexico. In Chicago, her father, now deceased, worked in a factory and her mother at an industrial laundry.
Santiago Solis first came to the U.S. illegally, was sent back, returned with a visa and moved his family — then four children, including Danny, now the 25th Ward alderman. Doyle was born in the U.S., attended St. Pius grammar school and was sent to Notre Dame girls’ high school on the Northwest Side to get her out of their tough Pilsen neighborhood. She recalls her father saying: “You are not going to be part of this.”
Her next stop was Northwestern University, where she was a scholarship student. Northwestern was a “big culture shock,” said Danny Solis. While a sophomore, Doyle married Andy Jacobson — Jewish and from Texas — and dropped out for a time. She was divorced by age 21.
After earning a Northwestern degree in communications, she landed in City Hall with brother Danny’s clout. She moved on to work for then-city Treasurer Miriam Santos in “my first sort-of political campaign experience.”
She caught David Wilhelm’s eye — he was steering Daley’s re-election bid — and when Bill Clinton tapped him to manage his 1992 campaign, Wilhelm recruited Patti Solis to join him in Little Rock. “The first day there was a Hillaryland, Patti was a part of it,” said Wilhelm.
Doyle thrived for many reasons, in part because she had the political gift to “smell danger long before we encountered it,” recalled Neel Lattimore, a former press secretary for the first lady.
She also was loyal and kept her mouth shut.
‘A true friendship’
Doyle said her toughest time while working in the White House was not the impeachment of President Clinton but the failure of Hillary Clinton’s health reform plan in 1994, “because for me that was truly her thing and it was a tough time having to regroup.”
Hillary Clinton has been saying on the campaign trail she is the most famous person you don’t know. What does Doyle see that the public does not? Her answer: A Clinton who “meddled” to get the Doyles married, did a reading at their wedding, called Santiago Solis when he was dying and showed up in the hospital when Doyle’s children were born. “She gave me tips on breastfeeding.” The two also share a passion for TV’s “Grey’s Anatomy.”
As campaign manager, Doyle talks daily, sometimes every few hours, with Clinton. The relationship between Doyle and Clinton has evolved through the years. Said Doyle, who has devoted most of her adult life to Hillary Rodham Clinton, “We have a true friendship.”