While Parscale was a long-time Trumpworld figure, first getting his start in politics after working for Eric Trump and later becoming a fixture at rallies, less is known about the more private political operative Stepien.
His rise to the top of the Trump campaign is a stark reversal from his career almost imploding in 2014, when he was fired by Christie amid the “Bridgegate” scandal.
Garden State beginnings
Stepien got his start in politics in his home state of New Jersey. While attending Rutgers University in 1997, he volunteered on Anthony Bucco’s successful state Senate campaign.
According to The Washington Post, Stepien rose through the ranks of the Republican party in the state thanks to his effectiveness on campaigns.
After graduating from Rutgers in 2000, he stepped up to the national level, working as New Hampshire political director on then-President George W. Bush’s 2004 reelection campaign.
He later worked on presidential campaigns for both Rudy Giuliani and then John McCain in the 2008 election cycle.
Perhaps his biggest breakthrough was when he was hired as Chris Christie’s campaign manager when he first ran for New Jersey governor in 2009.
The two men formed a strong relationship during the campaign. When Christie won the governorship, he brought Stepien on as his deputy chief of staff, according to the Post.
According to a 2017 Politico profile, Stepien was one of the few in Christie’s orbit to garner the governor’s trust.
Connection to ‘Bridgegate’
However, Stepien dramatically fell out of favor with Christie during the “Bridgegate” scandal.
The scandal involved members of Christie’s team closing down several lanes on the George Washington Bridge to create a traffic jam in Fort Lee, New Jersey.
The jam was retribution against the town’s Democratic mayor, Mark Sokolich, who refused to endorse Christie.
Stepien was never charged in connection to the case, but his name was brought up nearly 700 times at a subsequent trial, where prosecutors argued that he created a culture in Christie’s office that led to the scandal, NJ.com reported.
In the months leading up to the lane closures, Stepien was in a relationship with one of the key figures, Bridget Kelly, who was also a deputy chief of staff for Christie. Many in the office didn’t know about the romance, according to Politico.
In his attempt to distance himself from “Bridgegate,” Christie fired Stepien in 2014, when emails were released showing Stepien calling Sokolich an “idiot.”
Announcing Stepien’s firing at a press conference, Christie said: “I was disturbed by the tone and behavior and attitude of callous indifference that was displayed in the emails by my former campaign manager, Bill Stepien.”
“And reading that, it made me lose my confidence in Bill’s judgment. And you cannot have someone at the top of your political operation who you do not have confidence in.”
Recruited by Jared Kushner
While Stepien was expected to lead Christie’s 2016 campaign for president, his firing left him in career limbo. But it wasn’t long before the Trump campaign came calling.
Stepien was brought onto the Trump campaign in 2016 by Jared Kushner, who is from New Jersey and follows state politics there closely, according to Politico.
In 2016, Stepien worked as national field director, and was credited with helping the Trump campaign win the traditionally Democratic states of Michigan and Wisconsin.
“I hoped for another opportunity to prove myself and be put in a position to prove my talents and my work ethic and I’m just thankful that the president gave me that last year,” Stepien told Politico in 2017.
Transition to the White House
After Trump was elected president, Stepien was brought on to work in the White House as political director.
According to a 2017 Politico profile, Stepien was said to work 14-hour days at the White House, focusing on winning over Republicans to support the president’s agenda.
“He was born to be a political director,” one person who worked with him told Politico in 2017. “He is willing to do whatever it takes to protect the boss.”
However, after the Republican midterm losses in December 2018, Stepien left the White House to return to the Trump campaign as a senior political advisor.
According to CBS News, Stepien was made a fall guy for the midterm losses, even though he didn’t have much influence over Trump’s political decisions.
Rise in ranks as Trump falls in the polls
In May, Stepien was promoted to deputy campaign manager, working directly beneath Parscale.
The move was interpreted by some to mean that Kushner was lining up someone loyal to him in the event that Parscale needed to be replaced, according to CNN.
That shake-up came on Wednesday, after weeks of bad publicity for the campaign, starting with a low turnout at Trump’s comeback rally in Tulsa, to the release on Wednesday of two polls showing former Vice President Joe Biden in a double-digit lead.
The New York Times reported that part of the reason Stepien replaced Parscale is because the Stepien keeps a low profile.
In announcing the decision to replace Parscale with Stepien, the president said both men “were heavily involved in our historic 2016 win, and I look forward to having a big and very important second win together.”
Parscale is staying on the campaign as a senior advisor on digital and data strategies, Trump said.
Stepien is the fifth person to act as manager of the Trump campaign.