Shop Talk: Santorum Staffs Up for 2012 in Granite State

Former Reagan administration official and longtime campaign activist Claira Monier has been tapped to chair likely Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum’s New Hampshire political action committee.

The former Pennsylvania Senator, who was defeated in 2006, becomes the first prospective candidate to announce both a New Hampshire chairman and a state director.

He selected Mike Biundo, the campaign manager for Rep. Frank Guinta (R-N.H.), to fill the director’s role earlier this month.

Monier volunteered for Mitt Romney in the 2008 cycle, but she told Roll Call that Santorum is less “robotic” and “more personable” than the former Massachusetts governor.

She will be leading recruitment efforts across New Hampshire and has helped arrange recent visits.

Monier, the widow of former state Senate President Robert Monier, previously served as regional administrator for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in the Reagan administration and for 20 years was executive director of the New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority.

Monier brings a healthy dose of enthusiasm to the Santorum camp, in addition to a network that took decades to build.

“Nobody is doing anything in the New Hampshire primary, so if I come out now, I get a lot of national press,” she said, laughing. She noted that Santorum has visited the Granite State nine times, with three more visits scheduled so far.

Back to the Future

Kirsten Kukowski has returned to the Republican National Committee’s press shop. Kukowski started as a regional press secretary at the RNC in the summer of 2009, but she left to work on the campaign of Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.). Before coming to the RNC, Kukowski worked for former Rep. Mark Green (R-Wis.) and the Republican Party of Wisconsin, where she worked for now-RNC Chairman Reince Priebus.

Compute This

Deirdre Murphy, former Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee press secretary, is transitioning to the private sector. On Wednesday, she started in external communications at IBM’s Washington, D.C., office and is focusing on its Smarter Planet program.

Murphy joined the DSCC for the 2010 cycle after working for Sens. Michael Bennet (Colo.) and Charles Schumer (N.Y.). She also worked on then-Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign.

He Calls It a Comeback

Former Sen. George Allen (R-Va.) on Monday officially announced his long-expected entrance to the race for his old seat, and he is compiling a campaign team of top consultants.

Still unofficial is the impending hire of Tim Murtaugh, which Roll Call first reported Wednesday. Murtaugh served as a spokesman at the Republican Governors Association in 2010 and as communications director for the Virginia Republican Party before that. He also worked for failed Virginia gubernatorial candidate Jerry Kilgore (R).

Katie Wright, who most recently served as deputy communications director at the Republican National Committee, is already in place as Allen’s communications director. Wright worked at the RNC for the past two cycles, and she previously worked for Allen at the end of his unsuccessful 2006 campaign and at the National Republican Senatorial Committee in 2004, when Allen served as chairman.

As Washington Post blog “The Fix” reported Monday, Allen brought in John McLaughlin as pollster, Abbey Farris for fundraising and Scott Howell & Co. for media. Dan Allen of Scott Howell & Co. will serve as a senior adviser.

Open for Business

Democratic consultant John Balduzzi recently opened his own general consulting shop. The Balduzzi Group will be based out of Washington, D.C., and Balduzzi’s hometown of Syracuse, N.Y.

For nearly three years, Balduzzi was political director at D.C.-based Kennedy Communications, where he consulted unions, state parties and candidates at nearly every level.

The Balduzzi Group will mostly perform general consulting for Democratic House campaigns and research services for Senate campaigns.

Balduzzi previously worked for Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), as campaign manager for the 2006 election of former Rep. Dan Maffei (D-N.Y.), and as a researcher and regional press secretary for the Democratic National Committee and the 2004 presidential campaign of Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.).

He got his start in politics at age 7, putting up Mario Cuomo for Governor lawn signs.

New Voice for White House

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters Wednesday that “it won’t be long” before President Barack Obama selects his replacement. He is leaving after two years to pursue other opportunities that are likely to include working on Obama’s re-election campaign.

“I anticipate that the president is actually quite close in that,” Gibbs told reporters aboard Air Force One en route to Wisconsin. “And I anticipate that I will, as I’ve said, probably leave around sometime in mid-February.”

Briefly Noted

• Longtime Democratic campaign operatives Dan Kully and Brandon Hall are starting their own media firm. Kully will anchor the firm in Seattle, while Hall will be based in Washington, D.C. The new firm’s release noted that Kully is best known for the ads that he created for Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) during his 2006 campaign. Hall managed the 2010 re-election campaign of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

• Colorado Democrats Jim Carpenter and Mike Stratton have formed a new consulting firm, according to the Denver Post. Carpenter managed Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar’s 2004 Senate bid and served as chief of staff to former Gov. Bill Ritter, while Stratton is “a longtime strategist,” according to the paper. The firm will be called Stratton-Carpenter & Associates.

• Adam Weiss was named assistant director of political affairs at the American Optometric Association. Weiss, a New York native, previously worked for Rep. Dave Loebsack (D-Iowa), Iowa Democratic Senate candidate Roxanne Conlin, the National Association of Letter Carriers and the American Association for Justice.

• Gabby Adler, who served as Midwest regional press secretary for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee during the 2010 cycle, now serves as communications director for Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.) and the minority staff of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Steve Peoples contributed to this report from Manchester, N.H. Submit campaign staffing news and tips to Shop Talk here.