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Shop Talk: Recruits Begin to Build

National Democrats scored two top recruits this month who they believe will help make the Arizona and North Dakota open Senate races competitive.

Former U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona in Arizona and former North Dakota Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp have begun putting together their consulting teams for what will be tough races in both states.

Carmona, who announced his campaign for retiring Sen. Jon Kyl’s (R) seat Nov. 10, has signed up Jason Ralston and John Lapp, partners at Ralston Lapp Media.

Advising Carmona’s campaign is Rodd McLeod, a former campaign manager for Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) and her interim district director for most of this year. 

McLeod and Ralston, also a Giffords media consultant, helped recruit Carmona to the race. Carmona has a competitive primary against former state party Chairman Don Bivens. Rep. Jeff Flake, the favorite for the GOP nomination, has a primary of his own.

Heitkamp, who announced Nov. 8 that she would run for the seat of retiring Sen. Kent Conrad (D), has signed up Mark Mellman for polling. She will likely face Rep. Rick Berg (R) in the general election.

Sí, Se Puede

President Barack Obama’s campaign announced Adrian Saenz would serve as the national Latino vote director. Saenz worked for the campaign in 2008 as a state director in New Mexico and Texas. Saenz previously worked for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and Members of Congress from Texas and New Mexico.

Moving Upstate

SKDKnickerbocker is opening an office in Albany, N.Y., and has hired Morgan Hook to work out of that office as vice president.

Hook is currently the top spokesman for the State University of New York, responsible for communications, marketing and external relations. The Boston University graduate previously served in the press offices of former New York Govs. Eliot Spitzer and David Paterson. He’s also a former TV news anchor and reporter.

“Morgan is a great addition to the SKDKnickerbocker team,” SKDK Managing Director Stefan Friedman said. “He understands the intersection of press, politics and policy and will be an invaluable resource to our clients.”

The new Albany location adds to SKDK’s current stable of offices in New York and Washington, D.C.

“By opening an Albany office, we will be able to better serve our clients with issues in the capital region or across upstate,” SKDK Managing Director Jennifer Cunningham said.

RNC-You in Tampa

Mike Duncan, former chairman of the Republican National Committee, was appointed to lead the RNC’s Committee on Contests, which meets next summer and adjudicates any challenges to specific delegates certified by states.

“I know Mike Duncan is the right man to lead this important committee as we seat our delegates to the 2012 Republican National Convention,” RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said in a statement. “He is a dedicated servant to our Party and his leadership on the important Committee on Contests is vital as we work to make Barack Obama a one term president.”

The RNC also recently appointed Delaware Committeewoman Priscilla Rakestraw to serve as chairwoman for the Committee on the Call, which officially sets the date and location of the convention. The festivities will open Aug. 27 in Tampa, Fla.

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