RALEIGH — Sonny Nelson grew up interested in politics, but the first campaign she worked on was a big one: the re-election effort for President Donald Trump in 2020.
A native of Harnett County and a recent Campbell University graduate, Nelson attended the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., with her mom, as they did every year, and interviewed for a position with the campaign.
“I interviewed for the position of executive assistant to the communications director, Tim Murtaugh, and I moved (to Washington, D.C.) about two weeks after that. It all happened extremely fast,” she said in an interview with North State Journal.
“I didn’t graduate with the intent of ‘I’m going to go work on the Trump campaign,’ but I thank God for that to happen. It was amazing. It was a great experience.”
Nelson says she grew up involved watching Fox News, and that politics has always been a big part of conversation with her family. She is especially interested in pro-life issues. Her mother, Tonya Nelson, is the founder and CEO of Hand of Hope Pregnancy Centers, which has three locations in North Carolina.
While in college at Campbell she says she changed her major “three or four times” trying to figure out what she wanted to do, ultimately graduating with two degrees, one in broadcasting and one in health communication. She says the on-campus TV studio was more helpful than any of her classes to prepare her for her career.
While on the Trump campaign, Nelson quickly moved up, ending as the associate director of strategic communications. It was in that role she handled booking surrogates across the country and deploying speakers to key markets for events.
“I remember when I was interviewing, he (Murtaugh) was telling me that your role is going to shift a lot. That’s how it works with campaigns. You do a lot more than what your job title says,” said Nelson.
It was the COVID-19 pandemic that led to her biggest role in the campaign, helping launch “Team Trump online,” a nightly streaming show that averaged 1 million viewers every night. Nelson pointed out that figure consistently beat CNN’s viewership as well.
In producing that show, Nelson would help plan out the segments, write scripts, and reach out to surrogates and coordinate their appearances.
“It was a massive operation and became bigger than I expected it to be,” she says.
On the show, Nelson would work with well-known names such as Mercedes Schlapp.
“I think it definitely kind of pioneered, you know, new ways of reaching people … embracing people you may not have met before,” she added.
Once the campaign ended, Nelson had a decision to make: stay in the D.C. area or come back home to North Carolina.
“I missed my family and wanted to come home,” she says. She quickly found herself back in a whirlwind.
“After I moved home, I got a call from Jason Miller, who is now CEO of GETTR, asking if I wanted to help work on the second impeachment of Donald Trump. I joined the president’s defense team for the second impeachment running media affairs with some of our surrogates like Congressman Jim Jordan and using them to go on TV on behalf of the president,” said Nelson.
While lasting just two weeks or so, it would be that contact with Miller that got Nelson involved with the upstart social media platform. GETTR launched in July 2021 with Nelson leading media affairs.
GETTR, which says it now has almost 5 million users, has been a new world for Nelson to navigate. She says the platform is a place for anyone to go and state their political opinion “without the fear of getting censored or shadow banned or kicked off. Freedom of speech is still very attractive to Americans. And I think that’s why we’ve had a huge uptake in users,” she says.
While the platform is new, she says for such a young company, the technology is superior to others. One aspect she mentions is livestreaming, which has a live chat feature and several news outlets broadcasting live from the platform.
“We are about to launch one of our new features, which will be our short video competitor to Instagram Reels and TikTok. I’ve been playing around on it and I’m really excited for it. I think it’s going to take off,” she says, adding, “GETTR is turning into, and it is our goal, to be the all in one platform where people can go for everything that they use from other apps.”
Nelson adds that it’s not just politics that GETTR will be known for, saying the company is making an effort to expand in sports and athletics with the addition of users such as NBA player Enes Kanter Freedom. She also says GETTR is actively working to grow outside of the United States. One notable example is Brazil, where its president, Jair Bolsonaro, often uses the platform.
She says she’s looking forward to the 2022 midterms and thinks there will be a “red wave” for Republicans.
“People are seeing how poor their quality of life is under (President) Biden, he is not doing anything to help everyday Americans. And what I tell people is, you can hate Trump all you want, but you can’t honestly tell me that your life is better today than it was three years ago. I think we’ll see a big swing back to the Republican policies that have gotten us to a prosperous America.”