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Massive Hill Losses Mean New K Street Recruits

Senate Agriculture Chairman Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), who lost her re-election bid, has been mentioned as a potential Agriculture secretary. Some K Street long-timers also say that Lincoln, who once worked as a lobbyist, would be well-suited to rejoin the profession.

As chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, Rep. Chet Edwards (D-Texas), who lost Tuesday, may be an attractive candidate to head the Veterans Affairs Department. Edwards was also an early supporter of Obama during his 2008 presidential primary campaign.

While the lure of top salaries and the ability to stay close to the corridors of power may be attractive to some former lawmakers, others who are fatigued with Washington, D.C., are likely to head elsewhere. Some may seek jobs on corporate boards while others could land positions at educational institutions, think tanks and foundations.

Dodd, for example, may be drawn to a lucrative speaking tour as well as sitting on bank boards that are seeking someone knowledgeable about the new financial regulations, said one source familiar with the D.C. job market.

Indiana Democrats speculate that retiring Sen. Evan Bayh (D) will announce his intention to reclaim his former job as governor. Bayh, who has not ruled out running, has said he will announce his intentions in January.

Some political experts are convinced that Sen. George LeMieux (R-Fla.) is laying the groundwork for a Senate run in 2012, when Sen. Bill Nelson (D) will be up for re-election.

Lobbyists say some senior Democrats who are not returning — such as gruff House Appropriations Chairman David Obey (Wis.) and outspoken Rep. Bart Stupak (Mich.) — may not be suited to K Street.

“I can’t see those guys lobbying stylistically. I don’t see them having an interest in it,” said Rich Gold, who heads the lobby practice at Holland & Knight.

Of course, ex-lawmakers won’t just compete with one another for downtown jobs: Many K Street firms, which want to bring in people who are intimately familiar with legislative substance, are more interested in hiring top Hill staffers.

One lobbyist said that among the “hot properties” for K Street is Karen Knutson, the chief of staff to Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), and Kerry Feehery, LeMieux’s chief of staff.

Ivan Adler, a McCormick Group Inc. recruiter, agreed. He said the highly prized access peddlers of yesteryear will give way to legislative experts, especially if gridlock prevails.

“If we’re sure that the next Congress is going to be less focused on creating laws,” Adler said, “then those people who know how to stop legislation are going to be more important.”

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